Grass-fed vs. grain-fed
These days it seems like everyone has an opinion on the taste and nutritional content of their food. I’m not here to tell you what the best diet is for everyone or even the best diet for your blood or brain type. Yes, people do eat for their brain type. Beef has been a major component of diets and a major source of protein for humans. So I’ll assume you’re here to learn more about the beef you’re eating. Because we are a 100% grass-fed beef farm I’m obligated to explain the differences of grass- vs. grain-fed as we see it. It should come to no surprise we favor 100% grass-fed and finished beef.
When calves are first born almost all are allowed to roam free and to eat grasses. After about 7-9 months most move to feedlots. Large feedlots are referred to as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). There, the cows live in confined, small stalls, and are provided only what they need to survive. Cows are rapidly fattened by feeding grain-based feeds. Usually made of corn or soybean base, and supplemented with small amounts of dried grass. This process usually only lasts a few months before the cows go to a slaughterhouse.
It’s a common misconception that cows eat 100% corn. This isn’t true. Feed and grains tend to range from 0% to 50% corn. Too much corn can potentially make the cows very sick. This is because they don’t have the stomach to digest corn as they have evolved to digest grass. Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan is a great read if you want to learn more. Omnivore’s Dilemma
Of course, nothing is ever simple. The differences between feed practices are complex and vary by region and farmer. Not all grass-fed cows are pasture-raised or even allowed to be outdoors. In the US, "grass-fed" means that cows eat mostly grass. Yet, the grass-fed beef you see in stores might be grain-fed at the end of its life, before slaughter to fatten.
Beef in general comes with almost everything you need to survive! It contains tons of vitamin B3, B6, zinc, selenium, bioavailable B12, D3, K2, and iron. Additionally, it contains high-quality protein, creatine, and carnosine. While grain-fed beef contains all the same nutrients. Grass-fed beef contains much higher levels of vitamin A & E. 2The antioxidant content is also higher. 3
What cows eat can change the taste, flavor, and nutrient composition of its beef. This is evident when it comes to the fatty acid composition of grass-fed vs. grain-fed beef. 1
Grass-fed beef generally has is leaner meat. Containing less total fat than grain-fed beef. Gram for gram, grass-fed beef contains fewer calories than grain-fed beef. 4. Though both grass-fed and grain-fed contain Monounsaturated fat (MUSFs), healthy fats. They’re known to reduce the risk of heart disease and decrease inflammation. Monounsaturated fats are found in olive oil and avocados. 5
Conjugated linoleum acid (CLA)
CLA is a fatty acid found in meat and dairy. It’s believed to reduce heart disease, cancer risks, and provide weight loss benefits. 6, 7
Omega-3s & Omega-6 fats
Grain-fed and grass-fed contain very similar quantities of Omega-6. Grass-fed can contain up to five times a much Omega-3. 8 In short, fat composition in grass-fed and grain-fed beef can have significant differences
There are many other factors as well that can affect the fat composition of meat. Some of those differences come from the cow’s breed, age, and meat cut.
I can go on and on about why I prefer grass-fed beef. I believe that it’s better for the environment and your health. But at the end of the day, the choice is up to you. Not everyone agrees that grass-fed tastes better or is worth the money—and let’s be honest those are big factors. So my advice is to try as much as you can and decide for yourself.
Thanks so much for reading! Feel free to reach out with questions, or if looking to buy from Sugar Creek Farms.