Day 35–Grain Fed or Grass Fed–Is There a Difference?

Is there a difference between grain-fed and grass-fed beef or is it just marketing?

Our family is not a statistically representative sample by any means, but in our 5 weeks of eating locally produced, grass-fed, grass finished beef and pasture-raised pork, we can say that yes, there is a definite and pronounced improvement in taste with the pasture-raised animals. So, is it just a taste issue? I recently read a wonderful article “Grass Fed vs. Feedlot Beef: Is There a Difference?” by Gail Nickel-Kailing in Good Food World (www.goodfoodworld.com) and she graciously gave me permission to share some of it with you. For the entire article, go to http://www.goodfoodworld.com/2012/01/grass-fed-vs-feedlot-beef-whats-the-difference/. Here are some interesting points:

Studies have shown that an animal’s diet can have an impact on the nutritional content of the meat on the consumer’s table. Grass-fed meat has been shown to contain less fat, more beneficial fatty acids, and more vitamins and to be a good source of a variety of nutrients. According to a study published in the Journal of Animal Science in 2009, eating grass-fed beef provides many benefits to consumers(3):

  1. Lower in total fat
  2. Higher in beta-carotene
  3. Higher in vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)
  4. Higher in the B-vitamins thiamin and riboflavin
  5. Higher in the minerals calcium, magnesium, and potassium
  6. Higher in total omega-3s
  7. A healthier ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids (1.65 vs 4.84)
  8. Higher in CLA (cis-9 trans-11), a potential cancer fighter
  9. Higher in vaccenic acid (which can be transformed into CLA)
  10. Lower in the saturated fats linked with heart disease
Lower Fat – Meat from grass-fed cattle is much lower in fat, and therefore lower in calories. A 6-ounce steak from a grass-finished animal has almost 100 fewer calories than the same sized-piece from a grain-fed animal. If, like the average American, you eat about 67 pounds of beef a year, switch to grass-fed beef and you’ll save nearly 18,000 calories a year.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Omega-3 fatty acids are fats that are essential to human health. Sixty percent of the fatty acids in grass is omega-3, which is formed in the chloroplasts of green leaves. Grass-fed cattle can contain as much as two-to-four times more omega-3 fatty acids than grain-fed animals.

At the same time, a high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids has been linked with an increased risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, allergies, depression, obesity, and autoimmune disorders. A ratio of four to one or lower is considered ideal, Grain-fed beef has a much higher ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids than wild game or grass-fed beef. In grass-fed beef the ratio is approximately 2 to 1, while the ratio in grain-fed beef is more than 14 to 1.

More Vitamins – In humans vitamin E is linked with la lower risk of heart disease and cancer. Meat from grass-fed cattle is higher in vitamin E.; as much as four times higher in vitamin E than meat from feedlot cattle.(4)

Rich source of CLA – Meat from grass-fed animals is the richest known source of “conjugated linoleic acid” or CLA. Grass-fed cattle have been found to produce 2 to 5 times more CLA than cattle fed high grain feedlot diets. In laboratory animals, a  diet containing even a small amount of CLA greatly reduced cancerous growths.

The full article provides citations for her information and those are pretty interesting as well. The article and our own preference for the taste of pasture-raised beef and pork reinforce to us that we would rather eat a smaller portion of meat in our diet and have that meat be of higher quality that fill up on higher fat, cheaply produced meat. Whatever you decide for your family, it is interesting to note that even what animals eat influences how they affect our own bodies!

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1 Comment

  1. Thanks for this 🙂 Occasionally I’ll see a restaurant advertising their beef as grain fed…but I’m not sure why! Apparently some grain fed beef is more tender and fatty, but that doesn’t particularly appeal (not that I have anything against fat per se).

    Reply

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