The more we discover about ecology, biology, and nutrition, the more it becomes clear that respecting the complex natural processes that govern nature yields the best results. Whenever we let nature be, or at least do our best to mimic those processes, we are rewarded with more nutritious food, happier animals, and a healthier planet.
Grass-fed beef is a prime example of that. When you put 100% grass-fed beef in the ring against grain-fed, concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) cattle, the advantages are clear.
Grass-fed tastes better, is more nutritious, has fewer calories, and brings a slew of other supplementary benefits alongside it.
To help you get a better idea of the benefits that choosing grass-fed beef offers, we’ve collected a list of researched-backed benefits.
1. Grass-fed beef has fewer calories per pound.
Because 100% grass-fed cattle aren’t stuffed full of soy, corn, antibiotics, and animal byproducts day after day and get more room to roam around, the fat content (and therefore calories) in grass-fed beef is lower.
Grass-fed beef saves you around 200 calories per pound due to its leaner marbling ratio[*], and if you consistently eat meat at your home, this can really add up.
2. Grass-fed beef has more healthy fats.
Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory and help our blood flow easier, whereas Omega-6 fatty acids are inflammatory.
Science shows that optimal health is based on a healthy ratio between these two fatty acids — in other words, an ideal diet has as close to a 1 to 1 ratio as possible. Here’s the thing: Grain-fed beef has a 20 to 1 ratio of Omega-6 fatty acids whereas grass 100% grass-fed beef is closer to a 3:1 ratio or lower[*]. That’s a huge difference!
Apart from that, the higher levels of Omega-3 fatty acids found in grass-fed beef offer a fantastic buffet of benefits to your body. Their anti-inflammatory properties can help relieve Rheumatoid arthritis, reduce depression, and increase focus to alleviate ADHD[*].
3. Grass-fed beef has a lot of antioxidants.
Research spanning three decades suggests that grass-based diets can significantly improve the antioxidant content of beef, and several studies suggest that grass-based diets elevate precursors for Vitamin A and E when compared to grain-fed contemporaries[*].
Why does that matter? Because antioxidants help fight back against the oxidation of your cells and reduce cell damage by free radicals, Vitamin A is important for normal vision, the immune system, and reproduction[*], and Vitamin E helps prevent inflammation and reduce the risk of heart disease[*].
4. Grass-fed beef contains three essential electrolytes.
Electrolytes are essential minerals our body needs to regulate muscle contractions and keep us hydrated. It’s why sports drinks never fail to mention that they exist in their drinks, and grass-fed beef has a healthy dose of three primary electrolytes: sodium, magnesium, and potassium[*].
This is also important for anyone trying the keto diet since cutting out carbs makes it harder to get all of the electrolytes you need[*].
5. Grass-fed beef fights back against cancer with CLAs.
Grass-fed beef has been shown to have more than 2-3 times the amount of CLAs than normal beef. CLAs, or Conjugated Linoleic Acids, are an omega-6 essential fatty acid that has anti-carcinogenic effects. For example, a study of women who ate foods high in CLAs showed a 60% reduction in the risk of breast cancer[*].
CLAs have also been linked to preventing obesity, diabetes, improving strength, improving digestion, building bones, and other positive properties[*].
6. Grass-fed beef is a nutritional powerhouse.
Apart from the specific nutrients covered above, grass-fed beef is highly nutritious. Check out how much you get from a single grass-fed steak[*].
(% based on daily recommended value)
- 49.4g protein
- 0g Carbs
- 5.8g Fat
- 44.9mg of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- 171mg Omega-6 fatty acids
- 22% of your Iron
- 12% of your Magnesium
- 45% of your Phosphorus
- 21% of your Potassium
- 5% of your Sodium
- 52% of your Zinc
- 7% of your Copper
- 1% of your Manganese
- 64% of your Selenium
Not too shabby for a single steak!
7. Grass-fed beef is better for animals and probably the planet.
There’s no doubt — animals are happier when they are allowed to behave like themselves. Stuffing hundreds in a lot side by side, eating food they aren’t naturally used to, and pumping them full of antibiotics to keep them alive isn’t any way to live, and industrial feedlot vets openly admit that most of their cows are sick all of the time[*].
100% grass-fed beef aims for the opposite. By raising cattle in open environments, they are allowed to participate in a more natural lifecycle. They are healthier, happier, and tastier as a result.
While the scientific jury is still out on the carbon footprint of feedlots vs. grass-fed beef, there have been a multitude of studies showing the carbon-trapping benefits of a healthy, grass-fed-based ecosystem[*], and many studies discussing the greenhouse emissions of feedlots, as researcher Paige Stanley points out, fail to take into account the soil, carbon, landscape, and dietary costs that come with grain-fed beef[*].
8. Grass-fed beef lets you support sustainable farmers.
Farmers are the backbone of America, and by supporting 100% grass-fed beef you are more likely to be supporting small businesses and operations. Industrial slaughterhouses are antithetical to sustainable enterprises because their goal is efficiency and profits at all costs over what’s healthier, tastier, and better for the environment.
Plus, it is much more difficult to scale 100% grass-fed enterprises, making them less enticing to big money. You still need to research who your supplier is sourcing their meat from, but the chances are much higher that you’ll be supporting someone who is passionate about beef instead of someone who is simply chasing the money.
9. Grass-fed beef has less antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
The cocktail fed to CAFO cattle is disturbing: industrial cattle are fed a mix of corn feed, animal by-products (including tallow, which in effect makes cows cannibalize themselves), soy, and protein supplements. The goal of industrial feed is to fatten the cows up as quickly as possible without killing them at the same time.
Because these conditions and feed are so bad for the cow’s health, CAFOs are forced to pump their cows full of antibiotics — otherwise, the conditions would cause bacteria and disease to spread like wildfire.
Two things happen because of this. One, bacteria in the cow are more likely to become resistant to the antibiotics and have a higher chance of making us sick, and two, that resistance can pass onto you — making you more resistant to antibiotics when you need them[*].
10. Grass-fed beef is good for building muscle.
Having enough testosterone and building muscle are directly linked, and making sure your body is getting what it needs to produce testosterone is critical for healthy muscle growth. Grass-fed beef is full of those helpful nutrients including zinc, iron, and creatine — all of which help your body create testosterone and help you build strength.
11. Grass-fed beef just tastes better.
The expression, “you are what you eat”, is not exclusive to humans — far from it. When cattle are grass-fed instead of fed on corn and chemicals, you get to experience the rich, grassy, and natural flavor that nature intended. This makes the meat leaner, taste meatier, and changes the texture.
Believe us, once you try grass-fed beef you won’t go back!
Where to Buy Grass-Fed Beef
There are many places to buy 100% grass-fed beef, but before shopping for grass-fed beef, there are a couple of things you need to be aware of:
1. Organic does not equal grass-fed.
According to the USDA:
“For organic meat, regulations require that animals are raised in living conditions accommodating their natural behaviors (like the ability to graze on pasture), fed 100% organic feed and forage, and not administered antibiotics or hormones.”
In other words, organic feed does not guarantee grass, so it’s possible that the organic meat you’re buying is still grain-fed, which is an unnatural process.
2. Grass-fed does not equal grass-finished.
A farm can claim that their cattle are grass-fed even if only a small portion of their lives were fed with grass. They could start the cows on grass and then switch to grain to “finish them”. This defeats the purpose of grass-fed and hamstrings all of the benefits we spoke about above.
That’s why it’s important to look for the 100% grass-fed label and/or keep an eye out for the American Grassfed Association stamp (the AGA).
With that in mind, you can buy 100% grass-fed beef directly from suppliers you trust, at supermarkets that prioritize sustainability, or from your local butcher.
U.S. Wellness Meats offers sustainably raised food options and specializes in nutrient-rich, 100% grass-fed and finished beef. We are dedicated to sustainable farming methods that make a healthier planet and happier stomach, and we mean what we say.
The Bottom Line
While grass-fed beef is more expensive than grain-fed beef, the low cost doesn’t tell the whole story.
The health risks and nutritional profile of grain-fed beef add hidden burdens to our society and bodies, and grass-fed beef is the best alternative, both environmentally and nutritionally — grass-fed beef contains high amounts of beta-carotene, vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and B vitamins including thiamine and riboflavin.
The contents of these nutrients in grass-fed beef are significantly higher than those found in cows fed a conventional diet of grain, and they offer a wide variety of health benefits from anti-cancer antioxidants, reduction in heart disease, and others.
Plus, it just tastes better!
Take the leap into grass-fed beef and don’t look back — we promise you won’t regret it.
Nathan Phelps is a writer, ethical foodie, and outdoors-aficionado hailing from Nashville, TN. He splits his time between helping sustainable businesses find new customers and managing his ever-increasing list of hobbies, which include playing guitar, baking bread, and creating board games.