The findings regarding the associations between red meat, fish and poultry consumption, and the metabolic syndrome (Mets) have been inconclusive, and evidence from Chinese populations is scarce. A cross-sectional study was performed to investigate the associations between red meat, fish and poultry consumption, and the prevalence of the Mets and its components among the residents of Suzhou Industrial Park, Suzhou, China. A total of 4424 participants were eligible for the analysis. A logistic regression model was used to estimate the OR and 95 % CI for the prevalence of the Mets and its components according to red meat, fish and poultry consumption. In addition, the data of our cross-sectional study were meta-analysed under a random effects model along with those of published observational studies to generate the summary relative risks (RR) of the associations between the highest v. lowest categories of red meat, fish and poultry consumption and the Mets and its components. In the cross-sectional study, the multivariable-adjusted OR for the highest v. lowest quartiles of consumption was 1·23 (95 % CI 1·02, 1·48) for red meat, 0·83 (95 % CI 0·72, 0·97) for fish and 0·93 (95 % CI 0·74, 1·18) for poultry. In the meta-analysis, the pooled RR for the highest v. lowest categories of consumption was 1·20 (95 % CI 1·06, 1·35) for red meat, 0·88 (95 % CI 0·81, 0·96) for fish and 0·97 (95 % CI 0·85, 1·10) for poultry. The findings of both cross-sectional studies and meta-analyses indicated that the association between fish consumption and the Mets may be partly driven by the inverse association of fish consumption with elevated TAG and reduced HDL-cholesterol and, to a lesser extent, fasting plasma glucose. No clear pattern of associations was observed between red meat or poultry consumption and the components of the Mets. The current findings add weight to the evidence that the Mets may be positively associated with red meat consumption, inversely associated with fish consumption and neutrally associated with poultry consumption.