Meat: YES, It Can Be Baby’s First Food

Iron supports your baby’s growth and development, which is why iron-rich meats such as beef, lamb, game, poultry, and fish are great for baby's first food.


Are you struggling with what baby’s first food should be?

With so much information available out there, it’s no wonder new parents can feel anxious and overwhelmed when it comes to making decisions about baby’s mealtime. Mary Ann Binnie, Manager, Nutrition and Industry Relations, Canadian Pork Council, shares when and why parents should begin to introduce iron-rich solid foods such as pork and beef, and tips for easing mealtime mayhem.

Did you know, babies six to 12 months require 11 mg of iron per day? That’s nearly 40% more than is required of a full-grown man! Based on a recent national survey, 70% of Canadian mothers are unaware of this startling statistic.

To get to the meat of the matter, the council surveyed Canadian moms from coast-to-coast to find out their thoughts on infant feeding. The results showed that there is some confusion surrounding when parents should be introducing iron-rich solid foods like meat into their baby’s diet. This isn’t surprising, considering new parents are seeking infant feeding information from a wide variety of sources. Everyone from doctors and pediatricians to bloggers and mother-in-laws have a say in the matter, often with contradicting opinions. Bombarded with information, even parents who consider themselves nutritionally informed can easily feel overwhelmed.  


The experts at Health Canada advise that first solid foods for infants be iron-rich. By about 6 months of age, baby should be served meat, fish, poultry or meat alternatives two or more times a day, on a daily basis.

Why Iron?

Baby needs iron for optimal brain development and growth. At 6 months old, baby’s iron stores are depleted so a food source is needed. Meats like beef and pork are some of nature’s best sources of iron.

Why Meat?

While other foods may offer significant amounts of iron, meat provides our bodies with heme iron – a more easily absorbed variation of the nutrient. Adding meat to a meal also helps absorb up to four times the amount of iron from other foods like green vegetables, bread and cereals.

Only about half of moms surveyed were aware that heme iron found in meat is better absorbed than other dietary iron, or that iron deficiency anemia in infants is associated with irreversible developmental delays.

Nature has provided delicious, iron-rich ingredients that are perfectly compatible with the way humans absorb iron—very efficiently. Given the small size of baby’s stomach, serving meat at each meal makes good nutritional sense. It’s important we get the word out and give new parents resources to make meal time an enjoyable experience for the whole family—including baby!

2 simple recipes that convert to blended, mashed or finger foods:


This meal is a perfect one for mom and dad…but also makes a great meal for baby. See below for directions for various serving suggestions.

Get the recipe: Beef Steak and Lentil Salad.



This recipe is easily made with either pork or beef to your preference. Both will be delicious, simple to cook and perfect for one of baby’s first meals.

Get the recipe: Tuscan Pork Kebabs with Quinoa and Roasted Cauliflower

Pro tip:

Adding some chicken or beef broth (ideally homemade, but even store bought will do) makes it easier to blend/food process those meals into something your kidlet can easily eat.

Tips to keep in mind when introducing new foods to an infant:

  • To ensure baby is tolerating new foods, wait two to three days before introducing the next new food.
  • Help your baby learn to eat foods with different tastes and textures. He/she may only require puréed foods for a very short time, or not at all.
  • Baby should progress from soft mashed or minced foods quickly and then onto soft foods that are chopped into small chunks or pieces.

Stuck for recipe ideas? Easily adapt a “Mom & Dad” meal into something for baby! For more information and recipe ideas visit and


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