Turkey Meat vs. Chicken Meat

Erin Coleman, R.D., L.D.
BBQ rotisserie chicken

Because turkey meat and chicken meat are both poultry products that taste similar, you may be wondering if there's really a significant difference between the two. Knowing how chicken and turkey differ and how white meat compares with dark meat will help you figure out the best poultry option for you.

Macronutrient Comparison Table

The table below shows macronutrient comparisons between different types of roasted chicken and turkey meats. All are excellent sources of protein. The main difference is chicken breast contains slightly more calories than turkey breast, and dark meat chicken provides more calories than dark meat turkey. Macronutrient amounts are similar between chicken and turkey. However, calorie (and fat) content is higher in dark versus white meat.

100 gram serving

(3.5 ounces)

Chicken breast

(roasted, skinless)

Turkey breast

(roasted, skinless)

Dark Chicken Meat

(roasted, skinless)

Dark Turkey Meat

(roasted, skinless)

Calories

165 calories

147 calories

205 calories

173 calories

Protein

31 grams

30 grams

27 grams

28 grams

Fat

4 grams

2 grams

10 grams

6 grams

Carbohydrates

0 grams

0 grams

0 grams

0 grams

Fiber

0 grams

0 grams

0 grams

0 grams

Sugar

0 grams

0 grams

0 grams

0 grams

Cholesterol

85 milligrams

80 milligrams

93 milligrams

128 milligrams

Micronutrient Comparison Table

The vitamin and mineral content of chicken and turkey meats are very similar. These two poultry products are both good sources of iron, zinc, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, niacin, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12. There are no significant micronutrient differences between chicken breast and turkey breast, or between dark meat chicken and dark meat turkey. However, dark meats are a better source of zinc, and white meats are richer in niacin.

100 gram serving

(3.5 ounces)

Chicken breast

(roasted, skinless)

Turkey breast

(roasted, skinless)

Dark Chicken Meat

(roasted, skinless)

Dark Turkey Meat

(roasted, skinless)

Iron

1 milligram

0.7 milligrams

1 milligram

1 milligram

Zinc

1 milligram

2 milligrams

3 milligrams

4 milligrams

Magnesium

29 milligrams

32 milligrams

23 milligrams

27 milligrams

Phosphorous

228 milligrams

230 milligrams

179 milligrams

212 milligrams

Potassium

256 milligrams

249 milligrams

240 milligrams

227 milligrams

Niacin

14 milligrams

12 milligrams

7 milligrams

7 milligrams

Vitamin B6

0.6 milligrams

0.8 milligrams

0.4 milligrams

0.4 milligrams

Vitamin B12

0.3 micrograms

0.4 micrograms

0.3 micrograms

2 micrograms

Amino Acid Profile

Chicken and turkey (both white and dark meats) contain all the essential amino acids, which are building blocks of protein and required by your body to function properly. Therefore, both chicken and turkey meats provide you with source of high quality, complete protein. Both contain branched-chain amino acids and tryptophan, an amino acid thought to cause tiredness. However, a 2011 issue of Psychology Today reports that while turkey does contain slightly more tryptophan than chicken, it's not enough to cause sleepiness.

white or dark meat

White Versus Dark Meat

The main difference between white and dark meat is calorie and fat content. Dark meat, which may better meet your taste preference, contains more fat and calories than white meat. However, dark meat turkey is much lower in fat and calories than dark meat chicken, so if you're trying to cut calories and stay lean, turkey is the better option.

Which Is Best for Muscle Building?

Because chicken and turkey are both excellent sources of protein, either one works well for muscle building. However, if you're trying to avoid extra fat and calories to stay lean, chicken and turkey breast (or even dark meat turkey) are better options than dark meat chicken. Athletes often require 0.5 to 0.9 grams of protein per pound of body weight daily, suggests the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

What About Weight Loss?

When trying to shed pounds, aim for the lowest calorie, lowest-fat options when it comes to eating poultry and meat. This means choosing chicken and turkey breast over dark meat when possible. If you do choose dark meat, opt for turkey over dark meat chicken. The high protein content of chicken and turkey helps boost satiety, which is a must for effective weight loss. Your total calorie intake is what counts the most. Aim to eat 1,200 to 1,800 calories daily -- depending on gender, starting weight, and activity level -- to drop weight efficiently.

Is Poultry Skin Healthy?

While chicken and turkey skin may not be as bad for you as once thought, eating the skin does add extra calories and fat to your meal plan. Chicken skin and turkey skin both provide more heart-healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fat than saturated fat. However, if you're trying to manage a healthy weight and control calories, it's best to skip the skin.

Cost and Availability

Chicken is usually more readily available than turkey, especially during non-holiday times, and it tends to be less costly, as well. If you love the taste of turkey, it may be worth it to fork up the extra cost, especially if you're calorie conscious.

Which Is Best?

Because chicken and turkey are so similar nutritionally, the best choice for you really depends on taste preference, weight management goals, local availability, and cost. Both are excellent choices as a source of nutritious, high quality protein.

Turkey Meat vs. Chicken Meat