Grass-finished beef is one of the most nutrient-dense proteins you can buy. It has an extensive micronutrient profile and contains a good amount of brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids.
Still, some skeptics argue that there isn’t a difference between grass-finished and conventional beef.
Below, you’ll learn the difference between grass-finished and grain-finished beef along with six unique health benefits of grass-finished beef.
What’s the Difference Between Grass-Finished and Grain-Finished Beef?
Cattle are meant to graze on grass, preferably within open pastures. As the demand for meat has grown over the past century, farmers started feeding their herds grain-based products during the last several weeks before coming to market – primarily to increase marbling as the demand has grown for more and more tender, marbled products. The difference between grass-finished and grain-finished beef pertains to their diet: in one, the animals are fed grass and hay throughout their lives, in the other, they’re supplemented for 6 weeks – 3 months before going to market with a grain mixture.
Things to Know: The Difference Between Grass-Fed and Grass-Finished
Almost any beef product could be labeled grass-fed. Most cattle raised by responsible farms graze in open pastures throughout the warmer months. However, it’s pretty difficult to allow animals to roam freely in the winter, when snow covers the ground.
If you are looking for beef that comes from a cow raised entirely on grass, look for the “grass-finished” label. These animals graze on grass in the summer and alfalfa (hay) in the winter.
Is Grass-Fed Beef Also Organic?
Short answer: No.
Organic and grass-fed (or grass-finished) are two completely different things. “Organic” is a CFIA-regulated term. Farmers need to complete a certification process, which can take up to three years, to use the organic label.
Health Benefits of Grass-finished beef
#1: Grass-Finished Beef Has Fewer Calories
“If you eat a typical amount of beef per year, which per adult may be about 67 pounds, switching to grass-finished beef can save you up to16,642 calories a year,” based on a study completed in the US.
Beef from grass-finished cattle is lower in total fat content because their diet is more natural with no added fats. The amount of calories you can save is staggering.
#2: Grass-Finished Beef Helps Support Healthy Blood Sugar Levels
Beef from grass-finished cows contains a certain beneficial fatty acid called CLA (conjugated linoleic acid). CLA can help prevent several diseases and conditions like obesity and diabetes. A recent randomized, double-blinded study conducted in the US concluded that 37% of the people who were given CLA demonstrated better insulin sensitivity over those who weren’t given CLA. Insulin sensitivity helps promote healthy blood sugar levels.
#3: Grass-Finished Beef Contains Electrolytes
One common issue with people who experiment with diet is low electrolytes – this can cause flu like symptoms. This can occur when electrolytes aren’t replenished once they’re flushed out. The three main electrolytes are sodium, potassium, and magnesium.
Fortunately, grass-finished meat has ample amounts of all three essential electrolytes. One grass-fed strip steak contains 732 milligrams of potassium, 49 milligrams of magnesium, and 118 milligrams of sodium.
#4: Grass-Finished Beef Can Help Fight Cancer
Grass-finished beef contains roughly twice the amount of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) compared to beef from grain-finished cows. Most naturally occurring nutrients containing anticarcinogenic properties are derived from plant foods, but CLA is unique because it’s one of the only anticancer nutrients derived from meat.
CLA is considered to be one of the strongest nutrients which can defend against cancer. A study conducted on women who were given high amounts of CLA-rich foods had roughly a 60% lower risk in breast cancer over those who had little to no amounts of CLA in their diet.
#5: Grass-Finished Beef Contains More Healthy Fats
Grass-finished beef provides up to six times more omega–3 fatty acids than grain-fed beef. Grain-finished beef, on the other hand, contains higher levels of omega–6 fatty acids, which are already eaten in surplus in most standard diets.
Here are some of the benefits from increased omega–3 consumption:
- Alleviates Rheumatoid arthritis: Omega–3s are highly effective in decreasing all markers of inflammation.
- Helps with depression: Researchers have seen an increase in mental well-being by supplementing with omega–3 fatty acids.
- Helps you focus: Recent studies conducted show omega–3s to be a promising alternative to alleviate attention deficit disorders (ADHD) over stimulant medications.
#6: Eating Grass-Finished Beef Can Decrease Your Risk of Heart Disease
Clinical evidence concludes a decreased risk of heart disease with an increased consumption of CLA, a nutrient abundant in grass-fed beef. Grass-fed beef can help improve your heart health by:
- Antioxidants such as vitamin E
- High amounts of omega–3 fatty acids
- Less unhealthy fats
- Lower amounts of bad cholesterol (known as LDL cholesterol) a marker of cardiovascular disease
Bonus Tip - How to Cook Grass-Finished Beef
Grass-fed products cook faster than grain-fed products. To prevent burning your cut of meat, follow these cooking suggestions:
- Grass-finished beef cooks approximately 30% faster than grain-finished cuts, so use a meat thermometer to prevent overcooking.
- Always use tongs over a fork when tossing the beef over.
- Make sure to preheat the grill, pan, or oven before cooking.
- Don’t use a microwave to thaw out grass-finished beef. Thaw it in the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Because grass-finished beef is lower in fat, be sure to coat it with avocado oil or olive oil to make sure it doesn’t dry out.