Why Grass-Fed Trumps Grain-Fed

cow eating grass

This article is part of a special report on Red Meat. To see the other articles in this series, click here.

In my recent post on red meat, I showed you why red meat of any kind is a healthy choice, and doesn’t deserve the bad reputation that it’s given by the media and mainstream medical establishment. But although conventional beef won’t give you cancer and is an important source of highly bioavailable nutrients, we can’t ignore the fact that grass-fed meat is still superior to grain-fed.

The classic idiom “you are what you eat” applies just as well to cows as it does to humans, and there are some pretty significant differences in the quality of red meat based on how the animal was fed. I’ve talked about this in the past here, here, and here, but this post will give you a more detailed summary on why grass-fed meat is a better choice than grain-fed.

Grass-fed vs. grain-fed: it goes way beyond omega-3s! Tweet This

Fatty Acid Composition

I mentioned in my previous post that the ratio of saturated to monounsaturated to polyunsaturated fat in beef stays about the same regardless of what the animal is fed. (1)Those ratios might shift slightly depending on the animal’s diet, but the shifts are still relatively small. On average, grass-fed beef tends to have slightly lower levels of MUFA and slightly higher levels of PUFA than grain-fed, but these differences are at most five percentage points, depending on the breed of cattle and the study in question. So regardless of whether your beef is grain-fed or grass-fed, you’ll be getting about 40-50% saturated fat, about 40-50% monounsaturated fat, and somewhere near 10% polyunsaturated fat.

However, the diet of the cow does significantly influence the types of each fat present. Within the broad categories of SFA, MUFA, and PUFA, there are several individual fatty acids with different chemical compositions, and each has unique effects on the body.

Omega-3 and Omega-6

The two fatty acids you’re probably most familiar with are our old friends omega-3 and omega-6, both of which are PUFAs. This might come as a surprise, but the most current research indicates that beef contains consistent levels of omega-6 regardless of diet. (2) This is good news if you can’t afford grass-fed beef, because at least grain-fed beef won’t slam you with more omega-6 than you can compensate for. What you’ll be missing out on are the significantly higher levels of omega-3s found in grass-fed beef. (3) Depending on the breed of cow, grass-fed beef contains between 2 and 5 times more omega-3s than grain-fed beef, and the average ratio of n-6:n-3 in grass fed beef is 1.53:1. In grain fed beef, this ratio jumps all the way up to 7.65:1.

Saturated Fat

While I’m not particularly concerned about saturated fat of any kind, it’s worth noting the differences in SFA composition of grain-fed vs. grass-fed meat. There are three main types of saturated fat found in red meat: stearic acid, palmitic acid, and myristic acid. (4) Grass-fed beef consistently contains a higher proportion of stearic acid, which even the mainstream scientific community acknowledges does not raise blood cholesterol levels. (5) This higher proportion of stearic acid means that grass-fed beef also contains lower proportions of palmitic and myristic acid, which are more likely to raise cholesterol.

Conjugated Linoleic Acid

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a type of PUFA that is found naturally in milk and meat products, primarily from ruminants such as cows or sheep. As I’ve explained before, CLA exhibits potent antioxidant activity, and research indicates that CLA might be protective against heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Beef is one of the best dietary sources of CLA, and grass-fed beef contains an average of 2 to 3 times more CLA than grain-fed beef. (6)This is because grain-based diets reduce the pH of the digestive system in ruminant animals, which inhibits the growth of the bacterium that produces CLA. It’s interesting to note that as a whole, Americans consume far less CLA than people from countries such as Australia, where grass-fed beef tends to be the rule rather than the exception.

Antioxidants, Vitamins and Minerals

Another reason grass-fed meat surpasses grain-fed is that it contains considerably more antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, are precursors to vitamin A that are found as pigments in plants. Grain-fed beef does not contain appreciable levels of carotenoids, for the simple reason that grains don’t contain them. However, cows that eat carotenoid-rich grass and forage incorporate significant amounts of these compounds into their tissues. These carotenoids make the fat from grass-fed beef more yellow than the fat from grain-fed beef, so fat color can be a good indicator of how nutrient-rich your meat is. (7)

Grass-fed beef also contains significantly more of the antioxidants vitamin E, glutathione, superoxide dismutase (SOD), and catalase than grain-fed beef. (8) These antioxidants play an important role in protecting our cells from oxidation, especially delicate fats in the cell membrane such as omega-3 and omega-6. (9)

Antioxidants such as vitamin E and beta-carotene also work together synergistically to protect the meat itself from damage during the journey from butcher to plate. (10) These antioxidants are especially important if you choose to fry or grill your meat, because those high-heat cooking methods can be more damaging to meat than wet or low-heat methods such as stewing or braising.

Grass-fed beef also contains higher levels of the beneficial nutrients I discussed in my last red meat post, including zinc, iron, phosphorus, sodium, and potassium. (11) It’s safe to say that grass-fed meat gives you more bang for your buck on all fronts, with its significantly higher levels of omega-3s, antioxidants, minerals, and other important nutrients.

Other types of red meat

Although I’ve primarily referenced research on beef in this post, the benefits of pasture-raised meat extend to red meat from other animals as well. For example, several studies show that the meat and milk of grass-fed lambs is significantly higher in omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid than the meat and milk of grain-fed lambs. (12, 13, 14) Another study shows that the fatty acid composition of grass-fed bison is similar to that of grass-fed beef, and both contain higher levels of omega-3s and CLA than that of grain-fed bison. (15)

I hope it’s clear by now that when it comes to red meat, quality makes a big difference. However, I realize that price is a common concern, and not everyone can afford grass-fed meat. That’s why I made it a point in the last post to focus on why even conventional red meat is a healthy choice. Just remember that grass-fed red meat is more nutrient dense than grain-fed, so even though grass-fed is more expensive, you’re getting more nutritional bang for your buck. And although it wasn’t the topic of this post, it’s always worth considering the ethical and environmental implications of grain-fed vs. grass-fed meat.

Now I’d like to hear from you. Do you purchase grass-fed beef? If so, what are some of your reasons for choosing grass-fed rather than grain-fed beef? Share in the comments below!

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  1. Sherry Nielsen says

    On grass fed beef…besides the reasons you mention…. I only by grass fed beef because I am allergic to corn. So in order to stay on the safe side I this is another reason ….because I’ve been told they may get fed with corn or anything related to it.

  2. Annie says

    I eat grass-fed meats and free ranging chicken and duck eggs and anything else that can be purchased from friends and farmers in my community. Why? for all the reasons you write about and also to support my local small farms. AND to NOT support the cheap, non-nutritious, often toxic food stuffs sold by the food industry. It feels good to my body to eat this way and it feels good to my spirit to turn my back on the corrupt corporations that have continually deluded and misinformed the public. I’m very sad about that and understand that I am very lucky to have access to REAL food.

  3. says

    Thanks for your article–it’s refreshing to finally hear that the benefits of grass-fed are NOT because it is leaner. We raise our own grass-fed beef, and one of the principles we incorporate is to make sure the animal is nice and fat before slaughter. In most grass-fed breeds, it is possible to get a nice fat animal if the grazing is generous and the time is allowed for the animal to put on fat. The time and effort is well worth it, because a fatter beef is easier to cook, more flavorful and tender, and easier to digest for many people.

  4. Deborah says

    Great article! I’d love to know how Jerica gets her grass fed cows nice and fat. We bought 1/4 cow a year ago from a friend that was 100% grass fed (except for apples!) and it’s so incredibly lean and frankly mostly tough. We are still working our way through it, but mostly it’s not been enjoyable as all the steaks are dry and hard. The ground beef is okay as long as I season it well, but I’d never want a hamburger with it. The only thing that works is braised roasts. If not for this cow, we buy grass fed from the store, but I believe that has been finished with grain.

    • says

      Hi Deborah,
      Fat grass-fed beef takes 3 ingredients: 1. Good genetics, 2. Good nutrition/management (i.e. plenty to eat), and 3. Time. There are a handful of breeds that will never get good marbling no matter what because their genetics were destroyed by feedlot up-breeding efforts. The best grass-fed cows are short and fat. They look like barrels with legs. And breeds contain a lot of variation. Just because one Black Angus finishes well on grass (or not) doesn’t mean all Black Angus will follow suit. We look for a particular phenotype when separating breeding stock from eating stock. Good nutrition means that the cows are never starved. Too many cows in a non-rotated paddock only spells disaster and poor quality beef. We get our cows fat in the spring by making them eat plenty of grass hay before turning them out on lush spring pasture–that slows down their digestion and they put on weight very efficiently–much more so than if we kept them for longer and fed them less per day. Can’t starve the critters! My third point is simple: don’t harvest until the cows are ripe! We look at body condition score to make sure a cow is going to have good intramuscular fat before she goes to slaughter. Sometimes this is later than the USDA cutoff age for allowing spinal cuts like t-bones (30 months–stupid mad cow disease feedlot rule). Some butchers won’t take cows older than 30 months because of regulatory issues, but many cows won’t finish well on grass only before that. So you have to find a new butcher.

      If we have a skinny cow that will never finish out well, she goes for hamburger, and we use fat of some of the other cows to boost the fat content up to at least 20%. So there you go. Our grass-fed beef strategy. :-) If you’re a shopper, ask your farmer how he knows when the cows are ready to slaughter. If it is strictly based on age, be wary.

      • Anna P says

        Wow – as much as I appreciated the main article – this was awesome! This is awesome information that will help me as a regular consumer of grassfed beef. Thank you!

        • says

          Seadanes,
          Well, if you’re in East Texas or Shreveport, you can buy locally from us. We don’t ship at this time–your best bet to find a good grass-fed producer is to check with your local Weston A. Price Chapter leader. Be sure you ask questions before buying, and you may even want to purchase a pound of hamburger. Not all grass-fed is equal!

      • Joanne says

        Very well stated, Jerica! We also raise grass-fed beef, and ours are never skinny looking, and our meat is wonderful. Patience in the field is just as important as patience cooking is later for a tasty, marbled piece of meat. Good quality beef is not to be rushed!

    • Tina says

      It is my understanding from talking with my farmer, it does no good to buy grass fed beef that has been grain finished. You might as well buy grocery store meat that has been fed on a CAFO. It only takes 3 to 5 days before all the benefits outlined in Chris’ article to disappear once grain feeding begins. In addition, the chance for E-coli development increases significantly. I am always very careful when buying from other farmers. I make sure they are not grass finished!

        • Tina says

          Annie, Oops! you’re right! I meant GRAIN finished. So sorry. Such an important point. At one of the farmers’ markets that I go to, a (devious) farmer has big banners up touting his “grass-fed” beef. Upon further questioning, he admitted his beef is grain finished. I told him I would not be purchasing any of his beef and why. I am sure there are many people buying his meat and thinking they are eating wholesome grass-fed beef.

          • says

            That is terrible. You should report him to the market manager. I once bought what I thought were organic local onions at a farmers market. I got home and removed them from the ziplock bag they were sold in and discovered that they had conventional PLU stickers that indicated they had been grown in Peru! You really have to ask whether foods are really local, organic, etc. It helps to get educated about the crops you buy so you know which questions to ask. The best idea is to go see the farm!

    • Sarah says

      You may have already tried this but have you lessened the cooking time? We ran into the problem of toughness too then realized that because the meat was leaner it often took a 1/4 to 1/3 of the normal cooking time for grain fed meat. We also learned to pull it off before it was done because it would keep cooking for a bit. Just a thought…good luck!

    • Karyn says

      Same thing here – i have read about the benefits of grass fed beef and have bought sampler packages at least 3 times at about $500 each. So disappointed, the beef has never been tender, from the steaks to lower cuts. Also the taste is not what we are used to. I have tried cooking quicker, and also slow cooking usually tender cuts, to no avail. I want to eat healthier and more sustainable, but it’s money down the drain for me.

    • charna says

      we raised our own beef several years ago and during the last 6 months we fed alfalfa pellets and it was the juiciest, most marbled, tasty meat we’d ever had! you can’t just throw them out on a dusty pasture and expect them to get fat. they need tons of forage and if it’s not growing (during winter) you need to supplement with the highest quality hay you can obtain. patience will elicit the best meat. never process before the animal is nice and fat.

    • Michael Campbell says

      My father was a meat cutter for over35 years. The main reason most red meat is tough when cooked was that the meat wasn’t aged properly after it was killed. The longer you age beef the more tender it will be. Beef should be aged 21-28 days. Most butchers won’t do this because they either do not know this or that they do not want to tie up there coolers aging it that long. Change butchers or slaughter house and you will solve this problem

  5. says

    I eat grass fed beef. I order online because no local retailer in my area offers it, but I do feel it is very important. I am getting my body ready to have a baby and want to have the most natural foods I can before attempting a pregnancy. I want to give a baby the best possible start.

    • says

      Kate, very wise, check out my remarks in later post and look up the benefits of choline etc in liver and eggs for protection of babies brain, IQ, and health in later life. All have declined since grain fattened meats and grain processed foods replaced our traditional, grass fed centre of the plate. Recent science is indicating a 180 degree change from previous accepted industry driven recommendations of the last few decades. Check out ‘thought for food’ UK Parliamentary enquiry circa 2009? Crawford and Richardson et al evidence. Good luck.

      • says

        I agree with the liver statement. When I was pregnant with my first child, I tried to eat grass fed liver as much as I could choke down…from grass fed cows and chickens…I found the easiest way (because I truly can’t stand the taste) is to cook it, freeze it, and then cut them into pill sizes and swallow them like a supplement… Worked like a charm!

        • Annie says

          WOW Cassie! That is such a great idea. I can’t stand the taste of liver either but I have found that I can eat it and even LIKE it when I make a spread or pate out of it. I put it on toast or a cracker and cover it with onion slices. It’s actually pretty good. I also stuff celery with it. But your idea sounds so straight forward and easy. I’m going to try it.

          • says

            Chris (and others on the subject of liver),– It was you who referenced it as- ‘Liver: nature’s most potent superfood’. circa 2008, and according to Google, I had visited the page 3 times previously.
            From school meals in the 40′s-50′s when liver and onions was a weekly mandatory meal until the last ten years when I started retailing our own grass fattened beef, I like most did not like the iron taste and only ate it occasionally because ‘it is good for you’.
            Since then research led me to discover Chris is right, Liver has 5 to 50 times the essential vitamins, nutrients and ant-oxidant values of fruit and vegetables per serving of even the best such as raw blueberries or kale. I also read somewhere that cooking denatures, or reduces the value available in most food but it actually increases by cooking in liver. Unfortunately I do not have time to check this out at moment. (Chris?)
            When first retailing our beef I had to give liver away with less than 5% asking for it and most of these wanting it for dog food or to seed/feed their rural septic system, a local custom.
            As a result of articles such as Chris and others write, I now cannot keep up with demand. I had taken to eating at least 2 servings per week and changed my preparation as a result of customers recipe’s and only to cook until the red disappeared, less than 4 minutes total. By accident I discovered that searing in butter for less than a minute each side and leaving the center practically raw is best for my taste and all that ‘iron ‘taste disappears. Also it is tenderer than tenderloin and I can fully understand babies being weaned onto it in history.
            I can also attest that the liver is the most carefully inspected organ under our Local inspection system as it is in Federal Plants, yet many still believe it is a filter organ for toxins in the body, which is partially true, but the toxins are not present in healthy liver. It is still the least expensive form of nutrition available at retail. Knowing the system of inspection I would not hesitate to eat inspected Beef liver, including that from grain fed, feedlot beef, because fatty livers or any slightly suspect for any reason are immediately condemned.

            • JWS says

              Great info. I’ll have to try searing mine in butter next time. Just last night I made some “liver jerky” from grass fed beef liver. The smell is VERY strong and a bit off putting. I put no seasonings or salt on it as it’s for our cat. She LOVES the liver, so much so that I’m thinking maybe I should try it too so I can see what all the fuss is about!

  6. Jeremy says

    Hi Chris,
    Are the differences significant in a scientific sense or a real world sense? I.e. Not down to chance or meaningful?

  7. Elizabeth says

    My husband and I bought a whole (smallish) cow and a chest freezer. The butcher vacuum packed the meat, and it has kept well over 15 months (we are down to the last 12 pounds of hambuger). The cost per pound (including the cost of the freezer) works out to a little less than we can buy grass fed hamburger at the store. BUT that means that roasts/steaks are also a little less expensive than that store-bought hamburger, which is great.

    We haven’t had any issues with tough meat on the “fancier” cuts. Cuts such as top round were a disappointment till I started cutting up the pieces into small chunks and cooking them fast for a brown outside and pink interior.

  8. says

    I’m curious to know if beef from cattle fed GMO grains transfers negative health effects to humans? I have always assumed so, but one of my WAPF members asked me about it and I realized I did not really know. I’m researching now, but if you can shed any light, I would appreciate it. Thank you.

  9. John Harris says

    I have access to grass fed venison year round but also buy grass fed beef locally. To me, the health benefits are a bonus. I choose grass fed meat because it tastes better.

  10. NevadaSmith says

    I would have appreciated some mention of hormones or antibiotics in the meat and the health aspects of that. Is it true that grass fed beef contains less antibiotics because the cows are eating the diet they were designed to eat and thus less antibiotics are needed if any?

    • says

      Regarding hormones, I’d recommend looking at this post: http://chriskresser.com/grass-fed-vs-conventional-meat-its-not-black-or-white

      As far as antibiotics, I think the biggest problem with them in the meat industry is that feedlot animals are often given low-dose antibiotics to fatten them up, even if they aren’t necessarily sick. As far as I know, “grass-fed” and “antibiotic-free” are not mutually exclusive claims, but if a farmer is mindful enough to raise the animal on grass, I would assume they would only administer antibiotics in the rare event that they actually get sick.

  11. says

    This is spot on. Real science once again validates what we already know from intuition and experience—eat real food that once ate real food. Thanks for this, Chris. I’ve been a fan since the early days of the healthy skeptic; keep breaking down the “common knowledge”!

  12. Alice says

    Do you also get some of the similar benefits from wild game? I have family members who go elk hunting every year, and we always end up with elk in our freezer. I buy grass-fed beef not only because of everything you mention above, but because it’s local, and I can meet and shake hands with the farmer who raised the animal. I can see where the animals lived and know it’s a healthy spot and that they were raised humanely and with respect. Grass-fed tastes better too. Cost is really good when we buy a share every year. We get it for less than $4/lb total, which for some cuts is cheaper than the cruddy grain-fed in our grocery stores.

  13. says

    Chris,

    Great article! I do think the cost differential between grass-fed vs. grain fed is overblown. I pay around $1250/year to a local farm for all of my meat and eggs. It’s high quality, tastes great, I get to see the farm, etc. I would definitely pay the same or more than that at a grocery store to eat grain fed beef.

  14. Alexander says

    Does anyone know if there are parts of the cow (organ meats, marrow, oxtail) that are much healthier grass fed or is it the fattier cuts? I for one don’t like liver/kidney/heart unless its 100% grass fed. Chris or anyone’s input would be appreciated.

    • says

      From a health standpoint the organ meats have the most concentration of beneficial nutrients, omega 3′s in balance and the best balance of fats and fat soluable vitamins. The marrow for example contains roughly the same fats and in concentration similar to our brains. There is no doubt in my mind that northern tribes evolved in a synergistic and symbiotic relationship with cattle and their wild ruminant forebears . I have also come to believe that it is no accident that humans have the same gestaion period as cattle and that we survived the winters, the lighter our skin colour by consuming their fats as a source of vitamin supplementation , in particular vitamin D.
      I have been involved in grass fattening beef on cool season grasses and high carotenoid plants for over 60 of my 71+ years and was preached to in my youth that we evolved from the fat of the land and to eat such beef daily for a long healthy life with all your marbles.
      It is therefore very gratifying to me to be living to see the whole truth emerging, verified by the very scientific enquiry vested interests used to discredit the ancestral evidence and wisdom’s dismissed as old wife’s tales and anecdotal.
      The essential nutrients for best health are in the fat profile as the ancients knew. The flower of the field, fat of the land.
      The beef needs to be fattened to US select or low choice or Canada A+. It can be accomplished to 88% the efficiency of grain finishing, with a now being proven 2to5 times the consequent nutrient concentration in balance. In my youth compensatory gain was very important for grass fattening and mimics nature. This is what we try to do and works best.
      No mention is being made of the carbon and human health benefits, which are many times the current value retail value.
      Finally I believe Chris may have mentioned, definitely some one, that grass fed liver is mother natures most perfect multi – vitamin food in balance and most babies in history were weaned onto it and egg yolks before modern grain driven science produced pablum. Canada health has quietly indicated this in recommendations but it is not yet mainstream and very concerning personally as a great grandfather, who’s grand daughter lives away and is being advised to wean onto pablum and commercial baby formula.

  15. Nils says

    Seems like a bit of a superfluous article if you ask me, since this is most likely basic knowledge for the people that visit this site. Though naturally I agree with everything said.

    One thing that I do wonder which was left unanswered, is all the omega-3 in these animals EPA and DHA or does it still contain a significant amount of ALA?

    • Ken says

      Maybe a little “preaching to the choir,” but I appreciated the in-depth treatment of the differences between the two…so, “Thank you!” The worst is knowing that grass-fed is superior, yet having such a difficult time finding it. Any words of wisdom re: that would be appreciated.

    • Marina says

      ALA is the primary fatty acids found in green leafy plants and is also a precursor of DHA and EPA so I would speculate that the ALA consumed by bovine would be converted to their essential DHA and EPA fatty chains and would expect these fatty acids to be the majority of the omega-3s present in grass-fed beef. In general beef isn’t a high source of ALA so I wouldn’t expect grass-fed beef specifically to be any different.

  16. says

    My family eats grass fed beef which we obtain from KolFoods.com
    I don’t have any scientific proof that grass fed is better than grain, but I do want my beef to be hormone and antibiotic free.
    Thanks for the great article.

  17. Todd says

    Chris,

    Based on Peter Ballerstedt’s AHS 12 lecture (http://grassbasedhealth.blogspot.com/2013/02/ruminant-reality.html) and what he’s written on his blog (http://grassbasedhealth.blogspot.com/2011/10/is-grass-fed-beef-really-rich-in-omega.html), I got the sense that the Omega-3/Omega-6 benenfits of grassfed beef are a little overstated.

    NevadaSmith,
    Take a look at the above posted AHS 12 lecture and read this post. http://grassbasedhealth.blogspot.com/2011/06/hormones-and-nitrites-and-antibiotics.html which addresses both hormones and antibiotics.

    Having said all that, I belong to a meat CSA which delivers me 20 lbs of beef and chicken per month. Plus they sell eggs, bones, organ meat, suet and all sorts of other good stuff. Belonging to the CSA is only a bit more expensive than buying conventional meat at the supermarket. The potential for additional vitamins and minerals, supporting a local business and supporting a more sustainable form of food production makes the added cost worth it for me.

    • Chris Kresser says

      I’m working from several peer-reviewed studies. They show a range of ratios depending on the breed of cattle, season, etc., but I’ve never seen a study that didn’t indicate at least a 2x greater amount of n-3 in grass-fed beef than in conventionally raised beef. Sometimes the ratio is much higher.

      • Todd says

        The ratio is better. I guess his point is that the total amount is so small, especially once you cook the beef, that the actual health impact is quite small if not non-existant.

        From his article: “Grass fed ground beef contains 100 mg of n-3 per 4 ounces (raw). Considering that one 3.75 ounce (106 g) can of Vital Choice’s albacore solid white tuna (yes, tuna!) in extra virgin olive oil contains almost 3 grams (2,926 mg) of n-3 fatty acids it is, at best, an exaggeration to call grass fed beef a “rich” source of n-3 fatty acids. Even a comparison of grass fed ground beef with grain fed ground beef doesn’t justify the label: This same source shows only a 22 mg difference per 4 ounces of raw meat. What happens when the meat is cooked? A 4 ounce (cooked weight), pan-browned ground beef patty only contains 20 mg, so cooking loss appears to be significant.”

        • Chris Kresser says

          I’ve never called beef a “rich” source of EPA or DHA. That said, there are some studies indicating that grass-fed beef can have a meaningful impact on serum EPA and DHA levels, so it can clearly play a significant role.

          • says

            Todd, just checked independent tests of our grass fats in the ground indicating over 200mg/100g (actual 217mg) Ala is 140mg and the rest longer chain n3′s inc DHA . Of course much higher levels are in the organ meats and marrow. As I understand it Brisket is equal to wild salmon but I have not had ours tested. And ground beef of over 200mg of Omega3 is about the average of most fish except the cold water oily fish like mackerel, sardines and Wild salmon

          • Todd says

            No, you didn’t call it a “rich” (those were Peter Ballerstedt’s words not yours or mine). But you say in this article that “What you’ll be missing out on are the significantly higher levels of omega-3s found in grass-fed beef.” If you mean signficantly higher in a relative sense as compared to grain fed, then yes. But if you mean signifcantly higher in an absolute sense, I don’t think the case is as strong. Just my opinion.

            In 4 ounces of raw beef, grassfed will have approximately 30-50 milligrams more Omega 3′s than grain fed. That difference is even less once the meat is cooked as about 70% of Omega 3s are lost in the cooking process (while less than a third of the Omega 6 is lost in cooking). Eat some fish and you will dwarf any difference in the Omega 3 difference in the beef.

            With regard to the higher levels of omega-3 in their plasma and platelets of grassfed beef eaters, as you say in your January 4, 2011 article that Alyssa posted above:
            “I suspect the answer lies with the difference in omega-6 content in the diets of both groups… This is why I constantly tell people that the most important step they can take in normalizing their omega-3:omega-6 ratio is not boosting omega-3 intake, but reducing omega-6. And this is likely what explains the higher levels of omega-3 in the grass-fed meat eaters in the study, even though grass-fed meat doesn’t have a lot more omega-3 than CAFO meat.”

            Hopefully there are some new studies that isolate the grassfed beef consumption and take into consideration the rest of the diet. That would be great!

            Again, I’m not trying to diminish grassfed beef. As I said above, that’s pretty much all I eat. I would just like to see a lot more with regard to the Omega 3/6 issue before I conclude that it makes a difference w/r/t beef consumption.

            Again, just my view. Thanks for your effort!

  18. Viola says

    There is a major difference between grain and grass fed meat that you didn’t mention and that may have major effects on health, and that is the widespread use of hormones and antibiotics in grain fed meat. I would personally choose to eat no meat rather than grain-fed meat.

  19. Di says

    I only eat grass fed. Simply as I go not want all the GM grains and hormones and antibiotics. I live in South Africa and can eat game meat like Gemsbok Kudu and Springbok and game biltong (jerky) If I ever eat beef it has to be grass fed Thank for you great website and tweets:) Di

  20. says

    I grew up and spent most my adult life in Australia, until I moved to the U.S. about 2 years ago… well actually now I’m in the UK! Anyway back in Australia I never heard the whole grass-fed vs grain-fed debate, probably because most of the meat there is grass-fed anyway, it just wasn’t an issue. When I was in the U.S., I kept hearing/reading people talk about it so when I was there I definitely made sure to get the grass-fed and pastured meats, even though sometimes these were more expensive.

    Again here in the U.K it doesn’t seem to be as much of an issue. Even in regular supermarkets the meat says grass-fed and the pork is outdoor reared etc.

  21. Dylan says

    I think that grass fed beef versus grain fed beef should be pretty far down the list of things you can do to live healthier. I also think that a post like this is more likely to push orthorexia than to have a positive effect.

    One of the reasons you cited was that the saturated fat profile is better in grass fed, but I thought we weren’t even worried about saturated fats and cholesterol levels.

    The relevance of this article is similar to post-marathon nutrition advice. I just think there’s a lot of habits that people could improve on before they insist on buying expensive beef. How are people getting this beef? If you drive your car to the supermarket to get grass-fed beef, is the beef really the number one thing about that action to improve? You might be better off by riding your bike or walking, you might also be better served to get it at a farmer’s market.

    The emphasis on grass fed versus grain fed also tends to miss the point that you should really just be trying to eat the best specimen of cow that you can. A potato grown in Michigan can have a vastly different nutritional profile than one grown in Florida, so saying that grass fed beef has this nutritional profile and grain fed beef has that nutritional profile might be inaccurate.

    • Dylan says

      To clarify on my second paragraph, I’m not saying cholesterol and saturated fat are entirely moot, but I’d be surprised if we ever found Chris Kresser saying that you shouldn’t eat beef because it has too much palmitic acid and it might raise your cholesterol 10 points.

    • grayson says

      No need to clarify Dylan. I think you lost us all at “orthorexia”.

      This was a great BLOG post. Even if I didn’t learn too much from the post itself (I’ve been doing this stuff for a while now), this type of post keeps things organized and guides those of us who might otherwise stray. This post was never trying to be a profound statement on new research.

      On top of that, when people post *constructive* comments, like Jerica and Beefeater have for this post, the learning can get pretty intense! How lucky I am as a reader for Jerica to share her intimate knowledge of grassfed beef raising — it never would have happened without a helpful post like this to provide the opportunity.

      Essentially, you have every right to make your point, but there’s no need to argue with the reasons behind the post to do so.

      Chris, I don’t know if you’re reading (god knows I’d have a hard time if I were you), but please count me as a *very* grateful reader (albeit one who maybe woke up on the wrong side of the bed) who appreciates all the help you’ve freely dispensed, and all the research that goes into it. You’ve helped me way more than any doctor ever has.

  22. Jeff says

    Another reason to eat grass fed is that the animals live a much more pleasant life in their natural environment. The grain fed cattle live in concentration camp like conditions. Eating unnatural foods (grain), standing in their own feces and urine. It can’t be a pleasant existence. Just because I eat them doesn’t mean I can’t care about their quality of life while they are here.

    • Paul says

      This is the reply I was waiting for. Cows are among the animals which have evolved to eat grass. When they are fed grain their bodies do not need the multi-stomach digestion. This leads to ulcers and other maladies which is a primary reason for all the antibiotics. As Jeff points out, this is an awful life for the cattle and creates a less healthy product for us.

  23. says

    At first I was led to believe by this article that paying three times more for grassfed has been a big waste, but then I remember many of the reasons I started being this selective. These reasons all are reflected in many peoples’ comments attached to this article.

    Grain finished may be okay, but we have to be sure we are not supporting animal cruelty and GM crops and hormones and antibiotics. It’s a disaster out there in the food chain and we have to be careful what we support, for reasons beyond our immediate health concerns.

    –Scott

  24. Pam C says

    I am interested in the sources of this information, particularly stuff that is well documented from a reliable organization. Several of my friends are arguing that this is all crap and show me proof… It’s so annoying.

    • Jeff says

      Pam, I’ve found it is better to not argue with my friends that argue “this is all crap”. I tell them I am not going to argue with them, and I encourage them to do their own research. If they want to keep sabotaging their own health and supporting brutal inhumane treatment to the livestock that is on them, not me.

      It seems kind of common sense to me. These animals are designed by nature to eat grass and other leafy greens that grow on meadow land. When we force feed them of the cheapest grains available it makes them sick. That is why they must be pumped full of antibiotics to keep them alive long enough to fatten them up on grain and growth hormones. The grain fed meat we buy so cheaply in the grocery stores comes from a bunch of very sick, poorly treated their entire lives cows. It is sad really. And folks will buy this meat to “save a couple of dollars” per pound. Never mind the health benefits. Who wants to eat the flesh of sick animals who have spent almost their entire lives standing in their own feces and urine?

  25. Rachel says

    Thoughts on grass-fed vs grass-fed/grain finished?
    A butcher shop just opened by my home and all they sell is locally raised grass-fed/grain finished meats. I would love to support them, but also want to understand exactly what this means as far as health benefits.

    • Jeff says

      It is my understanding that finishing them with grain destroys the optimal 3 to 6 ratio that makes grass fed more desirable. I used to buy my beef from U.S. wellness meats before I made friends with a local farmer. Per their faq:

      Are the cattle finished with grain?

      Never. From the moment our animals are weaned from their mothers, they consume high quality forage for the rest of their lives. Not only is grain-finish counter to the values of grass-fed farming, but a change to a starchy grain diet can undo omega 6:3 ratios and CLA values in 30 days.

      Not a scientific answer, but these people are professionals. Worth checking out too if you don’t have a local source for grass fed beef.

      http://www.grasslandbeef.com/

  26. Pru says

    Two major NJ supermarket chains- ShopRite and Stop and Shop – have begun. selling grass-fed beef from Australia at attractive prices. This seems like great news.

  27. Les says

    What about beef that is grass fed, but grain finished for the final two weeks or so. How much do you feel that negates the grass fed benefits?

  28. says

    I eat primarily grass-fed bison, because I love the taste and am usually trying to protein up as much as possible. Pan fried in coconut oil, a little garlic and other seasoning. Flavor is incredible.

  29. Lynn says

    The next steps, after eschewing grain fed and switching to grass fed AND grass finished beef, are to buy local, direct from the rancher, and witness the slaughter. This puts you in touch with the environmental, ethical and economic aspects of eating meat. It also, at least for me, provides a chance for reverence and respect for the animal whose life was taken to nourish mine.

    I have watched the last three of our steers (we buy sides or quarters) “harvested”. The first time (USDA inspected, university affiliated Meat Sciences Lab) I clutched my husband’s arm tightly. The next time was also at a USDA inspected abatoir, a small meat company that is certified humane. It got easier to watch. This past fall I went 12 miles from our house and the steer was taken outdoors by mobile slaughter, next to the field where the animal was born and raised. Very little, if any, petroleum was used in this pastured beef! I brought a five gallon bucket and got the heart, liver, kidneys, tongue, tail and a small cut of meat (diaphragm) that didn’t need hanging for tenderness. They were all still warm from life. Now, watching the process no longer dismays.

    When I cook the meat or organs from this animal, there is not an ounce of this former vegetarian that feels any guilt. This animal had a good life, was killed quickly without trauma of transport, and every last bit is being consumed.

  30. Sherry says

    Deborah,
    I cook grass-fed beef on lower heat. It preserves the delicate omega 3′s and 6′s and makes the meet more tender. Seasoning well helps also. I cooked a chuck roast recently in a crock pot for 8-9 hours–delicious!
    The amount of omega 3′s etc is not as important as the ratio. Where grass-fed beef is the ideal 4:1 ratio,
    grain fed beef can be 20:1–which is un-natural and unhealthy.
    Check out http://www.BeyondOrganic.com with Jordan Rubin on grass-fed beef issues. He is selling his own beef–but highly researched and healthy. Just fyi. :)

    • John hill says

      Naz says that the suprmarkets in UK offer grass fed meat but she should be made aware of the fact that most if not all the meat on offer is actually FINISHED on concentrates, ie cereals and soya (GM?) after a period of grazing.Here in England the public are only just waking up to the benefits of pasture fed food and the recently formed Pasture Fed Livestock group are moving things forward (with help from The AGA)
      There is certainly no premium for our product over here but interestingly the focus is probably more on the environmental benefits rather than health.
      We are using the shorthorn breed with some success with growth rates up to 1.6 kg per day later in the season.In 2012 we managed to slaughter steers at around 650kg at 20 months, this year rates are poorer due to our last dismal summer.

    • Annie says

      Thanks, Sherry for making the important point about ratio being more important than amount when addressing the omega 3/6 issue. A healthy diet depends on this balance.

  31. Barbara says

    Another significant benefit of grass-fed-finished beef is that it and grass-fed butter are some of the few sources of vitamin K2 in the modern North American diet. Grain-fed beef is not a good source of K2, which is important for the proper utilization of calcium in the body and the removal of calcified material from tissue and arteries. K2 helps protect heart health while also building stronger teeth and bones. In Japan, people get their K2 from eating Natto, fermented soy beans.

    • theonat says

      @Barbara

      A good indicator of vitamin K2 in beef is if the fat has yellowish tint. Grain-fed beefs usually have a clean, white fat; whereas grass-fed beefs have a slight yellow hue in the fat. It is in this yellowish fat (not the muscle) where the K2 is located.

  32. says

    I have been purchasing grass-fed for 10 years. I don’t even look at the crap at grocery stores. I can barely even trust Whole Foods when it says “grass-fed”, especially their ground “grass-fed” meat because HOW DO I KNOW that it wasn’t switched with the grain fed? And… Is the meat grass-finished? There are so many questions! I order my meat from North Star Bison and have been doing so for as long as I can remember (10 years)… Mary, the owner, is truly dedicated to supplying her customers with the best of the best and I have to say, I have never had BETTER MEAT! She offers beef, ostrich, elk, bison, venison, goat, lamb, turkey and chicken. When I get her boxes, man, it’s like XMAS morning! Ha Ha. So delicious. And I am happy to report, I am extremely healthy because of something so delicious!

  33. Cassie says

    the other day I was in a super rush, had no food at home, so i bought some veggies and a conventional steak at the grocery and cooked it up quick… i swear to you the steak tasted like i bit into corn on the cob!!!! it was unbelieveable! from now on if im in a pinch i will just fast.

  34. Lori says

    I haven’t seen vitamin K2 mentioned in this discussion. Grass fed animal products have a much higher level than conventionally fed because of the bacteria created through rumination. K2 works with D3 for calcium absorption and deposition, helping to prevent soft tissue calcification. It’s an essential nutrient that doesn’t seem to be on anyone’s radar yet…

  35. says

    My wife and I are advocates of eating grass fed/free range animals (she is a meat cutter at an organic abattoir) as well we enjoy harvesting and eating game meat such as moose, venison, caribou (going for my first bison this year as well)
    Campaigning to support small independent farmers is key to sustaining the ecosystem and educating people to the harm that ones does to themselves and the environment by eating gmo and frankenfoods.
    We often find ourselves shaking our heads at the dumbed down ideology that the mainstream media has infected upon most of our friends and family and thoughtfully encourage one and all to enjoy real food as it was intended.
    Support your local farmers, grow your own and remember, you are what you eat!

  36. Melinda Best says

    Hi Chris,
    First of all let my say what a huge fan I am of your work and articles. I love taking on your advice as I believe in the ‘lifestyle’ that goes hand in hand with what you say.
    However I would like to know where you get you information from as some of you post frequently have no references which makes me think the information could really be just ‘hear say’ I tell my friends about the wonderful information I gain from your site and they alway question ‘well who is he anyway and who is he to actually scientifically know all this information or is it just simply what he believes in rather than what is scientifici evidence’.
    Could you please give me some information and evidence of where you get all you information and any studies that have been done on this.
    Kind Regards
    Melinda Best

    • Chris Kresser says

      What are you referring to? My posts are extensively referenced. At the end of any claim that requires a reference, there is a parentheses with a number inside, i.e. (2). If you click on the number, that is the reference.

      • says

        Thank you very much for this reply and all the information you are providing. Through this medium you are helping ancient ancestral truths in modern times, move from the last few decades of ridicule back to the self evident stage(Arthur Schopenhauer )
        I and many others involved in grassland livestock husbandry have known the truth that we evolved from the ‘fat of the land’ and a predator/pray to a husbandry, synergistic, symbiotic relationship with cattle. This is throughout the civilized world to the ends of the annual greening where grass and vegetation will sustain cattle because they are the most climatically adapted to survival from 15 below to 75 above Fahrenheit without artificial shelter in the natural world. It is not just their fat that keep us alive but their hides and skins that have and still do benefit.
        I have been collating the evidence against ridicule for years and I check all yours out if it is new to me and can say it is scientifically corroborated even if I do not wholly agree with the implications.
        The biggest problem is new to the industry ignorance and band wagon marketing fraud. It is buyer beware and some publications with cute pictures intensely annoy, whilst others,I laugh at the ignorance. Buyers reliance on government and other certified production schemes is fraught with danger and encourages scam artists in my opinion and comments are full of such people who have been duped. Eventually it will be realized that high select/ low choice or Canada A plus or equivalent only has sufficient fat cover and that a outcome protocol or standard denoting above a specified Omega 3 level of say 180mg/100g can only qualify as a functional food. This would need to be correlated to vitamin D levels etc denoting outdoor grazing, vegetative consumption.
        Finally to a number who have stated the omega 6:3 ratio is more important than the amount are very wrong and gives credibility to the naysayers and cheats. To those who have no concept of formulating rations and correlating ‘as fed’ to dry matter content, I would point out that H2o or water is a ratio.1 glass where a minimum of 3 are needed is not comparable.
        One suggestion Chris. Please post pics of harvestable, ‘grass fat’ young cattle of grass fattening types. This would lend greater credibility for those who know the real stuff. There is a huge difference between being led to suspect, led to believe and those who actually know and live the exprience .

  37. Lynne says

    Thanks for the excellent article Chris. You and others like you that are spreading the word of how we need to take responsibility for our own health and become knowledgable about what we put in our mouths, are the reason why I only eat humanely reared grass fed meat.
    This article is not preaching to the converted, remember there are new choir members daily that need such information and it is great to be reminded and read evidence that we are on the right path as it is not always easy.
    A note to Naz, here in the UK things aren’t as brilliant as you seem to suggest.
    The supermarkets offer no information other than on occasions labelling ‘grass fed’ but that is not necessarily the whole story – they will put grass fed even though grain finished/fattened, or re dairy fed over winter indoors on grain – some take the extra mile and feed over winter on hay but most do not.
    Just as outdoor reared pork may just be for a tiny percentage of the pigs life.
    I have also noticed labels recently on fresh meat packs in supermarkets stating ‘contains antigens’
    I ask butchers for info, most don’t have the answers. Better butchers know the farms, and I phone up the farms to answer my questions.
    Here in the UK, farmer’s markets are best as you can usually talk to the farmer re their use of antibiotics, growth hormones etc.
    I buy Water Buffalo from a local farmer, tastes just like beef only better. The farmer started to breed as much hardier so can stay outside through out the year eating grass and don’t seem to get ill, so no antibiotics etc just a turnip for a treat. That’s the info you need.

  38. Pam C says

    Thanks for pointing out the numbers, Chris, very helpful! I hadn’t noticed them yet, and I’ve been reading your site for a while now!

  39. says

    I have been eating grassfed meat for about 8ish years. I have done two of my 7 pregnancies (have 8 children, one set of twins) in my 40′s eating grassfed meat & those were my BEST pregnancies of all. I also nurse my children very long term (think years not months) & I can tell the incredible difefrence in my health since I started eating grassfed meat. I had already juiced & done green smoothies & organic produce & organic grains & supplements for years before but it was the meat that made the difference. I also am at my lowest weight ever as an adult. I am almost 46 and can run circles around 20 yr olds. I tell everyone about grassfed meat in my health coaching & am trying to make a difference in the health & lives of other people. I also feed it to me rats (we have a rattery for fancy pet rats) & they have started living longer due to getting raw grassfed meat in their diets & not forming tumors. I just started raising organic chickens & the chicks in the house brooder LOVE the raw grassfed meat every morning. I bet their eggs will taste the best!

  40. says

    Just a minor correction. In Australia our cattle is primarily pastured but still finished on grain. I have read the benefits can be lost in as little as 5 days. Here the restaurant marketers have campaigned that grain finished for X days means a premium steak so we are trying to reverse this trend to avoid going the same way as the U.S. Particularly here in Brisbane the majority of grocery store (Woolworths, Coles is grain finished and grass-fed (finished) is not advertised on packaging. Our best option is to go direct to farmers but they tend not to market themselves as much as I’d like them to. Paddocks to Plates is a farm I am willing to buy a 1/4 cow from.

  41. Thomas says

    Hi Chris,

    Another reason why you should prefer grass-fed meat is the quantity of the amino acid Tryptophane which decrease when grains-fed (surely with corn). As you know, Tryptophane depletion can create lot’s of mood-related problems so prefer source of proteins with high level of Tryptophane when possible.

  42. John says

    Hi Chris,

    I was wondering if you knew any studies about the iron content of grass fed vs. grain fed beef. I know that all meat is a good source of iron, but was wondering if grain fed would be higher, due to iron fortification of grains. I ask cause I recently had my serum ferriitn tested, and it was pretty high. I’ve had success in lowering it the past few months, but was wondering if iron fortification could be a double whammy for iron loaded individuals. You know, if the iron loaded individual consumes iron fortified grains, and also consumes grain fed beef from an animal that itself was iron loaded?

  43. says

    My wife and I recently took a tour of the local farm where we buy our beef, and got to see the herd! They have a self-sustaining 45 head herd that, depending on the weather, basically lives on its own besides being moved to different pastures. There are enough big males to ward off any coyotes, and they live just like cows are meant to: grass, open land, and a solid, genetically diverse group. It was great to get an even better picture of where our food comes from, and be able to be confident that we’re getting it from about the best source possible!

  44. says

    There is a lot of great information in your article, but I think your opening remarks downplay the inherent dangers in eating conventional beef. With the animals being raised in huge feedlots and being fed grains laden with pesticides and requiring antibiotics due to overcrowding I would say that grass fed beef is a whole lot more than a bit healthier.

    I have a friend who is a cowboy and he used to work in a feedlot. We have had some interesting conversations not the least of which is feeding the animals as cheaply as possible. A lot of them are fed soy and because of too much protein it is toxic to their livers. It is also inhumane!

  45. Chelo says

    I buy grass fed beef because of the humane treatment they receive at the farm where they spend their short lives. They don’t die in terror. However, grass fed beef can be tough, and pasture management makes a huge difference as to the texture and taste of the meat. The beef I buy now is so tender and flavorful that I had doubts that the butcher had given me the wrong beef! The farmer assured me that the steer was 100% pasture fed, but the tenderness is due to the pasture management.

  46. Mike says

    I buy the frozen bricks of grass-fed ground beef from Trader Joe’s – they’re pretty cheap. I also buy a lot of their animal products that aren’t pasteured, such as eggs, sausages, bacon and organic cream.

  47. Jeff says

    We have adopted a strictly grassfed, free-range and organic diet for the most part of about three years now. This among other dietary changes I have made has made a huge impact on our families health. I for one, was suffering from rheumatoid arthirtis that had been affecting me for over 10 years. During the past three years I have eliminated all medications and am living pain free and an active lifestyle. We purchase our grass-fed meat from local ranches who finish the cattle on beef as well.

  48. Patricia says

    We eat grass fed beef for three reasons. One is that we do not want GMO in our food supply, so we can be sure that we aren’t getting them in our beef by buying it from a local farmer/rancher that raises them. We can get a half that will last us most of the year.

    Two ~ The way the cows are raised is so much more humane than the huge commercial beef companies.

    Three ~ We want to buy local and support the people around us.

    It is a win-win situation for everyone!!!

  49. Glenn says

    There was a recently cited research paper that looked at L-Carnitine in beef and concluded that this specific amino was linked to heart disease. My concern is that this research (and it was only one article) looked at beef like it was all the same beef (CAFO or grass-fed). Can anyone comment on this research here? I am all onboard with grass-fed/pastured meats and am looking for ammunition to fight the inevitable nay-sayers.

  50. says

    Great read. I buy grass fed beef for health and performance, but more importantly (being that I majored in economics) I believe that increased demand will increase the farmers margin and influence more farmers to shift capital to grass fed resources. Over the medium term this resource shift should lead to increased supply, thereby lowering the price tag. Amazing that capitalism can foster sustainability. I’m being somewhat flippant in that I think markets make things happen through incentives and there is as of late a market for sustainability.

    PW

  51. says

    My wife and I were diagnosed with an intolerance to beef, but we’ve found (through our own expirementation) that grass fed beef does not have the same reactions in our bodies as non grass fed.

    Thanks for highlighting all these other reasons!

    • Dick Douglas says

      Note, that your “diagnosis” was incorrect. You’re not “intolerant of beef” at all, you’re intolerant of the chemicals, hormones or other crap in factory farm beef. : ) But people accept a doctor’s diagnosis, because….. he’s the doctor. You can tell yours that he was wrong, and you may do many others a favor by doing so.

  52. Bet says

    I finally convinced hubby to get grass fed beef. We had it once awhile ago, and we didn’t like it. But I’ve been having it here and there. We just had some last night and it was great. And I told him he doesn’t have to feel ‘guilty’ about eating it (he has high BP and Cholesterol). My next project is getting him off those drugs. He’s already lowered his blood sugar to normal levels, thanks to eliminating grains and sugar.

  53. Donna says

    Our cattle are grass fed 80 percent of the year and then grain fed before butchering for about 6 to 8 weeks not sure why but taste better than anything I’ve ever bought

    • says

      Donna,
      We used to do this until roughly 10 years ago because studies in UK in the 70′s indicated that meat from grass, supplemented off season when feeding conserved fodder gave the best of both worlds. A little of Barley concentrate can boost output by about 20% in daily gain and change the colour of the fat slightly so that they would grade with US corn fed. It is not cost effective to grow grain where we farm but grass is second to none except for parts of Britain and Ireland. This level of 5 lb per day in barley, tempered with water to soften and half sprout the kernel worked well but the cost of imported grain has tripled here.
      All the evidence I can find now seems to show even a little concentrate changes the fatty acid omega 3 profile and ratio to the negative in as little as five days but I suspect, depending on the amount, no more than .05% of finishing body weight for 6 to 8 weeks would only change the 6:3 ratio to still less than 2 to 1 from data on our cattle we have from 1996. This amount of grain is less than 10% of a conventional feedlot grain finishing ration.
      I actually believe that whole plant grains would give about this 05% of body weight, as they would be grazed in situ in nature, in the fall fattening period, before the seeds shell out. In other words during the traditional fall hunting period of big game plant eaters.
      Unfortunately with the price of grain imports so high and the GMO controversy, it is not cost effective to do on farm experimentation. Plus we have evidence that our current feeding protocols give a functional food with Omega 3 levels in the ground beef as good or better than Atlantic whole cod, with much higher CLA and other beneficial fat levels.

  54. says

    We are planting nut trees to use the nuts to feed beef and pork in wintertime (there will be zero corn/soy/silage, just forage, chestnuts, acorns, and honey locust pods). Any hypothesis on what this may do to nutrient content of meat? It is my understanding that this is the appropriate diet for the northern most grazers. unfortunately, we are looking at 10-15 years before we get a good nut crop (best time to plant a tree is 15 years ago? lol)

    • says

      LP Johnson,
      I have been watching cattle graze and fatten in nature for over 60yrs up to 55 degrees north, where chestnuts, hazelnuts and acorns grow naturally. I have never seen them eat nuts intentionally and would suspect they will pass right through unless green and unless they are starving for grass. They do not even browse deciduous leaves normally unless lacking something. Yes they love apples if you want your Orchard destroyed and will debark some trees if hungry enough . They will certainly eat dead fish and squid etc if they have access to salt marsh and a storm tide brings some morsels up onto the grass.
      We farm just above the 45th parallel north with cold winters and late springs. Much later than my native UK. and winters not conducive to growing the nuts you describe. Such may be OK for pigs.
      They will eat stockpiled grass and if climate dry enough get by through the winter nicely on grasses cured on the stalk.They have to be seasonally fat going into winter other wise they may not survive unless given substantial amounts of good hay etc. It takes at least an extra tonne of feed through a normal winter if they do not have some fat cover, just to get them through to spring grass.
      In other words the nuts will not grow to anywhere near the northern out wintering range of cattle.
      Hope this helps. The nuts may have a very good nutrient profile for humans and the long pig(hogs) but would need to be processed like grain for cattle to get real benefit. Horses for courses, but I do not know of any nut courses in Northern climes.
      Please see other comments above.

  55. Santiago says

    I would love to eat grass-fed beef but i do not know where to find it yet.. in my country it was implied.

  56. says

    From one Chris to another,
    As always, this is an excellent and informative post! I included this link to my followers of my bog ‘ChristianJax.ca’. I hope that this information will dispel any myths that they have hear.

    As always – good job!

    Christian

  57. says

    I remember seeing an advertisement when I was a kid, and I think it basically said something like, “Grain-fed beef. Softer. Sweeter. Better.” Or something like that.
    But even as a kid, I thought it didn’t make sense. Because weren’t cows supposed to eat grass?
    A fat cow produces fat meat. I’d definitely prefer beef from a healthy, pastured cow any day.

  58. says

    It is amazing how clear the benefits of red meat are including the additional benefits from eating grass-fed meats. Yet, we moved away from it for many years. Thank you for helping bring us around.

  59. says

    I choose grass-fed whenever I can because I know how much healthier it is for us and because I eat mostly paleo/primal so I don’t want to be consuming grains in my meat when I’m consuming them elsewhere.

    I also find grass-fed meat is browner in colour (beef, lamb etc) and not bright red, which I think means it’s more natural. And it has a sweeter taste.

    I buy local grass-fed meat and help support small-time farmers.

    Thanks for the awesome info!

  60. Mike says

    I choose to eat grass-fed meat for the nutritional benefits and ethical reasons. Also, it just makes sense. Why would one eat an animal that was raised in a warehouse. I sure wouldn’t eat a forklift or a pallet.

    I’m lucky enough to have a few good farms in my area. One offers ground grass-fed beef for $4.15/lb, compared to $4.99/lb for conventional beef at the local grocery store. This farm also offers pastured pork, poultry, eggs, and raw dairy (including milk, kefir, yogurt, cheese, butter, and heavy cream).

  61. Santiago says

    Mike, great to know that you have a local farm that offers that at affordable prices. where is that by the way, what state?… and do you know if they are interested in shipping or anything. i’m not so lucky here.

  62. says

    Your absolutely right 100% grass-fed and finished beef is the healthiest choice of meat to consume! If you are looking for organic grass finished beef Check out Jordan Rubin’s (author of The Makers Diet) new company Beyond Organic. They have Many grass finished beef products as well as raw cheese, whey, kefir and much more!! Go to trylivingorganic.com

  63. Austin Rand says

    The focus of my interest is on the relative amount of Omeg 3s and Omeg 6s in diferent types of milk, since milk and dairy produst are my main source of fats. I woul dlik to eat airy products from animals fed on grass but I have found that it is very difficult to find out from producers of organic milk, yogurt and utter if in fact their animal are grass fed. I am trying to find out also if goats are fed only with grass. I would appreciare a response from anyone who has information on these questions.

  64. Nathan Turner says

    Apologies if this has been covered in the string of comments (not had time to read through everything), but I wondered if anyone has any thoughts or experience on eating chicken or duck who is also on a gluten / dairy free diet?

    I’m just starting out on a Paleo diet and have completely quit all grains and dairy. Beef I should be able to source grass fed, but I havent a clue what else farm reared ducks or chickens would eat if it wasnt corn or grain!

    I’d be very interested if there are any people out there on grain free diets who still eat corn fed chicken or duck, do you have any side effects…..

    Cheers!

  65. says

    I purchase grass fed beef only due to medical circumstances. I had given up red meat for years and recently started purchasing it again. The difference in taste between conventionally raised and grass-fed organically raised beef is unbelievable! The grass-fed tastes more like what I’d had as a child. I cannot go back to conventionally raised meats at this point, but to be honest, if I could, I wouldn’t want to! There’s that much of a difference!

    • says

      Christa, You are not alone in your comment. I have been retailing our grass fattened beef now for ten years to many health challenged customers. Many express their experience in virtually the same words you use. In fact two fairly recent customers today did, one with an autistic child and the other alleviating arthritis pains. Such comments give great satisfaction after years of ridicule in the industry which continues in the mainstream. The truth is starting to be revisited through the work of Chris Kresser and increasing numbers. Food is medicine, is becoming Food is poison due to modern industrial methods and chemical farming. We must return to working with nature and the beneficial synergies of grassland/ruminant animal husbandry as has happened a number of times during the history of civilization. We either work holistically in nature or it will be forced upon us through disease and pestilence. I trust and hope that modern communications will lead to collective wisdom and change before it is forced upon the many by the foolishness of few in pursuit of the riches of trade.

  66. JohnD says

    There seems to be an enormous variation in %PUFAs in the study you cite (7.95% for grass fed, 9.31% for grain fed), The USDA data (approx. 3%), and this analysis (1.9% for grass fed, 3.45% for grain fed) http://www.westonaprice.org/know-your-fats/fatty-acid-analysis-of-grass-fed-and-grain-fed-beef-tallow. Your Omega 3 argument for eating Grass Fed Beef is not supported by the lower PUFAs. That is not to say that there are not other reasons to eat grass fed beef, just that Beef is not, according to the other data, a significant source of PUFAs, and thus the Ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 in beef is not so critical. Why do you accept the numbers for PUFAs in your study vs. the other data available?

    • says

      John D;Just found reference to this W A Price study in comment made on Chris Kresser’s post re why grassfed trumps grain fed beef.
      I would like to point out that the study and analysis only relates to beef fat rendered as tallow which obviously is a concentration of the saturated fats that solidify at room temperature. It is comparing parts to the whole and distorts the whole. Even in this the Omega 3 value is 4 times higher in the grass fed. The following cut & pasted from the text of the article spells this out; “Grass-fed tallow had 45 percent less total PUFA, 66 percent less omega-6 linoleic acid, and four times more omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid. The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids was over sixteen for the grain-fed tallow but only 1.4 for the grass-fed tallow. Whatever the ratios, beef tallow is not a rich source of polyunsaturated fatty acids, with only 3.45 percent in grain-fed and 1.9 percent of the total in grass-fed”. (therefore the inflammatory Omega 6 is 16 time out of balance in the grain fed and the real problem)
      We are only comparing TALLOW here and not the whole. For example Hyman and Cordain et.al. have grass fed and grain fed Omega 3′s set at an average of 61mg/g and 45mg/g respectively with wild big game, seasonally fat ruminants, elk etc at over 200mg/g.
      Many grass fat beef test in this +200 mg range in the ground beef trim with the 6;3 ratio a little over 1 to 1. Independent tests on our beef corroborate this at 217mg/g in the ground and with some cuts much higher. e.g. shank meat with the marrow bone in tests almost 900mg/g in Omega 3 and 1200mg/g of CLA. As a rule of thumb the more work the muscle cut does, the higher the Omega 3′s in balance with Omega 6′s. All in all the properly fed/finished grass fat beef tests around the world at 3 to 5 times greater value than grain fed in Omega 3′s and vitamins in the fat profile. This includes vitamins A,D,E,and K. Vitamin D is in fact packaged sunshine to see the animal through long winters and in turn very beneficial to humans.
      Properly fattened pastured beef is equal to or better than most fish, with the best cuts as good as the best cold water oily fish As always all of the facts must be considered, not just partial truths which distort the whole and lead to false conclusions.

  67. JohnD says

    I will accept your explanation that Beef Tallow measured in the W A Price data is not representative of the overall concentration of PUFAs in beef, even though the explanation is far from “obvious” to me. But you did not address the USDA data. This USDA data, http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/7418?fg=&man=&lfacet=&count=&max=25&sort=&qlookup=23568&offset=&format=Full&new=1&measureby= indicates that PUFAs are only 3.4% of total Fat. Again I ask, Why do you accept the numbers for PUFAs (7.95% and 9.31%) in your study vs. the USDA data (3.4%) for PUFAs. At a PUFA level of 3.4%, Beef is not a significant source of PUFAs. And, I never disputed the much more favorable Omega 6/Omega 3 ratio of grass fed vs. grain fed beef, I find your long lecture on that topic distracting.

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