The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign recently concluded a study on raw meat diets for cats, including domestic cats and exotic "big" cats. Specifically, the study looked at the nutrient contents of several types of meat, and how each type of meat affected cats, along with Malayan tigers, African wild cats and jaguars in captivity.
The study looked at horsemeat, elk meat, bison meat, and beef. They found that cats that were fed this type of a diet tended to have nutrient deficiencies, as these meats don't contain the nutrients cats would get from the bones and guts of the animals. The article mentions that pet owners who feed a raw meat diet would have to supplement with other nutrients to ensure their cats are getting everything they need.
The issue with the article, however, is that it focused on red meat and merely discussed raw diets, and didn't account at all for the fact that raw diets are more appropriately termed "species-appropriate diets." What this term is supposed to mean is feeding a diet appropriate to the specific species; a Malayan tiger's natural diet is going to be significantly different from that of a small domestic cat.
While the meats listed above may be good for big cats, provided the food is supplemented with what's missing, red meat is generally not good for domestic cats. For that matter, neither is raw fish, because it contains an enzyme that destroys thiamine. Small cats, such as our domestic feline friends, would eat a diet of mice, rats, small rabbits, and small birds out in the wild. Therefore, the best meat to feed them would not be beef, elk, horse, etc. The best meat that's readily available from a store or a butcher is rabbit and whole cuts of poultry (avoid pre-ground, as it contains a lot more bacteria than whole cuts).
One of the researchers that participated in the study, Kelly Swanson, said that the research team is leery of pet owners feeding raw diets to their cats because of the possibility of infection and because of nutrient imbalances. Provided raw cat food is handled properly, including freezing for storage, cats are actually at a very low risk of salmonella poisoning.
It's important to understand that wild cats don't always eat 100% of a kill at the time the kill is made; oftentimes they will bury some and come back for more later on. Their digestive systems are designed for this, unlike ours, thus they are at low risk for food poisoning from raw or partially cooked meat (again, provided it's handled properly).
As far as the nutrient imbalances go, this is a very real concern; pet owners can't just feed their cats scraps of meat, or even full cuts of meat, and assume that will be sufficient. When a cat makes a kill, it eats most, if not all, of the animal, including bones and organs. Nutrients such as vitamins A, B, E, taurine, calcium and more, come not from the muscle tissue, but the bones and organs of the prey.
If you feed poultry, some of these can be reintroduced with chicken livers in very specific amounts, mixed into the food. The rest must be added with supplements dissolved into water, which should be mixed in with the meat. These researchers are right to be concerned about this.
Please note, raw diets are not suitable for cats with certain health problems, whether they're big cats living at a zoo or sanctuary or your own little feline companion.
One other thing mentioned in the study was that cats fed these diets tended to have smellier stools. This is not true of domestic cats; when they're fed a good, balanced, species-appropriate diet, their stools actually don't smell nearly as much as those from cats eating dry kibble.
There is a good website where a veterinarian explains, step-by-step, how to make a balanced diet for your cat from meat. If you'd like to learn both how and why, go here. There is much more than just a simple recipe; Dr. Pierson explains the whys of everything that goes into her raw cat food.