Nutritional Differences of Grass-fed Beef and Conventional Beef

Check out this photo that was snapped with a side-by-side view of ground meat. One is store-bought, conventionally grown beef and the other is from a grass-fed farm purchased beef share. Which is which? What other observations can you make just by sight? Which one would you rather eat?

Without even getting into the economics, environmental aspects and politics of grass-fed beef vs. conventional grain-fed beef, or mentioning the living conditions and what they actually do eat, let us strictly talk nutrition.

Probably one of the most important differences is the ratio between Omega-3 and Omega-6 in each type of meat. These two fats are important to keep in balance in our bodies. Both grain-fed and grass-fed beef have about an equal amount of Omega-6, but with a lack of greenery in the diet conventionally grown meat has next to no Omega-3s, while grass-fed beef has sometimes four times the amount of Omega-3s in conventional beef. If you cannot afford to purchase grass-fed beef, it’s a good idea to supplement your diet with extra fatty types of fish or fish oils to keep proportions in your body in balance.

Studies have also shown that grass-fed meat is 3 to 5 times higher in CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) than grain-fed meat. CLA is thought to be one of the most important cancer defenses and is known as the “good” naturally occurring trans fat.

Besides these two above grass-fed beef is higher in B vitamins, vitamin K, and Vitamin E and trace minerals like selenium, magnesium, and calcium. This vitamin and mineral boost is attributed to the variety of wild forage, grasses and shrubs that a pastured cow munches on, which are grown in good soils that have been organically and sustainably fertilized, resulting in an optimal nutritional profile. We are only really scratching the surface of the health benefits of grass-fed beef here, not to mention the taste difference.

Availability of Grass-fed Beef

It seems easier to acquire conventional grain-fed beef. Simply get in your car and drive to the nearest market. It won’t hurt your wallet too much at an average cost of $3 per pound either. Grass-fed beef is easier to come by than you might realize and, if you’re smart about it, you won’t have to pay upwards of $10 a pound either.

  • Search for a local farmer’s market, CSA, or buying club nearby that offers grass-fed beef. If you contact the farm directly, you can sometimes work out a discount by purchasing in bulk. It may require a bit of research on your part, but a good detective often finds a fantastic source that is within their budget.
  • Wait for grass-fed beef to go on sale at your local markets and stock up! This may seem the most convenient, but you will end up paying more than the other options.
  • Search for and buy direct from a local farm. To save even more, get several friends together and split a whole beef share. This option will save you the most money. Again, there is a research aspect to it and it may require more effort and organization, but it is, in my opinion, the most affordable option for acquiring grass-fed beef.
  • Purchase from a reputable online family farm vendor and have your meat delivered directly to your doorstep. You can’t get more convenient than that! This option offers both convenience and cost effectiveness for the prudent and busy consumer. For the most savings, wait for a sale and purchase in bulk.

In reality, research goes a long way and there are always affordable options. There was a family that thought they would never be able to afford grass-fed beef for everyday consumption, but were looking around for an option to purchase at least some pastured meat. During their research, they found a farmer who would deliver meat locally and would end up costing around $4 per pound for a half beef share. Needless to say, they were surprised to be able to find such a deal. Now all of the beef they consume is grass-fed.

If large shares are not an option to save money, purchasing cheaper cuts of meat such as bones, organ meats, osso bucco, short ribs, ground and shanks will provide your family with all the benefits of pastured meat at a fraction of the price. These cuts make wonderful enzyme rich broths, soups, sauces and other inexpensive meals that will nourish.

It is understandable that many feel as though grass-fed meat is out of their reach and so opt to consume conventional meat. Grass-fed beef raised by farmers who are good stewards of the animals and the land they are raised on is the best option on several levels. Next, grain-fed or mixed fed meat raised by farmers with sustainable and humane practices would be next. After that, store-bought, conventionally raised beef. Bottom line is to purchase the best quality meat you can afford.

What are your experiences with grass-fed beef vs. grain-fed beef?

Photo Credit: arsel

Comments and Reviews

  • loves2spin says:
    Just this last weekend I found a reliable and economical source for grass-fed beef. I cooked up a pound of the ground beef and it was amazing! It actually smelled nice while I was cooking it. That is NOT the case with meat I can buy at the grocery store. I am so grateful to have found this local farmer. Reply
  • Pam says:
    So which is the grass fed? I'm pretty sure I already know but I'd like some validation! ;) Reply
  • Kim Calder says:
    I work for HR Cooperative Grass Fed Beef and I can say that grassfed beef tastes waaaaaay better! If you are in the Malibu/ Santa Barbara / SLO area, you should check out our website or facebook page! We have a beef club as well as sell through local businesses! Reply
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