Meat/meat alternatives (M/MA) are key sources of Fe, Zn and protein, but intake tends to be low in young children. Australian recommendations state that Fe-rich foods, including M/MA, should be the first complementary foods offered to infants. The present paper reports M/MA consumption of Australian infants and toddlers, compares intake with guidelines, and suggests strategies to enhance adherence to those guidelines. Mother-infant dyads recruited as part of the NOURISH and South Australian Infants Dietary Intake studies provided 3 d of intake data at three time points: Time 1 (T1) (n 482, mean age 5·5 (sd 1·1) months), Time 2 (T2) (n 600, mean age 14·0 (sd 1·2) months) and Time 3 (T3) (n 533, mean age 24 (sd 0·7) months). Of 170 infants consuming solids and aged greater than 6 months at T1, 50 (29 %) consumed beef, lamb, veal (BLV) or pork on at least one of 3 d. Commercial infant foods containing BLV or poultry were the most common form of M/MA consumed at T1, whilst by T2 BLV mixed dishes (including pasta bolognaise) became more popular and remained so at T3. The processed M/MA increased in popularity over time, led by pork (including ham). The present study shows that M/MA are not being eaten by Australian infants or toddlers regularly enough; or in adequate quantities to meet recommendations; and that the form in which these foods are eaten can lead to smaller M/MA serve sizes and greater Na intake. Parents should be encouraged to offer M/MA in a recognisable form, as one of the first complementary foods, in order to increase acceptance at a later age.