Health Benefits of Grass Fed Beef

Health benefits of grass fed meat

Many of my recipes call for grass fed beef and not just regular beef and this is an important distinction.

Red meat consumption is often vilified, and often without cause. There is a definite difference between farm lot read meat and grass fed, pastured beef from happy cows (those come from California, you know).

Far from being the heart-disease causing food it is made out to be, grass fed beef is a source of many  nutrients and is an important part of a healthy diet.

CLA

Chris Kresser explains the benefits of Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) in grass fed beef:

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a type of PUFA that is found naturally in milk and meat products, primarily from ruminants such as cows or sheep. As I’ve explained before, CLA exhibits potent antioxidant activity, and research indicates that CLA might be protective against heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Beef is one of the best dietary sources of CLA, and grass-fed beef contains an average of 2 to 3 times more CLA than grain-fed beef. (6)This is because grain-based diets reduce the pH of the digestive system in ruminant animals, which inhibits the growth of the bacterium that produces CLA. It’s interesting to note that as a whole, Americans consume far less CLA than people from countries such as Australia, where grass-fed beef tends to be the rule rather than the exception.

This article further elaborates on the benefits, including:

  • Reduced risks of heart disease: “In animal studies, CLA has demonstrated potent anti-atherogenic effects, preventing fatty streak and plaque formation in the arteries of rodents by changing macrophage lipid metabolism.”
  • Possible reduction in certain types of cancer: “It appears to work primarily by blocking the growth and metastatic spread of tumors, controlling the cell cycle, and by reducing inflammation.”
  • Promotes weight loss: “In a few studies, dietary supplementation of CLA has been shown to increase lean body mass, reduce body fat mass, and improve overall body composition in overweight individuals.”

Healthy Fats

According to some sources, grass fed meat can have 2-4 times the Omega-3 fatty acids as grain fed beef. (source) Another study found that the increased Omega-3s in grass fed meat made a noticeable difference in the Omega-3 levels of those who had consumed the beef. (source) This study also found that the animal’s diet in the last few weeks was extremely important, and that for full benefit, beef must be grass finished as well as grass fed.

Grass fed beef also has a different saturated fat profile than conventional beef. This article explains:

While I’m not particularly concerned about saturated fat of any kind, it’s worth noting the differences in SFA composition of grain-fed vs. grass-fed meat. There are three main types of saturated fat found in red meat: stearic acid, palmitic acid, and myristic acid. (4) Grass-fed beef consistently contains a higher proportion of stearic acid, which even the mainstream scientific community acknowledges does not raise blood cholesterol levels. (5) This higher proportion of stearic acid means that grass-fed beef also contains lower proportions of palmitic and myristic acid, which are more likely to raise cholesterol.

Vitamins + Minerals

Grass fed meat contains a range of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants including:

  • Carotenoids: Ever noticed the yellowish tint in the fat from grass fed meat after it cooks? This indicated the presence of Carotenoids (precursors to Vitamin A) which are found in green grass, especially rapidly growing green grass.
  • B-Vitamins: Red meat is also a great source of B vitamins, especially vitamin B-12, which plays an important role in fertility, mental health, muscle health and heart health.
  • Vitamin D: Red meat contains high levels of an especially absorbable form of Vitamin D that appears to increase blood levels faster than synthetic Vitamin D or vitamin D in dairy.
  • Iron: Red meat is a well known source of Iron, which is especially beneficial for pregnant women or those who are anemic.

Where We Buy Beef

Whenever possible, we buy directly from a local farmer so we can verify the health of the animals and support the local economy. In many areas, it is possible to find farmers who will sell beef by 1/4 or 1/2 of the cow and this is also the most economical choice.

When these options aren’t available, we purchase from Butcher Box or US Wellness Meats since I’ve been able to verify the quality of both of these.

More reading:

Chris Kresser on Grass Fed Meats

Dave Asprey on Grain fed vs. Grass fed

Do you eat red meat? Grass fed or grain fed? Share below!

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