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Why Grass-Fed Is Best – Part II


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red meat impact on environment; red meat environment
How does red meat affect the environment? istock.com/ZaharovEvgeniy

Make sure to check out part I of “Why grass-fed is best” for the environmental and ethical benefits of pasture-raised animal products.

In part I we reviewed the environmental and ethical benefits of pasture-raised animal products, along with some general information about why they are more nutritious. In this article, we’ll look more specifically at exactly why grass-fed animal products are superior to commercially-raised alternatives.


  • Meat from grass-fed animals has two to four times more omega-3 fatty acids than meat from grain- fed animals.
  • When chickens are housed indoors and deprived of greens, their meat and eggs also become artificially low in omega-3s.
  • Eggs from pastured hens can contain as much as 19 times more omega-3s than eggs from factory hens.
  • When ruminants are raised on fresh pasture alone, their products contain from three to five times more CLA than products from animals fed conventional diets. CLA is a fatty acid that has recently been studied as a potent cancer fighter.
  • The meat from the pastured cattle is four times higher in vitamin E than the meat from the feedlot cattle and, interestingly, almost twice as high as the meat from the feedlot cattle given vitamin E supplements.


  • Unfortunately, 85 to 95 percent of the cows in the United States are now being raised in confinement, not on pasture. The only grass they eat comes in the form of hay, and the ground that they stand on is a blend of dirt and manure.
  • Milk from a pastured cow can have five times as much CLA as a grainfed animal.
  • Milk from pastured cows also contains an ideal ratio of essential fatty acids or EFAs. Studies suggest that if your diet contains roughly equal amounts of these two fats, you will have a lower risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disorders, allergies, obesity, diabetes, dementia, and various other mental disorders.
  • When a cow is raised on pasture , her milk has an ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. Replace two-thirds of the pasture with a grain-based diet and the milk will have more than five times the amount of omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3s, a ratio that has been linked with an increased risk of a wide variety of conditions, including obesity, diabetes, depression, and cancer.
  • Grassfed milk is higher in beta-carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin E. This vitamin bonus comes, in part, from the fact that fresh pasture has more of these nutrients than grain or hay. These extra helpings of vitamins are then transferred to the cow’s milk.

Free-Range (Pastured) Eggs

When compared to commercially raised, supermarket eggs, free-range eggs have:

  • 2/3 more vitamin A
  • 7 times more beta carotene
  • Up to 19 times more omega-3 fatty acids
  • Significantly more folic acid and vitamin B12

Raw Dairy ProductsAnother Step Up

The information above should convince you that grass-fed dairy products are superior in every way to dairy products that come from grain-fed cows. Another important distinction to be made is the difference between raw and pasteurized dairy products.

I will be covering this in further detail in a future article, but in short raw dairy products have several significant advantages over pasteurized alternatives:

  • Raw milk is an outstanding source of nutrients including beneficial bacteria such as lactobacillus acidolphilus, vitamins and enzymes, as well as the finest source of calcium available.
  • Pasteurizing milk destroys enzymes, diminishes vitamin, denatures fragile milk proteins, destroys vitamin B12, and vitamin B6, kills beneficial bacteria and promotes pathogens.
  • Raw milk is not associated with any the problems of pasteurized milk, and even people who have been allergic to pasteurized milk for many years can typically tolerate and even thrive on raw milk.

Contrary to popular belief, raw milk is safe to consume. There has never been a pathogen found in the milk of the two largest raw dairy producers in California, Organic Pastures and Claravale. In fact, the USDA has been unable to even find pathogens in the soil at Organic Pastures – which is highly unusual. This is due to the much more stringent standards for sanitation that raw dairies must comply with in order to be licensed to sell their products.

Again, I will cover this in more detail in a future article. Stay tuned!

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Join the conversation

  1. I have a lot of pregnant women asking me about the benefits of pastured animals. This is a phenomenal explanation, clear and accessible. Thanks Chris!

  2. Hey Chris, I realize this is an old post, but I thought it the appropriate subject to add my comment/question to. What are your thoughts on silage? We get our beef from my in-laws cattle farm and their cows are mostly pastured and also fed some silage. My husband argues that this is not “grain-fed” because it is the entire corn plant and it has gone through a fermentation process, which makes it easier to break down for the cow, pre-digestion. My concern is with the omega-6 issue and if this is still considered grain-finished? I want to get the highest quality meat with the best fatty acid profile because I am feeding this to my children and want to keep their diet as pristine as I can, while I still have control over what they are eating.
    Thank you!!

  3. Thanks for the summary of health benefits. Most people aren’t aware of the decreased nutrition of supermarket foods and we need to keep tooting on this horn until everyone gets it.

  4. I have been wanting to buy raw milk, but it is illegal here in AZ to sell it, how stupid is that? I can carry a concealed weapon, I can buy prescriptions that could do great harm, I can go to war, I can pay-off banks and car companies, but I can’t buy something I feel would be beneficial for me. What is a cowshare, is that how I could get milk and grass-fed meat? Any ideas would be greatly appreciated. (p.s.) I live in an aprt. so growing my own healthy food is out of the question, esp. since I already tried a mini garden and the fierce west-facing sun baked everything to a crisp. Thanks again.

  5. I cared not so much about food before (I was a student and not employed well enough to make monthly payment to cowshares, for example), but things are changing. I now happily devour any information about the “food industrial complex” and its natural alternatives, because I’m in a position to do something about it. This site is so well organized and clear. Great source. Thanks!