Meat increases absorption of non-haem iron in single-meal studies. The aim of the present study was to investigate, over a 5 d period, the potential increasing effect of consumption of pork meat in a whole diet on the fractional absorption of non-haem iron and the total absorption of iron, when compared to a vegetarian diet. A randomised cross-over design with 3 x 5 d whole-diet periods with diets containing Danish-produced meat, Polish-produced meat or a vegetarian diet was conducted. Nineteen healthy female subjects completed the study. All main meals in the meat diets contained 60 g of pork meat and all diets had high phytic acid content (1250 mumol/d). All main meals were extrinsically labelled with the radioactive isotope (59)Fe and absorption of iron was measured in a whole body counter. The non-haem iron absorption from the Danish meat diet was significantly higher compared to the vegetarian diet (P=0.031). The mean fractional absorption of non-haem iron was 7.9 (se1.1), 6.8 (se 1.0) and 5.3 (se 0.6) % for the Danish and Polish meat diets and vegetarian diet, respectively. Total absorption of iron was higher for both meat diets compared to the vegetarian diet (Danish meat diet: P=0.006, Polish meat diet: P=0.003). The absorption ratios of the present study were well in accordance with absorption ratios estimated using algorithms on iron bioavailability. Neither the meat diets nor the vegetarian diets fulfilled the estimated daily requirements of absorbed iron in spite of a meat intake of 180 g/d in the meat diets.