Grass-fed beef usually contains less total fat than grain-fed beef, which means that gram for gram; grass-fed beef contains fewer calories. Grass fed beef continues to eat grass until they are processed. Other possible benefits:

  • Omega-3s (the good fat): This is where grass-fed really makes a major difference, containing up to 5 times as much Omega-3.
  • Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA): Grass-fed beef contains about twice as much CLA as grain-fed beef. This fatty acid is associated with reduced body fat and thought to reduce heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and a number of immune disorders.
  • Vitamin A: Grass-fed beef contains carotenoid precursors to Vitamin A, such as beta-carotene.
  • Vitamin E: This is an antioxidant that sits in your cell membranes and protects them from oxidation. Grass-fed beef contains more.
  • Micronutrients: Grass-fed beef also contains more Potassium, Iron, Zinc, Phosphorus and Sodium.(1)

Grass-fed animal products have a bonus supply of vitamin E

The chart shows the relative amounts of vitamin E in corn and grass. As you can see, when animals are raised on fresh pasture, they get considerably more of this important vitamin. When consumers choose grass-fed products, they, too get an extra helping of this immune-boosting, age-defying antioxidant. To learn more, read "Vitamin E Requirements for Protection of Dairy Cows Against Infections at Parturition."

Grass-fed Beef Clearly Superior, Says New German and Canadian study:

Yet another study shows that grass-fed meat is nutritionally superior to feedlot meat. This newest study examined the differences in fat content between four breeds of cattle that were either 1) raised on pasture or 2) given grain and other feedstuff in a feedlot. As in previous research, the results showed that meat from cattle raised on pasture had much healthier fats. The researchers concluded that grass-fed meat is “clearly superior” and “remarkably beneficial.” They stated that grass-fed meat “should be promoted as an important part of a healthy balanced diet.” (Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, June 2008, 56:4775-4782.)

The deadliest form of E. coli is more common than originally thought. Fortunately, grass-fed animals are much less likely to transmit the disease.

A study in the March 28th, 2000 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports that as many as one out of every three cattle may play host to the deadliest strain of E. coli bacteria ( 0157:H) This is ten times higher than earlier estimates. (Diez-Gonzalez, F., et al. (1998). "Grain-feeding and the dissemination of acid-resistant Escherichia coli from Cattle." Science 281, 1666-8.)

As explained in more detail in Why Grass-fed Is Best! Feeding cattle their natural diet of grass instead of grain greatly reduces the risk of disease transmission. Why? First, it keeps the overall bacteria count low. Second, it prevents the bacteria from becoming acid resistant. Acid-resistant bacteria are far more likely to survive the acidity of our normal digestive juices and cause disease. The first graph below illustrates the absolute numbers of E. coli bacteria found in grass-fed versus grain fed animals. The second graph shows how many of the bacteria are likely to withstand our gastric juices. (Note: Grass-fed animals have so few acid-resistant bacteria that the number fails to register on the scale of the graph.) (Diez-Gonzalez, F., et al. (1998). "Grain-feeding and the dissemination of acid-resistant Escherichia coli from Cattle." Science 281, 1666-8.)

One of the lead researchers on the project, USDA microbiologist James Russell, told a reporter for Science Magazine, "We were absolutely shocked by the difference. WE never found an animal that didn't agree with the trend." (Diez-Gonzalez, F., et al. (1998).

"Grain-feeding and the dissemination of acid-resistant Escherichia coli from Cattle." Science 281, 1666-8.)

You should still take the normal precautions when handling and cooking grass-fed meat, however. As few as ten E. coli bacteria can cause disease in people with weakened immune systems. (Diez-Gonzalez, F., et al. (1998). "Grain-feeding and the dissemination of acid-resistant Escherichia coli from Cattle." Science 281, 1666-8.)

New term you need to know: “by-product feedstuffs”

Fresh pasture and dried grasses are the natural diet of all ruminant animals. In factory farms, animals are switched to an unnatural diet based on corn and soy. But corn and soy are not the only ingredients in their “balanced rations.” Many large-scale dairy farmers and feedlot operators save money by feeding the cows “by-product feedstuffs” as well. In general, this means waste products from the manufacture of human food. In particular, it can mean sterilized city garbage, candy, bubble gum, floor sweepings from plants that manufacture animal food, bakery, potato wastes or a scientific blend of pasta and candy.

Here is some of the “by-product feedstuffs commonly used in dairy cattle diets in the Upper Midwest.”*

  • Candy. Candy products are available through a number of distributors and sometimes directly from smaller plants… They are sometimes fed in their wrappers…. Candies, such as cull gummy bears, lemon drops or gum drops are high in sugar content.
  • Bakery Wastes. Stale bread and other pastry products from stores or bakeries can be fed to dairy cattle in limited amounts. These products are sometimes fed as received without drying or even removal of the wrappers.
  • Potato Waste is available in potato processing areas, and includes cull potatoes, French fries and potato chips. Cull fresh potatoes that are not frozen, rotten, or sprouted can be fed to cows either whole or chopped. Potato waste straight from a processing plant may contain varying amounts of inedible or rotten potatoes. French fries and chips contain fats or oils from frying operations.
  • Starch. Unheated starch is available from some candy manufacturers and sometimes may contain pieces of candy.
  • Pasta is available from pasta plants and some ingredient distributors as straight pasta or in blends with other ingredients, such as candy.

*This list is excerpted from “By-Product Feedstuffs in Dairy Cattle Diets in the Upper Midwest,” published in 2008 by the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.