Is Venison Red Meat? (Explained)

The definition of red meat can be straightforward or very convoluted, depending on what literature you read. You can face the same problem when you want to find out whether venison belongs to the red meat category or not. 

After some research and forming our own opinion, we say venison is red meat, just like beef, but much healthier and tastier. 

What is Red Meat?

Before we dive into any disputes about whether venison is or isn’t red meat, we need to know what red meat is.

Common sense would dictate that all meat that has red color before cooking can be considered simply red meat. It would make sense then to add venison into this category.

However, there are also nutritional, scientific, and culinary definitions to think about.

Anything with a higher content of myoglobin, protein, iron, creatine, zinc, and phosphorus than fish or chicken is considered red meat. And it also has to have red color before cooking. 

Sometimes it’s hard to put a piece of meat in just one category, but using common sense and available information, one can easily categorize one’s meat.

Is Venison Red Meat?

Venison is red meat. Although the term red meat can be confusing with all the different definitions, deer meat ticks most boxes, if not all.

To find out how venison fits in the red meat category, one has to look from different angles.


Is Venison Red Meat?

Considering what chefs call red meat, we can say that venison also comes under the red meat category in their dictionaries.

The name red meat in a professional kitchen is used to describe meat from any adult or game mammal, like beef, horse, mutton, boar, and venison. 

That leaves nothing else to question in the venison and red meat compartment except one thing: juvenile animal meat.

Many chefs have made up some other definitions for baby animals, claiming that veal, lamb, and even rabbit, are not red but white meats.

To make matters even worse, they also divide pig into red and white cuts.

That leaves us questioning where we can assign juvenile venison. 

Considering most of us don’t cook in Michelin restaurants, but in our own humble kitchens, we can safely say that juvenile venison is red meat too. 

The color of young deer meat is not much different than the meat color of an adult deer, so if this is the only indication of how to classify the meat we have from the culinary point of view, we will put venison in the red meat basket.

Although that being said, in culinary language, all game meats can also be considered simply dark meats. 


The most inconsistent of all definitions of red meat comes from the USDA. However, it is fortunately easy enough to use it to place venison in the red meat category.

While people usually get confused about the red meat definition by reading fact sheets posted by USDA, we can safely say that venison fits their messy standards of red meat.

USDA considers all mammal meat red meat, regardless of the cut or whether it comes from a young or adult animal.

Venison is high in myoglobin, iron, and protein and has red color before cooking. Those characteristics are proof enough to classify venison as red meat.

The quickest way to prove it is to compare the nutritional values of raw ground venison with beef, as we know that by USDA standards, beef is red meat.

Venison places even higher than beef in protein, iron, and phosphorus content[1],[2], and it has a delicious red color before cooking. 

Armed with that information, we can call venison red meat by USDA standards.


Is Venison Red Meat?

Definitions of red meat from the nutritional point of view correlate very closely with USDA definition, and, according to that, venison fits in the red meat category.

As mentioned before, venison has a higher protein, iron, and phosphorus content than beef – the red meat of red meats.

It means nutritionists around the world would tell you that eating venison steak contributes to your weekly red meat intake.


Considering that finding nutritional values of food is part of science, we say that venison is also red meat from a scientific point of view.

However, many of us heard the stories from scientists claiming that the red meat diet is associated with cancer, diabetes, or heart attack. Still, there is not enough evidence or explanation of how it works, only a lot of speculation and guessing.

Many people believe that consuming red meat is simply bad for their health, but some of them also claim that venison is healthier than beef.

It sends us mixed signals regarding venison belonging to the red meat category.

However, science tells us that while venison belongs with other red meats, it provides less harmful nutrients like saturated fatty acids, which are, according to scientists, one of the main causes of cholesterol buildup in our bodies. 

So, considering all that, we are sure that while venison is red meat, it is high on the “good” red meat list out of the red meats one can consume.


To make things simple for everyone, the color of the meat should be the only indicator of which group it belongs to, but as it is now, there is no simple answer to anything.

However, by most definitions, venison is red meat, although some call it just game or dark meat.

Whether you want to believe chefs or scientists, the simple fact is deer you eat is red before you cook it, and although belonging to the red meat definition, it is considered healthier than any farm-raised and processed meats from the store.



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