If you’re a red meat-eater, there’s a good chance you’re eating more of it than you should. At last count, Australians ate an average of 81 grams of red meat per day.

The planetary health diet was developed by researchers to meet the nutritional needs of people around the world, while reducing food production’s environmental impact. It recommends reducing our red meat intake to around 14 grams a day. That’s around 100 grams of red meat a week.

Australia’s dietary guidelines are more conservative and recommend limiting red meat intake to a maximum of 455 grams a week, or 65 grams a day, to reduce the additional cancer risk that comes from eating large quantities of red meat.

So, what should you eat instead? And how can you ensure you’re getting enough protein, iron, zinc and vitamin B12?


Animal sources of protein provide essential amino acids, which the body uses to make muscle, tissue, hormones, neurotransmitters and the different cells and antibodies in our immune system.

The planetary health diet offers a good blueprint for gaining enough protein from a variety of other animal sources. It recommends eating, on average:

  • 25 grams of chicken per day
  • 28 grams of fish per day day
  • 1.5 eggs per week
  • 200 grams of milk per day day
  • 50 grams of cheese per day.

In addition to the 14 grams of red meat in the planetary health diet, these foods would provide a total of 45 grams of protein per day, which is around 80% of our daily protein needs from animal sources.

The remaining protein required (11 grams) is easily met with plant foods, including nuts, legumes, beans and wholegrains.


Iron is essential for many of the body’s functions, including transporting oxygen to the blood.

Iron deficiency can lead to anaemia, a condition in which you feel tired and lethargic.

Pre-menopausal women need around 18 milligrams a day, while men only need 8 milligrams. Pre-menopausal women need more iron because of the blood they lose during menstruation.

So, how can you get enough iron?

Beef, of course, is a rich source of iron, containing 3.3 milligrams for every 100 grams.

The same amount of chicken breast contains 0.4 milligrams, while the chicken thigh (the darker meat) contains slightly higher levels, at 0.9 milligrams.

Pork is similarly low in iron at 0.7 milligrams.

But kangaroo will provide you with 4.1 milligrams of iron for every 100 grams. Yes, kangaroo is a red meat but it produces lower methane emissions and has one-third the levels of saturated fat than beef, making it a healthier and more environmentally friendly alternative.

Plant protein sources are also high in iron: cooked kidney beans have 1.7 milligrams and brown lentils have 2.37 milligrams per 100 grams.

If you wanted to cut your red meat intake from the 81 grams average to the recommended 14 grams per day while still getting the same amount of iron, you would need to consume the equivalent of either 50 grams of kangaroo, 100 grams of brown lentils or 150 grams of red kidney beans per day.