Last update: 8 February 2020
Fresh meat contains all vitamins required by the human metabolism. Many other animal products provide complete or near-complete vitamin profiles.
Vitamin A (retinol)
Animal products are the only natural source of retinol, but contain carotenoids (substrates for retinol synthesis) as well. Ruminant animals are especially good sources, and liver of any species is extremely rich. Eggs and fish are excellent sources as well.
Darwish WS, Ikenaka Y, Morshdy AE, et al. β-carotene and retinol contents in the meat of herbivorous ungulates with a special reference to their public health importance. J Vet Med Sci. 2016;78(2):351–354. doi:10.1292/jvms.15-0287
J Dairy Sci. 1989 Sep;72(9):2257-65. Carotenoids and retinoids in Finnish foods: dairy products and eggs. Ollilainen V1, Heinonen M, Linkola E, Varo P, Koivistoinen P.
Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2002 Sep;53(5):425-37. High vitamin A content in some small indigenous fish species in Bangladesh: perspectives for food-based strategies to reduce vitamin A deficiency. Roos N1, Leth T, Jakobsen J, Thilsted SH.
Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
Thiamine can be found in abundance in animal foods.
Baker AZ, Wright MD. The vitamin B(1) content of foods: Additional values. Biochem J. 1938;32(12):2156–2161. doi:10.1042/bj0322156
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
Riboflavin is best obtained from animal products, like meat, dairy and eggs.
Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 Jun;77(6):1352-60. Riboflavin (vitamin B-2) and health. Powers HJ1.
Vitamin B3 (niacin)
Niacin is abundant in animal foods.
Çatak J. Determination of niacin profiles in some animal and plant based foods by high performance liquid chromatography: association with healthy nutrition. J Anim Sci Technol. 2019;61(3):138–146. doi:10.5187/jast.2019.61.3.138
Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)
Eponymously, pantothenic acid is everywhere, but meats are excellent sources.
J Am Diet Assoc. 1981 Feb;78(2):140-4. Pantothenic acid content of 75 processed and cooked foods. Walsh JH, Wyse BW, Hansen RG. (if anyone has the full text, please send it to me)
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
Animal foods are better sources of pyridoxine than plant foods, due to biovailability issues.
Am J Clin Nutr. 1988 Sep;48(3 Suppl):863-7. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/48.3.863. Bioavailability of vitamin B-6 from plant foods. Reynolds RD1.
Public Health Nutr. 2006 Sep;9(6):779-84. Dietary intake of vitamin B6 and concentration of vitamin B6 in blood samples of German vegans. Waldmann A1, Dörr B, Koschizke JW, Leitzmann C, Hahn A.
Vitamin B7 (biotin)
Animal foods are good sources of biotin, especially eggs and liver.
Staggs CG, Sealey WM, McCabe BJ, Teague AM, Mock DM. Determination of the biotin content of select foods using accurate and sensitive HPLC/avidin binding. J Food Compost Anal. 2004;17(6):767–776. doi:10.1016/j.jfca.2003.09.015
Vitamin B9 (folic acid or folate)
Good folate sources in animal foods are liver and eggs, but even muscle meat will contain some.
Arch Latinoam Nutr. 2010 Sep;60(3):298-305. Folate content and retention in selected raw and processed foods. Bassett MN1, Sammán NC.
Br J Nutr. 2002 Dec;88(6):681-8. The effect of different cooking methods on folate retention in various foods that are amongst the major contributors to folate intake in the UK diet. McKillop DJ1, Pentieva K, Daly D, McPartlin JM, Hughes J, Strain JJ, Scott JM, McNulty H.
Vitamin B12 (cobalamins)
Animal foods are the best and largely only sources of cobalamin, any animal foods.
Meat Sci. 2014 Mar;96(3):1371-5. doi: 10.1016/j.meatsci.2013.11.022. Epub 2013 Dec 1. Vitamin B12 content in raw and cooked beef. Czerwonka M1, Szterk A2, Waszkiewicz-Robak B2.
Watanabe F, Bito T. Vitamin B12 sources and microbial interaction. Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2018;243(2):148–158. doi:10.1177/1535370217746612
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)
Ascorbic acid is relatively sparse in animal foods commonly eaten compared to plant foods, but animal tissues do contain it – whether the animal itself produces it, or it is an exogenous substance to the creature. They furthermore contain enough even in muscle meat to ward off scurvy. However, if you wish to be extra sure, many organs – the liver kidneys, adrenals, brains – contain much more.
THE DISTRIBUTION OF VITAMIN C IN PLANT AND ANIMAL TISSUES, AND ITS DETERMINATION* BY OTTO A. BESSEY AND C. G. KING (From the Department of Chemistry, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh) (Received for publication, October 20, 1933)
Int J Epidemiol. 2006 Jun;35(3):556-8. Epub 2006 Mar 1. Medical experiments carried out in Sheffield on conscientious objectors to military service during the 1939-45 war. Pemberton J1.
Vitamin D (calciferols)
Animal foods are the only source of vitamin D3, besides endogenous production via UV irradiation.
Photochem Photobiol Sci. 2012 Dec;11(12):1802-7. doi: 10.1039/c2pp25150g. Vitamin D content of food and its contribution to vitamin D status: a brief overview and Australian focus. Liu J1.
Vitamin E (tocopherols and tocotrienols)
Animal foods universally contain alpha-tocopherol, the most important substance of this group, albeit in small amounts. It is important to note that clinical vitamin E deficiency has not been shown to exist as a result of low intake (you’re welcome to try to prove me wrong), but requirements increase with the amount of polyunsaturated fat one consumes.
Br J Nutr. 2015 Oct 28;114(8):1113-22. doi: 10.1017/S000711451500272X. Epub 2015 Aug 21. Vitamin E function and requirements in relation to PUFA. Raederstorff D1, Wyss A1, Calder PC2, Weber P1, Eggersdorfer M1.
Z Ernahrungswiss. 1997 Mar;36(1):23-7. Vitamin E content of different animal products: influence of animal nutrition. Leonhardt M1, Gebert S, Wenk C.
Vitamin K (quinones)
Animal foods contain menaquinones, in the MK4 form used by humans. Phylloquinones, the type found in plant foods, are poorly absorbed.
J Agric Food Chem. 2006 Jan 25;54(2):463-7. Vitamin k contents of meat, dairy, and fast food in the u.s. Diet. Elder SJ1, Haytowitz DB, Howe J, Peterson JW, Booth SL.
Haemostasis. 2000 Nov-Dec;30(6):298-307. Determination of phylloquinone and menaquinones in food. Effect of food matrix on circulating vitamin K concentrations. Schurgers LJ1, Vermeer C.
Br J Nutr. 1996 Aug;76(2):223-9. Effect of food composition on vitamin K absorption in human volunteers. Gijsbers BL1, Jie KS, Vermeer C.