The Difference Between GrassFed and GrainFed Beef


GrassFed vs GrainFed Beef

There are people who like their beef without question and the idea of giving up meat and going full out on a plant based or vegan diet will never cross their minds no matter how popular it becomes. Then there are more people nowadays that pose the question, is this grass-fed beef or grain-fed beef I’m eating? What does this question mean exactly and how much does it really matter to our health? Does what a cow eats and how they live really make a difference to us and our well being overall?

If you’re a meat lover be sure not to miss the succulent recipe for braised short ribs below!

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I grew up being taught that all things work best in moderation. So don’t be surprised if you find me drooling over a juicy wagyu burger, carne asada tacos, pulled pork sandwich with jicama slaw, or lingering over an alfalfa sprout, balsamic glazed beet burger depending on my mood, company or situation. Frankly, I just love a good lean bison cheddar burger. They’re too die for!

Grass-Fed Cow Diet

A cow’s adult diet is actually grass before they switch to concentrated feed like corn and corn byproducts, soy, soy hulls, spent distiller’s grain and other cereals.

Grass-fed cows specifically eat graminoids, which are actually hundreds of different kinds of sedges that are found in grasslands and wild marshes, rushes and true grasses like cereals, lawn grass, bamboo, grassland grass and the like.

Aside from the graminoids, cows also eat shrubs, clovers, random leaves and other edible plants.

braised short ribs
Braised Short Ribs – See Recipe Below


Although both grass fed cows and grain fed cows start on milk and grass, genuine bred grass fed cows live their entire lives on the grasslands.

The grain fed cows on the other hand are transferred to feedlots, a place where cows’ weights are boosted as high as 1200 pounds and their intramuscular depositions are increased.

Where beef is mass produced, as in the US, cattle is usually grain-fed.

Feedlots, also called CAFOs or concentrated animal feeding operations, are usually grim places where these overweight cattle live. Not so mindful of their ways of living, cattle are placed in confined spaces in feedlots to optimize weight and lessen the overhead, which one cannot do in a natural habitat.

highlander cow
Highlander cow

The cows are rapidly fattened up with grain based feeds made from soy or corn and sometimes supplemented with dried grass.

To maximize growth, the cows are also given growth hormones and bovine antibiotics.

The cows live in the feedlots for a few months before heading to the slaughterhouse.

Difference in Beef Fat Composition

Ultimately, grass fed beef has lesser monounsaturated fat than grain-fed beef. Conversely, the net result of a high grain diet in a grain fed beef is fattier meat.

paleo sun basket

Grass fed beef is leaner and have less calories. One can easily lose five pounds by switching to grass fed beef even if one’s activity levels and diet will not change.

Grass fed beef also has up to 5x the amount of omega-3 and in fact has the ideal ratio of omega-3 to omega-6.

Omega 3 is ideal for the prevention of cancer, depression, obesity, diabetes, arthritis, allergies and dementia.

Most heart attacks or strokes among women are related to low omega 3 diets.

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Interestingly enough, Omega 3 notably originates from green plants so one gets the benefits of Omega 3 from grass fed beef.

Grass fed beef also has three times more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) than grain fed beef.

It is the group of polyunsaturated fatty acids found in beef, lamb and dairy products that are known to reduce heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and body fat.

Grass Fed Beef is More Nutritious

Grass bred beef has more Vitamin A than grain fed beef. Vitamin A comes from Carotenes that produce the orange and yellow colors in fruits and vegetables.

wagyu beef

They turn into Vitamin A inside the body. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, which contributes to good eyesight, bone growth, reproduction, cell differentiation and cell division.

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It maintains the health of the skin by shielding it against bacterial and viral infections.

It also regulates the immune system supporting the white blood’s production and function.

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Finally, grass bred beef has more Vitamin E which is also a fat-soluble vitamin that contain antioxidants which protects cells from free radicals.

Free radicals damage the body’s metabolism and helps develop cancer, and cardiovascular diseases.


Braised Short Ribs Recipe Instructions


  • 2 oz. shiitake mushrooms
  • 1/3 cup boiling water
  • 1 orange, juiced
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 and ½ lb. short ribs
  • Sea Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 3-inch fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1 cup vegetable stock + 2 more if needed
  • 1/4 hot red chilli pepper, seeded, sliced in fine rounds
  • Green onions, sliced thinly for garnish



  1. Place the shiitake in a bowl, pour the hot water on top, add orange juice, star anise and set aside to hydrate.
  2. Season the meat with salt and pepper.
  3. Using a Dutch oven, brown the meat, working in batches if necessary, about 3-5 minutes each side. When all the meat is browned, remove from the pot.
  4. Add garlic and ginger to the pot and cook 1 minutes on medium heat. Add in the soy sauce, balsamic, honey and stock. Bring to a simmer, stirring to deglaze the pan, then add the meat back in.
  5. Cover, turn heat to low and cook over 2 hours, turning the meat every 20 minutes, adding stock as needed – it’s very important that there is always about 2 inches of liquid on the bottom of the pot.
  6. About 1.5 hours into cooking, add in the hot pepper and shiitake mushrooms, drained. Cook for another 30 minutes, or until the meat pulls apart.

Is Grass-Fed Beef Worth the Extra Cost?

All in all beef regardless where it consumed it’s feed from is loaded with B12, B3 and B6 vitamins. It’s rich iron, selenium, and zinc, creatine and carnosine which are very important for your muscles and brain.

Grain-Fed beef is still very healthy. As long as you don’t overcook it which can lead to the formation of unhealthy compounds. Its a nutritious food that can be part of a healthy diet.

But even though the difference isn’t huge, grass-fed beef is still higher in certain nutrients and perhaps as well in other antioxidants.

  • resource national institute of health

In the US grass-fed beef is more expensive and may not be worth the extra cost. Depending on where you live it may also be inconvenient unless you can shop online for it.

There are subtle differences in taste as well. Grass-Fed beef is often leaner and may have a different texture.

In the end it all comes down to a matter of personal preferences and ideals.

I think I’ll go make a beef taco now!

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grassfed beef vs grainfed beef