Grass fed Meat vs. Grain fed Meat

Grass fed meat vs grain fed meat

Red meat has gotten an undeserved bad reputation in recent decades. Certainly, there are negative health effects from certain types of meats that are prepared certain ways, but there are healthy sources of red meat.

Source Matters

It is important to distinguish between grass fed meat that has been raised in a natural environment and meat from cows raised on feed lots where they are often fed genetically modified grain and forced to live in horrible conditions.

You’ve heard the phrase that “you are what you eat,” but it goes a step further to “you are what you eat eats.”

Just as processed and genetically modified grains aren’t good for humans, they aren’t good for cows either. When grass fed and grain fed beef are compared, there are some important nutritional differences and some substantial benefits of grass fed meat:

Saturated Fat Levels

Saturated fat’s good reputation is finally being restored as more evidence shows that it never deserved the bad reputation it got.

Red meat is a great source of saturated fat, no matter the source, but grass fed beef is higher in stearic acid which has been shown to have protective benefits and to have a positive effect on blood cholesterol levels. (source) For the record, I don’t worry about cholesterol levels (here’s why) but it’s good to see some positive press for red meat.

Stearic acid is present in many foods, but grass fed red meat and cocoa beans have the highest amounts. Steak and chocolate anyone?


Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) is a potent antioxidant and there is evidence that it has a protective effect against cancer, heart disease and other diseases. Nourished Kitchen explains:

CLA has shown promise in the treatment of various cancers. Research conducted at the University of Alberta in Canada, Dartmouth Medical Center and elsewhere   indicates that CLA shows promise in the fight against breast cancer. [1. Lipids. 2009 Mar 6.], [2. Nutr Cancer. 2009;61(1):114-22]   Further, CLA even could be valuable in the treatment of brain cancer due to its ability to prevent the development of new malignant tumors as well as inhibit the growth of existing tumors. [3. Brain Res. 2008 Jun 5;1213:35-40. Epub 2008 Feb 16.]

All beef is a good dietary source of CLA but grass fed beef can have more than twice as much CLA as grain feed beef (source).


Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and important for health. Beef isn’t a spectacular source of Omega-3s but grass fed beef can have 3-4 times the Omega-3 content that grain fed beef does (source). It seems that the animal’s diet right before slaughter has a big impact on this though, so grass fed but grain finished beef might not have the same benefits.

Fish is a much better source of Omega-3 than beef in general, but grass fed beef is still a good source. (More on Omega-3s and Omega-6s here)

Other Nutrients

Emerging evidence also shows that grass feed beef is higher in the following nutrients than grain fed beef (source:)

  • Antioxidants
  • Zinc
  • Iron
  • Glutathione
  • B-vitamins
  • carotenoids

Does It Matter?

Grass feed meat is a better source of many nutrients, but red meat in general can be a very healthy choice. All red meat is a complete source of protein and a good source vitamin B-12 and iron.

If grass fed beef is not available in your area or you can’t squeeze it in to the budget, don’t let that deter you from eating red meat in general!


A Review of the Fatty Acid Profiles in Grass fed and Grain fed Beef

Omega-3 vs Omega-6

Effects of Grass and Conventional Feeding Systems on Nutrient Composition of Beef

Do you eat grass fed meat? If so, what is your favorite recipe? Share below!

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Reader Comments

  1. My husband’s favorite meat is ground beef. Besides hamburgers on the grill, he likes me to make a straganoff-like sauce. Brown 1 lb meat, add onion soup mix (I make sure it’s GF), 1/2 cup water, simmer, then add sour cream.  Serve over rice, noodles, or toast.

  2. My favorite recipe is Saurerbraten.  It is a German pot roast.  You begin by placing a roast to brine in wine, vinegar and spices for 1-2 days. Drain, reserving the brine and pat the roast dry. Sear the meat off. Return brine to pot. Then it is slowly cooked in a dutch oven for several ours.  The sauce is thickened with Ginger snap crumbs at the end.  So yummy!

  3. I also love meatloaf, and serve it with mashed sweet potatoes and a steamed veggie. Here is one way I’ve made it to incorporate more vegetables:

    1 lb. grass-fed ground beef
    1 egg
    1-2 carrots, grated
    1/2 onion
    1/2 zucchini, chopped

    Preheat oven to 350. Mix together and place in a loaf pan. Bake for 50 minutes or until cooked through.

  4. My favorite meal these days is steak w/ turnip risotto. For the turnip risotto, grate 3-4 large turnips. Cook w/ butter and chicken stock for about 10 minutes (I also added a little Italian seasoning). Cook some thinly cut steak (used more flank) w/ salt, pepper and oil. Top the risotto w/ the steak, then sprinkle on some fresh herbs. You can add some fried onion/shallot if desired. So good! 

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  5. Also been loving espresso rubbed steak: make a rub w/ 2 tsp ancho chili powder and 2 tbsp ground espresso. Add a bit of salt and pepper, and rub all over some thin sliced steak, then cook in butter or oil. 

  6. Ribeye, NY Strip, or round steak (marinated overnight) and slow grilled to perfection
    Marinade: 1 Tbsp minced garlic, 1/8 tsp himalayan crystal salt,1/8 tsp black pepper,1/4 c sucanat    or brown sugar ( i use sucanat-same flavor),1/8 cup dark balsamic vinegar and 1 Tbsp  worchestershire sauce.Combine dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients and mix well.I pour  all the marinade over the steaks on a deep plate and and put in fridge and turn several times while marinading.When on grill I pour all the left over marinade over the steaks and cook to desired doneness.Savory Sweet Potato Fries (Wellness Mama recipe).They are so good by theirselves I wouldn’t dare put ketchup or mayo on them!!Maybe sprinkle with a little cinnamon.Gingered stir fry vegetables in wok or I use my visions glass saute pan with olive oil to coat bottom and ground ginger.Use a rather high temp and Pour frozen veggies into Wok or pan.Stir frequently for 5-7 mins until tender crisp.

    Yummy, yummy!! Enjoy!!

  7. Grain Free Stuffed Shells (Modern Alternative Mama)Ingredients:1/2 lb. grass-fed ground beef
    3 large mushrooms, sliced
    1 small onion, diced
    1/2 c. spinach, chopped
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
    1 c. mozzarella, shredded and divided
    1/2 tsp. parsley
    1/4 c. asiago cheese, shredded
    1/4 c. Romano cheese, shredded
    1 egg yolk, beaten
    4 green peppers or 8 large cabbage leaves or 12 – 14 jumbo shells
    2 c. tomato sauceDirections:Brown the beef and add the mushrooms, onion, spinach, and garlic.  Cook until done.  In a medium bowl, mix ricotta, 1/2 c. mozzarella, and parsley.  Add the meat mix.  Pour a little sauce in a baking dish.  Stuff “shells” with mixture, set on sauce.  Pour the rest of the sauce over top and add shredded cheese.This is a very cheesy dish!  Serve it with a nice salad and some rooibos tea.

  8. I am also loving finding ways to cook with zucchini–I grew up with “hamburger hotdish” using macaroni noodles but this one uses zucchini as the noodles!

  9. Chicken with Sun-dried Tomato Cream Sauce, GAPS friendlyChicken with Sun dried Tomato Cream Saucefrom Against The Grain E-book (Modern Alternative Mama)This was inspired by a boxed meal that I had once – which contained some pretty yucky ingredients. I thought, I can make this at home! Serve this with some spaghetti squash, or, if you do eat grains, some pasta. I think this would also be excellent with some mushrooms added to it!Ingredients:1 chicken breast, sliced into strips (5 – 6 oz.)2 tbsp. olive oil¼ c. diced onion2 – 3 garlic cloves, minced2 tbsp. sundried tomatoes, chopped¼ tsp. oregano½ tsp. marjoram½ tsp. basil½ c. chicken stock1 c. cream or coconut milkSalt and pepper to tasteDirections:Heat olive in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the onion, garlic, and chicken, and cook until chicken is lightly brown. Add the sundried tomatoes and spices (including a little sea salt), then the chicken stock. Cook for 5 – 10 minutes, until the chicken has absorbed the flavors and the chicken stock is reduced. Add the cream and heat through. Serve. Makes 2 – 3 servings.Serving Suggestion:Serve over spaghetti squash and finish with fresh, seasonal fruit.

  10. Italian Chicken
    3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts1 green pepper, cut into strips 1yellow pepper,cut into strips1 white or purple onion,thinly sliced lengthwise1 to 2 large tomatoes, sliced3/4 bottle italian dressing or homemadePreheat oven to 375 degrees.In a 9×13 baking dish place the chicken breasts. place pepper strips then onions and tomato slices on top of each breast.Pour dressing over  each chicken breast. Place aluminum foil over top and crimp.Bake in oven for 45 minutes covered,remove foil and bake an additional 15 minutes til tomatoes are starting to get crispy.(I try to  completely cover the chicken breast with each veggie, layering the different ones as I go) Enjoy!!

  11. Grain Free Meatloaf½ cup coconut flour
    3 eggs
    1 cup finely chopped onion
    ½ cup chopped bell pepper
    1 teaspoon salt
    ½ teaspoon black pepper
    ? teaspoon thyme
    ? teaspoon marjoram
    1 pound ground beef
    1 16-ounce  tomato sauceMethodCombine coconut flour, eggs, chopped onion, bell pepper, salt, black pepper, thyme and marjoram in a bowl. Add ground beef and 1 cup (8 ounces) of tomato sauce and mix well. Shape mixture into a loaf and place in a baking dish. Pour the remaining 1 cup of tomato sauce over the top of the loaf. Bake at (350F) for 1¼ hours. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

  12. Everyday Paleo Salisbury SteakSteaks2 pounds of ground beef1 cup spinach, finely diced1 egg1 teaspoon crushed garlic1 teaspoon sea salt1 tablespoon dried thyme½ teaspoon rubbed sage¼ teaspoon ground marjoram¼ teaspoon finely ground black pepper2 tablespoons grass fed butter, ghee, or coconut oilGravy4 tablespoons butter1 red onion thinly sliced½ red bell pepper thinly sliced2 cups sliced crimini mushrooms1 cup beef broth¼ cup coconut milkBlack pepper to tasteIn a large mixing bowl place all the ingredients for the steaks and using your hands mix well.  In a large skillet, heat the butter over medium high heat.  While the butter is melting, form the hamburger mixture into thin oval patties (makes 7-8).  Place the patties into the hot melted butter, make sure it sizzles, you want the pan to be nice and hot!  Cook for 2 minutes on each side, the meat should be nice and browned on both sides.  You’ll have to cook these in batches so add more butter or coconut oil if necessary. Once all the steaks are done, place in the oven to keep warm and now it’s time for the gravy!In the same pan that you just cooked your steaks in, melt the butter over medium heat. Saute the onions, bell pepper, and mushrooms in the butter until tender, about 7-8 minutes.  Add the beef broth and deglaze the pan (scrap all the bits off the bottom of the pan that might still be there from cooking the steaks).  Bring to a boil and add the coconut milk and pepper.  Mix well, bring back to a boil.  At this point you’ll want to turn the heat down until the gravy is just simmering.  Now you’ll want to reduce down the gravy by stirring frequently for about 10 minutes until the sauce starts to thicken.Serve the steaks with the gravy ladled over the top and garnished with diced flat leaf Italian Parsley.Serves 5We ate ours with some pressure cooked sweet potatoes.Enjoy!

  13. Stuffed Zucchini

    3-4 large zucchinis

    2 pounds ground bison or other ground meat

    1 red onion, diced

    1 eggplant, peeled and diced

    8.5 oz sun dried tomatoes packed in olive oil, finely chopped

    1 cup fresh basil, diced

    2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely diced

    4 garlic cloves, minced

    1 tablespoon dried oregano,

    A splash of balsamic vinegar

    Sea salt and black pepper to taste
    Preheat your oven to 375. Cut a thin slice of the top of the zucchinis and scoop out the inside of the squash leaving the shell.  Drizzle the insides of the squash with olive oil and bake for 20 minutes.  While the squash shells are in the oven, start browning your ground meat, when the meat is almost brown, add the onions, eggplant, and diced excess zucchini, and cook until the eggplant is soft.  Add the remaining ingredients and cook for another 5-10 minutes.  Pull the shells out of the oven and stuff them all as full as possible with the meat mixture.  Put the stuffed zucchinis back into the oven and bake for 
    another 30-40 mins.Enjoy!

    • Stuffed Zucchini is from Everyday Paleo too.

  14. Chicken and Vegetable meatballs Enjoying Everyday Life The Ingredients:
    3 zucchinis (2 made into spaghetti and 1 into the Vitamix)
    1 cup of carrots
    2 cups of cooked chicken
    1 egg
    1/4 cup Almond Flour
    1 tsp Parsley
    1 tsp Garlic Powder (I wanted to use fresh minced garlic but didn’t have any)
    salt and pepper
    tomato sauce

    The Directions:
    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

    In the Vitamix (food processor) add chopped zucchini and carrots. Mix until the vegetables are chopped fine. Add chicken, egg, and Almond Flour. Mix again until the chicken is chopped finely. Then add seasonings.

    I took out the mixture and mixed again in a bowl, making sure everything was mixed evenly.

    I took a small cookie scooper (1 TBSP) and make meatballs. I placed meatballs on a heavy greased cookie sheet. They do not expand so load up the tray!

    Bake for 20 – 25 minutes.

    Top over some zucchini noodles and mix with a little tomato sauce.


    Might I add the boys were crazy about them!!! Baby ate 4 within minutes!!! 🙂
    p.s. next time I am thinking I will bake them for 20 minutes then plop them in the tomato sauce and let simmer a bit!

  15. Hm, I thought I posted this one but don’t see it…
    Meatloaf with Veggies (I like to serve it with mashed sweet potatoes and a steamed veggie)

    1 pound ground beef

    1/2 onion, chopped

    1-2 carrots, chopped

    1/2 zucchini,



    1 egg

    Mix it all together and put it in a loaf pan. Bake at 350 for 50 minutes or until meat thermometer inserted reads 165 degrees or more.

  16. As I lay in bed last night I had 2nd thoughts about the 2 recipes I posted.  As my head is still in the “pre-grain” stage I thought my 2 were ok but then I thought that maybe that’s not quite what you were looking for.  So today I took my folder with my recipes and tossed out a whole bunch.  I will post 3 recipes that I “think” are ok for the “no grain” era I will be entering in September.

  17. Kielbasa and Kidney Beans (Ready in 30 minutes or less)

    1 pound fully cooked kielbasa or polish sausage, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
    1 small onion, chopped
    1/2 cup chopped sweet red pepper
    1/2 cup chopped green pepper
    1/4 cup packed brown sugar
    2 tbsp. steak sauce
    1 tbsp. cider vinegar
    1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
    1 can (15 oz.) white kidney or cannelini beans, rinsed and drained

    In a skillet, cook sausage for 2-3 minutes.  Stir in onions and peppers.  Cook and stir until sausage is lightly browned and vegetables are tender; drain.  Combine brown sugar, steak sauce, vinegar and worcestershire sauce; stir into skillet.  Add beans.  Cook and stir until heated through.  YIeld:  4 servings.

  18. My favorite meat recipe is Pakistani Kima.
    1 lb grnd beef, 2 tomatoes, 2 pots, 1 T curry, 1/2 T salt, 2 cups peas.  1/2 onion, 1 clove garlic.  Dash turmeric, cinnamon, pepper, ginger.  Cook beef and garlic and onion.  Add all the rest,  Cook about 25 minutes ’til done.  Yum!

  19. i like grass-fed burgers and zucchini. very simple, but hey…i’m a college student.

    work oregano, sage, onion, garlic, spices of choice through the raw ground beef with a fork.
    slice up a zucchini or two and saute in olive oil, flipping until browning and soft (it’ll take a while). add rosemary, salt, pepper, garlic (optional), some sliced onions (optional).
    while the zucchini are cooking, saute the burgers in another pan (or maybe the same one if it’s big enough — no harm done), in butter or coconut oil.

    you can change up the veggie to anything you’d like. spinach w/ olive oil and garlic is good.

    p.s. saute might not be the right word i’m looking for, as it implies something about super-high heat, but…you guys know what i mean. try not to leave the olive oil on too high of a heat for too long.

  20. mexican taco guts! (because we don’t bother with tortillas here.)

    red and green bell peppers, sliced
    onion, sliced
    chopped up tomatoes (if you don’t have salsa to add later)

    saute in coconut oil or butter. add garlic, salt, red pepper flakes, cumin, chili powder (as long as there’s nothing else in it — oftentimes they’ll sneak CORN starch in there!), a little cilantro if you like.

    in another pan (or the same), brown ground grass-fed beef in butter or coconut oil; add cumin, oregano, salt, red pepper flakes, garlic, etc…same as veggies, basically.

    annnnd mix it all up! add (natural) salsa, (real) sour cream, chopped up avocado, whatever you like. and enjoy!

  21. Cuban Pork Roast!

    4-6lb pork roast (loin works well for this, but I use whatever is cheap)
    2 tablespoons melted butter/ ghee/ coconut oil
    ground cumin
    black pepper
    garlic powder
    sea salt

    Preheat oven to450. In a small bowl combine spices with melted butter (or other fat of your choice)
    Coat the outside of the pork roast with the spice mixture. Put the roast in a roasting pan or on a baking sheet. I prefer a baking sheet for a loin, but fattier cuts of meat might overrun the sides with juices as they cook. Roast for 20 minutes at 450 and then reduce the heat to 325 and continue roasting until internal temperature reaches app. 5 degrees cooler than your desired degree of doneness. Remove from oven and let rest, covered in foil before carving. If your roast has a nice layer of fat on one side, I recommend roasting with that side up and even broiling it for the last 5 minutes or so of cooking to crisp the fat. Yum!

  22. I am arabic, so I miss alot of non-paleo friendly recipes.  But I loved finding a recipe that is paleo friendly. 

    Kofta with Tomatoes

    2 lbs of ground beef or lamb
    1 large onion, finely diced
    1/2 cup of parsley
    2 tsp of salt 
    1.5 tsp pepper
    1.5 tsp allspice
    Sprinkle cinnamon to taste

    Mix the above together.  Mold in little balls or rolls of meat.  Put in a greased baking ray.  Brush with butter and bake at 450 degrees until brown.  

    Add 1.5 cups of tomato sauce and reduce heat to 350 degrees.  Bake for 10 minutes.   You can also slice whole tomatoes and stick them on top of the meat while it’s baking.  Some other people throw potatoes on top but I have omitted them since I am paleo.  Enjoy 🙂

  23. My favorite recipe for beef is “Kokkinisto” – the Greek way of cooking any meat in a red sauce:

    Any cheap cut of beef for stewing (don’t use cubed meat – you want big pieces/steaks)
    Canned tomato sauce (1 little can for 1 lb meat, 2 cans for 2 lbs, etc)
    A few bay leaves (3 or 4, depending on how much beef)
    Peppercorns and/or lots of fresh ground pepper
    Beef or chicken bouillon, powder or cubes
    Fresh chopped parsley
    Fresh garlic, minced
    Fresh onion, finely chopped

    Put everything, meat first, into a heavy skillet (with a cover) just large enough to fit the meat into – you don’t want the pot to be too big, or you’ll get a soupy mess instead of a thick sauce.  Add  just enough water (or broth) to just barely cover the meat.  Cover with the lid, bring to a boil, and then reduce heat.  Simmer for 2 hours, until meat is falling apart.  Serve with some sort of greens, and good imported feta (if you’re still eating dairy).  My family loves this.  You can add any other herbs you think will be yummy.  I didn’t put amounts next to the ingredients, since it’s almost impossible to mess this up.  Try it with chicken or pork, too! Beef makes the thickest sauce, though.

  24. I am just going back to meat after being vegetarian. Ate my first (home raised) chicken two days ago, after 15 years! My mom always made lemon chicken that I loved as a kid, so it was a good transition.

    1 whole chicken sprinkled with oregano salt and pepper. Add potato wedges to pan. Several times during cooking, baste with lemon juice and melted butter. Bake until done. Simple and satisfying.

  25. During the summer, I like to stuff bell peppers from my garden using the grassfed beef, cooked with onion, garlic, zucchini, tomatoes, all from the garden.  I season with poultry seasoning (yes) and chili powder, then add leftover cooked rice or barley.   You could add ANYTHING you like.   Grated cheese is a good addition, or topping.   Stuff the meat/rice mix into blanched peppers and FREEZE.   I put 2 in a freezer bag and pull out next winter, for a quick meal.   I usually thaw/heat them in tomato juice with a dash of worchestershire sauce.

  26. I would like to thank you for your nicely written post, its informative and your writing style encouraged me to read it till end.

  27. I think it really DOES matter if it is grass fed or not. Growth Hormones and pesticides/antibiotics are SOOOO prevelant in commercial beef that it truely IS better to skip it than consume it, IMHO!

  28. Fortunately, we are to raise out our own beef. It pasture feeds, but my husband used to finish them on grain. He said an old farmer told him to do that to help clean out the bitter weed that the cow can sometimes consume. He also mentioned about not watering the bull because it would “spew” upon slaughter. Any thoughts or sources on these and any sources in general on the slaughter process? Any opinions on organic weed killer for the pasture?

  29. Hello I just wanted to ask your opinion on the things I was just watching on meat and milk products and see what your stand point is because ive been reading your site for years and this was brought up to my attention and it’s scary to think of the actual reality on the meats weather it be grass fed or factory farmed they inject all the beef cattle with Vitiman B 12 we do not get it naturally from any meat source because Vitiman B 12 comes from the dirt and with the way we clean and deal with the soil now a days it abolishes the Vitiman B 12 they have replace mental called nutritional yeast that you can add to food and is an easier way to get B 12 and idk. Is in vegetables as well it’s the safer way to go Dried beans and dark green leafy vegetables are especially good sources of iron, even better on a per calorie basis than meat. Iron absorption is increased markedly by eating foods containing vitamin C along with foods containing iron. Vegans do not have a higher incidence of iron deficiency than do meat eatersFor example, you would have to eat more than 1700 calories of sirloin steak to get the same amount of iron as found in 100 calories of spinach. It boggles the mind really the more research I do the more understanding I get but I was wanting to ask you as you because you seem to do the same thing I do and make sure you keep your family healthy as I have 3 kids and do the same and anything that could potentially harm them more then do them good I’m on it ok so now ive gotten off the path a bit but the movies I was telling you about are called forks over knives and cowspiracy also earthlings oh and vegacuated as well and she I was done watching that I went of to watch fat sick and nearly dead they are very very very eye opening it’s crazy the world we live in and the lies they tell to make money for the FDA drugging the world starts with the food we all eat and the food we eat is our worlds demise it’s such a sad state we call can’t open our eyes and see a things better like love to be able to hear from you and thank you for all the years of helping all the people including myself all around you I would like to help you back.

    Thank you again
    Happy healthy lives to all