Why Grass-Fed Beef Is Better Than Grain-Fed Beef
Grass-Fed Vs. Grain-Fed.
Why Grass-Fed Beef Is Better Than Grain-Fed Beef
Cows, sheep and buffalo are all designed to eat grass. When these animals’ diets are primarily made up of grains, they have a higher chance of becoming sick and the quality of the fats and protein in their meat declines.
It’s safe to say that grass-fed meat such as beef gives you more bang for your buck on all fronts, with its significantly higher levels of omega-3s, antioxidants, minerals, and other important nutrients. Grass-fed beef is better than grain-fed beef. Here’s why in greater detail:
1. Fewer calories and less fat
- Grass-fed beef is naturally leaner than grain-fed beef, causing it to be slightly lower in total calories and fat than a grain-fed product.
- For example, a 6-ounce steak from a grass-finished steer has almost 100 fewer calories than a 6-ounce steak from a grain-fed steer.
2. Better omega-6 to omega-3 ratio
- Grass-fed beef has the recommended ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats. Depending on the breed of cow, grass-fed beef contains between 2 and 5 times more omega-3 fatty acids than grain-fed beef, and the average ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s in grass-fed beef is 1.53:1. In grain-fed beef, this ratio jumps all the way up to 7.65:1. Too much omega-6 fatty acids in one’s diet is linked to disease.
- Sixty percent of the fat content of grass is a type of omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic or LNA. When cattle are taken off grass and shipped to a feedlot to be fattened on grain, they lose their valuable store of LNA as well as two other types of omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA. Each day that an animal spends in the feedlot, its supply of omega-3s is diminished.
3. Superior source of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)
- Beef is one of the best dietary sources of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), and grass-fed beef contains an average of 2 to 3 times more CLA than grain-fed beef. CLA is a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) that is found naturally in milk and meat products, primarily from ruminants such as cows or sheep.
- Grain-based diets reduce the pH of the digestive system in ruminant animals, which inhibits the growth of the bacterium that produces CLA.
- CLA exhibits potent antioxidant activity, and research indicates that CLA might be protective against heart disease, diabetes, cancer and immune disorders.
4. More vitamins and minerals
- Grass-fed meat contains considerably more vitamins and minerals. When compared to grain-fed meat, grass-fed products are higher in B-vitamins, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc.
5. Better source of antioxidants
- Grass-fed meat contains considerably more of the antioxidants Vitamin E, glutathione, superoxide dismutase (SOD), and catalase than grain-fed meat. These antioxidants play an important role in protecting our cells from oxidation and damage.
6. Higher levels of carotenoids
- Carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, are precursors to vitamin A that are found as yellow, orange and red pigments synthesized by plants. Grain-fed beef does not contain appreciable levels of carotenoids, because grains don’t contain them. However, cows that are pasture-raised and eat carotenoid-rich grass, incorporate significant amounts of these compounds into their tissues.
- (Note: Fat color can be a good indicator of how nutrient-rich your meat is – carotenoids make the fat from grass-fed beef more yellow than the fat from grain-fed beef).
7. Less stress = healthier meat
- When animals are switched from grass diets to grain diets, they can experience high levels of stress. This stress can cause a number of disorders, including a common but painful condition called “subacute acidosis.” Cattle with subacute acidosis kick at their bellies, go off their feed and eat dirt, causing feed-lot managers to add antibiotic drugs to the feed, something that is dangerous to people who eat this meat.
8. Ideal option for people who are gluten intolerant
- People who are gluten intolerant may find that they do not feel well after consuming meats from grain-fed sources.
To read more about why grass-fed is better than grain-fed, check out my article, “Why Farm-Raised Is Better Than Factory-Farmed.”
- What are your thoughts on this subject? Do you eat grass-fed meat whenever possible, or does it not matter to you?
- Why or why not?
- Daley CA, Abbott A, Doyle PS, Nader GA, Larson S. A review of fatty acid profiles and antioxidant content in grass-fed and grain-fed beef. Nutrition Journal. 2010;9:10. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-9-10.
- Dhiman, T. R., G. R. Anand, et al. (1999). “Conjugated linoleic acid content of milk from cows fed different diets.” J Dairy Sci 82(10): 2146-56.
- Duckett, S. K., D. G. Wagner, et al. (1993). “Effects of time on feed on beef nutrient composition.” J Anim Sci 71(8): 2079-88.
- Foran, J.A. D.H. Good, D.O. Carpenter, MC Hamilton, BA Knuth, and S.J. Schwager. (2005). Quantitative Analysis of the Benefits and Risks of Consuming Farmed and Wild Salmon. Journal of Nutrition. 135:2639-2643.
- Ip, C, J.A. Scimeca, et al. (1994) “Conjugated linoleic acid. A powerful anti-carcinogen from animal fat sources.” p. 1053. Cancer 74(3 suppl):1050-4.
When she is not slaying fat and building muscle, Jennifer can be found trekking barefoot, traveling, cooking and refining her photography skills. She also enjoys reading and writing about food culture, history and the science of human movement.