Grass Fed or Grain Fed Meat

Ruminants are animals that eat grass and other plants. Cows, sheep, deer, buffalo and similar animals are ruminants. They’re not meant to eat grains. When a ruminant eats grass, the pH of the stomach is ideal. When a ruminant eats grains, such as corn fed beef, the pH of the stomach is abnormal and leads to acidosis in the system of the cow. This leads to a weakened immune system which is one of the reasons grain fed cattle are given antibiotics to keep them alive in spite of their unhealthy state. I Personally would rather eat a healthy animal fed its natural diet than eat an unhealthy animal that is propped up with antibiotics, hormones and other veterinary drugs.

When you buy meat or a meat product, do you stop to wonder what nutritional value it contains? Probably not! And most people don’t, because it has never occurred to them that not all meats are equal. Note that we are not talking about beef vs mutton or poultry. We are looking at meat produced from grass fed animals vs. meat produced from grain fed animals.

The difference in nutrient content between grass-fed and grain fed meat

Using your bare eyes, it is impossible to determine whether there are nutritional differences between grass fed meat and grain fed meat. But studies carried out by various organizations in different times and places, have shown that grass fed meat is superior to grain fed meat.

What Makes Grass Fed Meat Different From Grain Fed Meat?

While the basic composition of both grass fed and grain fed meats is similar, there are differences when the nutritional compositions are analyzed. We have all heard the saying that you are what you eat. Well, the same is true for animals raised for meat, not to mention other products such as milk, butter, cheese, etc. There are real differences that arise from the food the animals eat most of their lives.


Grass fed animals get most of their nutrition from grass while grain fed raised animals get most of their nutrition from grain, factory waste, and dried feeds such as hay. These two classes of feed do not contain the same kind of nutrients. This must be the cause of the difference in nutritional composition of the two types of meat. There is no doubt that meat is very nutritious. However, many studies have come to the conclusion that grass fed meat is even better.

And while it is outside the scope of this discussion to analyze grass and grain feeds, it is reasonable to conclude that animals’ bodies pack on meat that is richer in the nutrients and derivatives of the nutrients they eat.

Benefits of Grass Fed Meat vs. the Effects of Grain Fed Meat

Grass Fed or Grain Fed MeatMany studies have been carried out on the differences in nutritional content between grass fed meat and grain fed meat. Following are some of the findings of most of those studies:

More Conjugated Linoleic Acid

Grass fed meat contains more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a polyunsaturated fatty acid that we must get from the food we eat. Studies at California State University have shown that CLA helps build muscles, protects our bodies from cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and excess weight gain. Some studies indicate that grass fed meat may contain twice as much CLA as grain fed meat.

More Vitamins A and E

Grass fed meat contains more precursors for vitamins A and E, from which the relevant vitamins are synthesized. Vitamins A and E are powerful antioxidants that support the body’s immunity and disease fighting ability.

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More Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Grass fed meat contains higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Some studies indicate that grass fed beef can have up to 5 times more omega-3 than grain fed meat. A 2010 study published in the Nutrition Journal, even suggested that grass fed beef can be substituted for skinless chicken or fish to supply omega-3 fatty acids and lower cholesterol levels. By having higher omega-3 fatty acids, grass fed meat helps to provide healthier ratios of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids.

More Micronutrients

Grass Fed or Grain Fed MeatGrass fed beef contains more micronutrients like zinc, calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus. These minerals support many functions in the body including healing, building strong bones and maintaining stable electrolyte levels.

More B-Vitamins

Grass-fed meat contains more of the B vitamins riboflavin and thiamin.  Importance of B Vitamins in Your Diet

Less Saturated Fats

Grass fed beef contains less saturated fat. Saturated fats contribute to inflammation and excess weight. Additionally, grass-fed meat contains less overall fat than grain fed meat. Therefore, by eating grass fed meat, you gain fewer carbohydrates.

Grain Fed Meat May Contain Antibiotics, Hormones and Steroids

In contrast, grass-fed meat contains lower levels or no antibiotics or hormones. Because grass fed animals are raised in open grounds, they are less likely to get ill and the owners are not in a hurry to fatten them. This is different for grain fed animals which are raised in constrained spaces such that diseases can spread easily and hence need antibiotics.

Grass Fed or Grain Fed MeatBesides, grain fed animals need to mature faster for the owners to maximize on profit. For this reason, grain fed animals may be given hormones and anabolic steroids to hasten maturity. It is worth noting that traces of the hormones and steroids end up in the grain fed meat which can affect you. Studies associate such traces of hormones and steroids to hormonal disruption and premature sexual development in children.

This brief look at the major nutritional content differences between grass fed meat and grain fed meat clearly indicate the need to choose raised the way nature intended. It is, therefore, more beneficial to choose grass fed over grain fed meat whenever possible.

Nutritional Analysis of Grass Fed Meat vs. Grain Fed Meat

As previously mentioned, various studies have been conducted on differences in nutritional content between grass fed meat and grain fed meat. To better understand these differences, consider the following:

Three studies carried out in 2002, 2005, and 2007, showed the following amounts of beta-carotene in grass fed vs. grain fed crossbred steers:

Year                         Grass fed                 Grain fed

2002                         0.16                          0.01

2005                         0.45                          0.06

2007                         0.74                          0.17

This is indicative of the other meat ingredients. Here now is a breakdown of the nutritional constituents of a lean grass fed strip of steak of about 214 grams contains about:

  • Calories: 250
  • Protein: 49.4 g
  • Fat: 5.8 g
  • Niacin: 14.3 mg (72% daily value[DV] )
  • Vitamin B6: 1.4 mg (70% DV)
  • Selenium: 45.1 mcg (64% DV)
  • Zinc: 7.7 mg (52% DV)
  • Phosphorus: 454 mg (45% DV)
  • Vitamin B 12: 2.7 mcg (45% DV)
  • Iron: 4 mg (22% DV)
  • Potassium: 732 mg (21% DV)
  • Pantothenic acid: 1.5 mg (15% DV)
  • Magnesium: 49.2 mg (12% DV)
  • Thiamin: 0.1 mg (7% DV)
  • Folate: 27.8 mcg (7% DV)
  • Copper: 0.1 mg (7% DV)

Verdict: What Are the Differences in Nutritional Content between Grass Fed Meat and Grain Fed Meat?

Grass Fed or Grain Fed MeatEvery pointer shows that grass fed meat is superior to grain fed meat. And the reason is simple. When animals feed on grass, they feed on the food that nature meant for them. It follows that grain fed meat production where grain is substituted for grass, affects the nutritional content of meat. It therefore makes sense to choose grass fed meat over grain fed produced meat.

Dr. Patrick Quillin

Dr. Patrick Quillin, PhD,RD,CNS is an internationally recognized expert in the area of nutrition and health. He has 30 years experience as a clinical nutritionist, of which 10 years were spent as the Vice President for a leading cancer hospital system where he worked with thousands of cancer patients in a hospital setting. He is a Best Selling Author with 18 books which have sold over 2,000,000 copies and also a Keynote Speaker.