Turkey vs. Chicken- Which is the healthier choice?

chicken drum sticks

Turkey and chicken are both poultry products, and are equally popular as sources of lean, healthy and delicious meat, but which is the healthier choice?

When deciding which type of meat is healthier, you should look at all of the whole food, including the calories and vitamins, not just one component, such as protein. Knowing the overall values will help you determine which option best meets your personal nutritional needs and health goals.

It is worth noting, how an animal was raised can also change the nutritional value of the meat itself.

A recent study on the nutrient composition of breast cuts from chickens raised with and without access to the outdoors has added evidence to the value of pasture-raising for poultry. In this study, “outdoor access” meant the ability of chickens to hunt and peck in a meadow-like area planted with ryegrass, red fescue, meadow grass, and other vegetation. When breast cuts from birds with access to the outdoors were compared to breast cuts from birds denied this access, the cuts from pasture-raised poultry were determined to be higher in vitamin E, higher in monounsaturated fat, higher in omega-3 fat, lower in omega-6 fat, and lower in the ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s. All of these results suggest the greater likelihood of health benefits—including cardiovascular benefits—from pasture-raised poultry.

Previous studies have compared the nutritional value of chicken raised in intensive systems (factory farms) and chicken from higher welfare systems, finding the latter to have less fat (up to 220% less), more vitamin E, and more iron.

Approximately two dozen recent studies on macronutrient balance in pasture-raised poultry were recently analyzed by researchers, resulting in some important health-related findings. In a variety of cuts obtained from pasture-raised birds, overall fat concentrations were found to decrease, while protein concentrations tended to increase. In other words, not only does the quality of fat improve with pasture-raising (as we have learned from a variety of different studies), but so does the balance between fat and protein, with avoidance of excess fat and strengthening of protein richness.

Turkey vs. Chicken- Species Comparison

Although they are both birds, turkeys and chickens are two entirely different species with noticeable differences in their size, looks, meat taste and calorie content. Lets take a look at the differences between these two species of birds.

Turkey is bigger in size (almost 10 to 15 lbs heavier than the average chicken) with long tail feathers. Chicken is a small bird with a frill on top of its head that sets them apart from other birds.
Turkeys make gobbling sounds. Chicken make clucking sounds.
Turkeys are dark colored birds. Chickens are colorful birds and the male chicken is even more brightly colored.
Turkeys have no feathers on neck and head.Chickens have a feathered neck and head.
Turkey eggs are larger than chicken eggs and are a little bit pointier. They are usually off-white with speckles.Chicken eggs can vary in color, with some being white and others coming in shades of blue, green, pinkish, cream, brown and dark brown.
Turkey meat tends to be darker than that of a chicken.Chicken meat is mainly white.
Turkey and chicken features and characteristics comparison chart.

In addition to these differences in features and characteristics, turkey and chicken are also different in their nutritional value.

Turkey vs. Chicken- Nutritional values

Which is a healthier choice, turkey or chicken? Nutritional values for turkey and chicken


Protein is said to be the building block of the human body. From cells to muscles, organs to bones, nails and hair, everything is formed by protein.

Protein is an essential part of a balanced diet. Protein consumption can aid in building muscle mass and strength, boosting your metabolism and reducing your appetite.

Made of amino acids, protein can be obtained from various sources, with chicken and turkey being among the most popular protein-rich food choices.

Chicken breast has slightly more protein than turkey breast, but turkey thigh is minimally higher in protein than chicken thigh. The other meat cuts (wings, legs, etc.) provide equal amounts of protein.

Calories and Fat

Paying attention to calories and fat content of food may be necessary depending on your health goals.

Fat is an essential component of a healthy diet and poultry contains different types of healthy fats.

However, fat is a denser source of calories compared to protein. This means that higher-fat cuts of meat will have more calories than leaner cuts.

Overall, dark meat in both chicken and turkey has more fat than white meat. This tends to be true for other types of poultry as well.

Dark meat cuts of chicken have slightly more fat and calories than dark meat cuts of turkey. The same is true for the white meat of these two types of poultry, as turkey is slightly leaner with fewer calories than chicken.

It’s also worth noting that if you eat the skin, you’ll see a jump in both fat and calorie content of any type of poultry.

None of this means either choice is necessarily better than the other, but it may be worth considering depending on what you want to accomplish with your diet.

Vitamins and Minerals

While there is no significant difference in vitamin and mineral content between chicken and turkey, there may be some variations of these nutrients between white and dark meat in general.

For example, chicken breast contains more niacin and vitamin B6 than chicken leg, while chicken leg contains significantly more zinc than the chicken breast.

Therefore, if you’re looking to increase your intake of zinc, the dark meat may be a better option, whereas if you want a vitamin B boost, the white meat may be more suitable.

The Verdict

When deciding which option may best meet your personal nutrition needs and health goals, the way in which the poultry was raised, total nutrition content, including protein, calories, fat, vitamins and minerals should be considered alongside your taste preference.

Based on calories, fat and the amount of protein present in each type of meat, we can easily say that both chicken and turkey are high-quality choices, even more so when they were pasture-raised, as are all the poultry products sold at Skillman Farm Market and Butcher Shop.

Which type is healthier depends on your personal health and nutrition goals. If you opt for the breast meat, chicken looks to be the winner. If you like the thigh meat, then turkey meat is the better choice for you!!