Healthy nutrition with meat

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Every day our meat and meat products land on the plates of hundreds of thousands of consumers. We thus make every effort to ensure that they taste good, are of high quality and contribute to a balanced, nutritious diet.

Healthy nutrition with meat

We make a contribution to a healthy and balanced diet with high-quality and wholesome products. The quality of the raw materials and their nutrient content is very important to us and we guarantee this through a number of production steps, inspections and tests. In doing so, as a market and technology leader in meat processing, we set standards for the entire industry. Along the value-creation chain, we process the raw materials and then the processed products so that they taste good, are safe and retain the nutrients that are important in a diet.

Dennis Junkmann

Quality Management

Important key figures

Meat is a fixed part of a healthy and balanced diet

A healthy, nutritious diet is essential, especially in our performance-oriented society. The requirement of the human body for a high nutrient density increases with age. Meat is an important supplier of nutrients and provides the body with essential proteins, vitamins and minerals, amongst other things. At the same time, when including meat in a diet, care must be taken to ensure that not too much fat and salt are absorbed. On the whole, meat and meat products have a fixed role in a balanced diet. The extensive range of products and numerous preparation options offer a wide variety of flavours and enable a balanced diet. During the manufacture, we meet the changing goals and needs of consumers, e.g. with the cut type; inspection and reduction of the fat and salt content; and gentle, nutrient-retaining further processing.

Nutrition pyramid, source: DGE
Nutrition circle, source: DGE

Benefits of a diet that includes meat

  • Meat and meat products are important components of a wholesome diet.
  • Together with other animal products, such as fish and eggs, these make a significant contribution to supplying the body with proteins.
  • Furthermore, the human body is very efficient at utilising animal proteins, whereas plant-based proteins can only be absorbed to a limited extent.
  • Meat plays a key role as a foodstuff for the absorption of vitamins and minerals. On the one hand, it contains a variety of these important nutrients; on the other hand, the consumption of meat increases the absorption of nutrients such as zinc and iron from plant-based foods.
  • For people with an increased protein requirement, meat and meat products are particularly important suppliers of nutrients.

Valuable nutrients in different types of meat

Meat and other animal-based foods are characterised by a high protein content and the high biological quality of these proteins. Plant-based foods require intensive processing and treatment to achieve a similar nutrient density. According to experts, a combination of plant-based and animal-based proteins is particularly recommended.

More information on a wholesome diet is available at

Pork provides iron and vitamin B1

Pork does not contain as much iron as beef; however, it is still a valuable source. It also provides high-quality proteins and vitamins such as B1 and B6, as well as A, E and K.

A pork schnitzel weighing 125 grams, for example, includes 1 milligram of vitamin B1 so that a woman can already meet her daily requirement. Vitamin B1 makes an important contribution to the function of the human nervous system and is important for physical and mental performance.

The content of this vitamin is also relatively high. Vitamin B6 is important for protein metabolism and individual functions of the nervous system, and it helps in the creation of red blood cells and antibodies.

Beef: all-rounder and supplier of iron

Beef contains high amounts of iron, zinc and selenium. One hundred grams of beef fillet contains around 2.3 mg of iron. It has the highest iron content when compared with other types of meat and provides a lot of zinc, which is needed for metabolic reactions in humans. It also provides selenium, which is a component of different enzymes and essential for the metabolism in the thyroid gland.

The B vitamins are important for nerves and muscles and also for the metabolism of fat, carbohydrates and protein, by which they help in the creation of red blood cells. Beef also contains the valuable vitamin B12 in comparatively high concentrations: 150 grams of beef fillet thus provides the daily B12 requirement for an adult, which is approx. 0.003 milligrams.

Our work

Tönnies supports a fact-based approach to the topic of meat in the diet. Meat and meat products are important components of a wholesome diet. Together with other animal products, such as fish and eggs, these make a significant contribution to supplying the body with proteins and essential amino acids. Proteins are the basic building blocks of our body. All proteins are created from the same blocks, the amino acids. Of the 20 different amino acids from which all proteins in the human body are created, there are eight amino acids which cannot be created by the body itself. These amino acids, also known as essential amino acids, must be supplied to the body through food. Meat and other animal-based foods contain all essential amino acids in sufficient quantities.

Table of protein content in different foodstuffs

As the quantity of food ingested decreases with age and under-provision of proteins leads to a reduction in muscle mass, an adequate supply of protein is particularly important for older people. In this regard, the German Food Association (Gesellschaft für Ernährung [DGE]) recommends that older people have a 25 per cent higher protein intake with 1.0 g protein per kilogram of body weight. As an abundant source of protein like almost no other foodstuff, meat can thus contribute to a balanced diet. For clear information, the basic nutrition information is given on every end package in the form of a Nutrition Table.

We look for an exchange with scientists and experts to expand knowledge on the topic of healthy nutrition with meat. However given the number of scientific studies, it is not always easy to maintain an overview. This is where the recommendations from the German Food Association (Gesellschaft für Ernährung [DGE]) can be an appropriate guide for consumers. However, ultimately the consumer should decide for him- or herself how much meat to eat and how often based on relevant information and personal experience. The consumer is responsible for his or her personal well-being and balanced diet and has sufficient sources of information available to choose a diet that is appropriate for his or her body and health.

More information on a healthy and balanced diet is available at

Our actions for wholesome meat enjoyment

As a meat processing company, it is our goal to contribute to a healthy, wholesome diet. The meat processed by us is an important provider of proteins, vitamins and minerals for the consumer. Our extensive range, from the raw meat to the ready-to-eat convenience product, offers practical and varied options for creating an individual menu. Our products have been subject to strict, company-internal checks for years to ensure that they meet the demands of retailers and consumers for a low fat and salt content.

However, in recent years, eating habits have changed significantly. On the one hand, knowledge of healthy eating continues to increase in responsible consumers. Consequently for many consumers, awareness of a diet that is as healthy as possible is increasing. As a result, more and more consumers are becoming aware of their intolerances and are adopting an appropriate diet.

On the other hand, diet is increasingly becoming an expression of one’s own identity. People take an approach and decide – if possible, on a daily basis – to primarily eat regional products, to eat in as sustainable a way as possible or to eat a vegetarian diet. These all have implications for the products offered by retailers to customers. This change in demand also raises some important issues for Tönnies as a meat producer.

Reduction of fat content

Increasing weight-consciousness has caused a greater demand for lower fat meat for some time now both in Germany and in the rest of Europe. This has caused a number of adjustments. Pig farmers changed their rearing methods decades ago and adjusted the content of the animal feed to reduce the fat in the animals. At the same time we, as producers, helped to reduce the fat content in cuts requested by the retailers. Nowadays, the majority of meat cuts are already created with minimum fat during the pre-butchering phase (see photo on right). The same applies to fine cutting. For this reason, quick-fry cuts of pork, such as schnitzels, medallions and minute steaks with a fat content of under three per cent, are today considered low-fat foods.

Development of cutting

The main challenge is in reducing the fat content and at the same time ensuring that the meat is tasty. The fat is an important flavour carrier in pork and beef as it holds the fat-soluble flavourings. The marbling of the meat is the best indicator of this. The finer the veins of fat that branch off in the piece of meat, the better the fat flavour carrier is distributed within the meat. With most cuts of meat, a fat content of approx. 2 to 2.5 per cent is ideal so that first-class taste and flavour combine with as little fat as possible.

Table of fat contents of selected foods

Tönnies has made a significant contribution to producing cuts of meat for retail that are significantly lower in fat than they were 15 years ago and which also have a high-quality, first-class taste. For example, pig carcasses today consist of approx. 55 per cent lean meat. The fat content is only approx. 25 per cent. Beef cuts are generally lower in fat. Many cuts of beet today contain less than 10 per cent fat. Schnitzel and pork loins have a fat content of only around 2 per cent.

Salt content in meat and meat products

Salt is one of the most important condiments in the kitchen and is also used in industrial meat production. At Tönnies we use salt in the manufacture of our products for sensory reasons, in other words, for taste, and to ensure maximum possible microbial safety and thus a longer shelf life. Salt is an important ingredient that gives sausage in particular a longer shelf life and improves safety.

What actually is salt? Salt is made up of sodium and chloride ions. Sodium has a weight proportion of approx. 39.3 per cent, rounded to 40 per cent. According to some scientific studies, the sodium part is considered one reason that susceptible persons tend to develop high blood pressure if their salt intake is high.

The WHO recommends consuming a maximum of 5–6 g of salt per day. Salt consumption in Germany is around 8.4 g/day for women and approx. 10 g for men: thus they consume more than the recommended amount. To reduce the intake of salt, many food producers in this country have been testing the salt content in their products for many years and constantly improving their recipes.

Here at Tönnies, we have also been working on modifying individual recipes for sauces, marinades and processed products to keep the salt content in our products low. We carefully monitor the salt content in our products and continuously optimise it. However, in general, most meat is sold at the self-service or delicatessen counter as natural meat without additives. The consumer can thus choose how much salt to add.

Table of salt content in different meat products

The expert

Questions on a healthy diet with meat:

The shelf life of fresh meat depends mainly on the storage temperature and the degree of fragmentation. The smaller the meat is cut, the greater the target for harmful bacteria. Thus, mince should be cooked on the day of purchase. Larger meat cuts generally keep for longer provided that the refrigeration chain is not interrupted. The type of animal also plays an important role. Poultry and offal are significantly more susceptible than pork. In contrast, of all the meat types, beef keeps the longest. For clear information, the maximum storage temperature and the best before date are given on every end-consumer package.

Meat is an important supplier of protein and also contains important vitamins and minerals. It contains the vitamins B1, B2, B6 and B12. Pig liver and cow liver also contain vitamin A. Moreover they contain nutrients such as iron, zinc and selenium.
Meat is generally split into two categories. Red meat includes the meat from cattle, sheep, goats, horses and game. Poultry counts as white meat. With pork, some cuts are considered to be red meat and others to be white meat. Pork thus demonstrates characteristics of both meat types. Red meat has a higher fat content than white meat; however it also provides more nutrients, such as iron or vitamins.

Meat is a so-called resorption agent. This means that it contributes to the improved absorption and processing of plant-based nutrients, particularly iron and zinc, and is itself an important supplier of nutrients. Lean meat and meat products are therefore important for meeting nutritional requirements. It should thus be a fixed part of a balanced and nutritious diet.

Every type of diet has advantages and disadvantages. Someone who has a vegetarian diet is not automatically more or less healthy. However, it must be taken into account, that many vegetarians make a great deal of effort with their diet and the ingredients. It is also necessary for any undersupply to be compensated for by another food. For some vitamins, such as vitamin B12, it may be necessary to take synthetic vitamin preparations. By eating meat it is must easier to absorb essential nutrients so that you can also have a healthy and wholesome diet without specialist knowledge. For these reasons, well-known diet experts, such as the German Food Association (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung [DGE]) recommend regularly eating meat.

There are many risk factors for illness and little research has been carried out on the interaction of these factors. There is also no conclusive scientific opinion yet. However, as with all illnesses, cancer may be triggered by several factors. Thus, eating meat products does not cause cancer on its own. However, according to the WHO, excessive consumption of red meat or processed meat products increases the risk of illness – particularly for persons exposed to other risk factors. As always, it is a matter of eating the right quantity. Meat consumption in the quantities recommended by consumer protection and nutrition experts benefits health more than damages it.

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    Dennis Junkmann

    Quality Management