Grass-fed vs. Regular meat

(Geoffrey) #61

All of the beef in my freezer is grass fed till the day they’re slaughtered. I know this because either me or someone in my family raised it. To be honest, when it comes down to flavor between grain and grass finished, I really can’t tell the difference. Maybe my palate isn’t as refined as some.
As far as nutrition, I can see where grass could be healthier due to hormones and toxins in grain but unless one is very sensitive to those things on such a micro cellular level, I don’t see any difference. As long as there’s no sugar in it I’m good.

Now let me educate y’all, on raising cattle, for those not in this lifestyle.
The average rancher lets his or hers cattle graze on whatever is available. It may be grass, weeds, cactus or tree leaves. It all depends on where they are raised. You’d be surprised how many are not raised on lush green pastures.
On the ranches where grass is scarce, west Texas for example, the cattle are supplemented with what we call cake.
Cake contains
Crude Protein, min %|12.0|
|Crude Fat, min %|2.5|
|Crude Fiber, max %|12.0|
|Calcium (Ca), min %|2.1|
|Calcium (Ca), max %|2.6|
|Phosphorus §, min %|0.7|
|Salt (NaCl), min %|1.3|
|Salt (NaCl), max %|1.8|
|Vitamin A, min|20,000 IU/lb.|
|Vitamin D, min|2,000 IU/lb.|
high protein content includes soybean meal, cottonseed meal, and sunflower meal.
Those who don’t get cake will receive some form of grain supplement occasionally. This is year round, not just when they’re finished. Very few cattle, in my experience, are 100% grass fed in cattle raised commercially.
The only ones that may be able to claim 100% grass fed would be the regenerative farmers and the small personal farmers like me.
People say that one of the reasons they don’t want grain finished beef is because of the chemicals and toxins in the grain. Well guess what, anyone cultivating pastures for grazing or raising hay for winter feed use chemical fertilizers and chemical weed killers on that grass. Regenerative farmers excluded. Do those chemicals get into the meat? I don’t know my but it would stand to reason that if there is something in the grain that would affect it then the same should be said for the grass.
Antibiotics and other various drugs are going to be in nearly all cattle. You can not raise cattle without worming them and giving them shots of some kind (antibiotics, vaccines) to keep them healthy, especially when they are younger.
Now I would assume that regenerative farms and maybe some organic farms may have some natural or holistic alternatives to using chemicals and medicines for this but I guarantee that no commercial rancher is going to do that. It’s too costly, too difficult and too unreliable for large herds.
Even my own cattle and sheep get wormed, vaccinated and antibiotics when they get sick and my grasses and hay have been fertilized and had weed killer put on it.
In the good years when we can graze our livestock we have more control over what they eat but in the bad years, like we’ve been having lately, we have to purchase our hay and we have no control over how that grass was grown.
For what they cost to raise and their value at market one can’t afford to lose just one head so that you can eat cleaner. Sorry, it just isn’t going to happen.
So unless you raise your own, you really don’t know for sure what your getting.
Just eat the meat and be happy.

(KM) #62

Personally that all sounds ok to me, even though I’m in the “grass fed” camp. What I’m really objecting to is feedlot beef. Since, as you say, there’s no way to know how the animal I’m eating was treated, my hope is that “grass fed” at least eliminates the possibility of a CAFO raised animal.

(Peter - Don't Fear the Fat ) #63

Strange Title … I thought Grass fed IS regular meat and anything else is irregular!

(Bob M) #64

For a ruminant, this shouldn’t be too bad. The bacteria in the rumen will convert the PUFA to saturated fat. Not as much as true grass fed, but close.

It’s chicken and pigs where this would be a problem.

In CT where I live, I can buy meat from pure grass-fed cattle. It’s expensive though. But the farmer (a family) is able to pay the bills and have a good life this way.

(Geoffrey) #65

So, is that not still a grain that so many seem concerned about? If they can process those grains and seeds then I would assume they could handle all of them.

(Bob M) #66

The idea is that meat from ruminants is relatively the same, even if fed corn (the typical “horror” meal). But chickens and pork pass the polyunsaturated fat from corn into their fat. This is true for at least fatty acids.

There are still some differences:

But the differences aren’t huge.

And once you get into this area, you get statements like this: “While the overall concentration of total SFAs is not different between feeding regimens, grass-finished beef tends toward a higher proportion of cholesterol neutral stearic FA (C18:0), and less cholesterol-elevating SFAs such as myristic (C14:0) and palmitic (C16:0) FAs.” I can tell you that I ate a TON of cacao butter, which is high in palmitic acid, and my LDL went down, not up. Of course, nothing in real food has only one type of fatty acid, so statements like these are somewhat ridiculous anyway.

There are also differences in other items, but it’s often hard to tell how much this matters. For instance, there is a better O3/O6 ratio for grass fed, but eating fish (or nuts) blows that away. I always thought this was an interesting post:

Here’s the difference in O3 and O6 between grass fed and grain fed beef:


But here’s the same thing if you eat walnuts:


We get excited about small differences between O3 and O6 for grass fed/grain fed beef, but eating a few handfuls of walnuts completely obliterates that. Similarly, eating fish does the same (in a better way).

(Geoffrey) #67

Well that’s a bummer.

(Bacon is a many-splendoured thing) #68

Really? Assumptions are not data; they are hypotheses. Hypotheses cannot be considered at all true until verified by experiment.

(Geoffrey) #69

I get that and maybe that was a poor choice of words, I guess more just an expression and not meant to be the least scientific…I’m not smart enough to be scientific, lol.
So I guess what I was asking was if the cattle can get certain grains and seeds and process them with no ill effects passed on to us then would that not be true of the other grains and seeds?

(Bacon is a many-splendoured thing) #70

Again, we don’t know. I don’t believe anyone has studied it.

(Geoffrey) #71

And that’s fine. I was just asking because of Bob’s statement


There are three main types of fat depots in beef cattle carcases; these include subcutaneous fat, for example rib and rump fat, intra-muscular fat (marbling) and inter-muscular fat which is positioned between muscles.

Subcutaneous fat is sometimes referred to as “waste” fat and intramuscular fat as “taste” fat. Producers are challenged with having adequate fat to allow animals to function normally and meet market specifications (e.g. minimum P8 of 6mm) whilst minimising waste fat.

At both the farm level and industry level excessive fat is undesirable. It is associated with an inefficient use of energy and costs processors in trimming.

High energy supplements post weaning

A recent Beef CRC project led by Dr Paul Greenwood, Principal Research Scientist at NSW Primary Industries, sought to determine if it was possible to increase marbling through the strategic use of high energy supplements immediately post-weaning.

The project also investigated MSA marbling score differences between steers bred from sires that were either high or low for genetic propensity to marble.

In total, there were 168 steers involved in the project. They were weaned at an average of six months. From weaning until 12 months old, half of the steers were fed pasture whilst the rest of the steers received pasture in conjunction with a high energy pellet supplement.

During the nutritional period, the pasture available to the cattle was managed so that cattle growth rates were the same for both nutrition treatments. Steers were then backgrounded until feedlot entry at 18 months of age where they were then either short or long feedlot fed for 100 and 250 days, respectively.

The use of a high energy supplement during the immediate post-weaning period did not enhance marbling in either the genetically high or low marbling steers.

Longer time in the feedlot (100 days vs. 250 days) was associated with increased marbling for all groups.

Here is my thinking. Time in a feedlot finishing for 2 to 6 months is the time when the steers are fed an unhealthy grains-based diet that makes them insulin resistant. Feedlot means more fat. I think in most places that is a corn-based diet, but could also include soy, or whatever local crops are harvested by farmers. But grains, as a food production animal feed, are the most energy concentrated and economical to ship.

That feedlot feeding overwhelms the normal steer digestion. Forcing the beast into insulin resistance and laying down of fat in the body. The producers are hoping for intramuscular fat for better economic returns. But interestingly, that force feeding seems to result in a greater concentration of saturated fats in feedlot beef, rather than the possibly expected higher inflammatory polyunsaturated fats from what the beef is being fed. (I found this surprising).

Beef from grass-fed contains lesser total fat than that from grain-fed in all breeds of cattle. Reduced total fat content also influences the fatty acid composition of beef. A 100 g beef meat from grass-fed cattle contained 2,773 mg less total saturated fatty acids (SFA) than that from the same amount of grain-fed. Grass-fed also showed a more favorable * SFA lipid profile containing less cholesterol-raising fatty acids (C12:0 to C16:0) but contained a lesser amount of cholesterol-lowering C18:0 than grain-fed beef. In terms of essential fatty acids, grass-fed beef showed greater levels of trans-vaccenic acid and long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA; EPA, DPA, DHA) than grain-fed beef. Grass-fed beef also contains an increased level of total n-3 PUFA which reduced the n-6 to n-3 ratio thus can offer more health benefits than grain-fed.

*‘more favorable’ is the standard advice to avoid saturated fat. So in this forum it would mean that the higher saturated fat (unfavorable in the mainstream) is found in feedlot beef.

(Geoffrey) #73

That was an interesting study but if I was asked my best guess before reading it I would have guessed correctly as to the results. Having been in the cattle business for awhile, we’ve known what it takes to fatten up cattle for the greatest profit.
Until I started down this carnivorous journey I hadn’t realized how much the food industry treats us like cattle fattening us up.

Ah, now that is an interesting idea of what happens.
I totally agree that grass fed and finished is the best food and that feeding cattle grains is not healthy for them or us. Maybe I misunderstood Bob when he was talking as though feeding cattle certain grains was not a bad thing.

Anyways, the whole point of my original comment on all of this is the majority of your “grass fed / finished” cattle are not near as pure as you’d like to believe. They are mostly if not all supplemented with something. Grains, pesticides, vaccines, wormers, even in winter the farmers plant winter wheat and oats for them to graze.
Bottom line, eat what you want to eat as long as it doesn’t affect you.

(Bob M) #74

I’m not sure the concept of “insulin resistance” applies to cows. We’d need somebody like Peter Ballerstedt to step in.

Assuming cows gain more intramuscular fat due to being fed corn (which really isn’t much actual “corn” as we think of it, supposedly, it’s more corn plant), I don’t know what causes that.

My understanding has been, based on Peter Ballerstedt and others, that meat from ruminants is not that much different whether 100% grass fed or “corn” finished. Can you find differences? Yes. How important are those differences? I have no idea, but probably not much.

For instance, Peter B says that the O3/O6 ratio is better in grass-fed versus corn-finished. But this is easily blown away by eating fish. It’s like the vitamin K2 in natto (a fermented soybean product) versus cheese: 1 ounce of natto has the same K2 as in 3/4 pound of cheese. Are there differences in the K2 in cheese, yes, a lot. But why not just eat some natto and be done with it? Similarly, certain fish (salmon, sardines) has waaaaaaaaaaay more O3 than any beef. (And as pointed out by Dr. Eades, nuts have waaaaaaay more O6 than beef. So, if you buy grass fed beef to get a better O3/O6 ratio, then toss back some nuts, you’re completely obliterating one reason to buy grass fed beef.)

On the other hand, I saw someone on Twitter who got a great O3/O6 ratio, eating no fish, and eating ONLY grass fed meats.

But for my money, for the cost, I’d rather buy better chickens and better pork then better beef, because the benefit there is so much more than for beef. And then realize that eating nuts that often will ruin any O3/O6 ratio.

As for CLA and the like, these I can’t comment on. I assume higher CLA is better, but I have no idea by how much.

(KM) #75

Slight aside, I’m always amazed that an entire industry knows perfectly well the way to make animals fatter is to feed them grains, whole or otherwise, but when it comes to humans, at least according to all our dietary health and beauty panels, the opposite is true, and whole grains are the way to Hollywood perfect bodies. Who knew. :roll_eyes:


To be fair, cows are grazing animals and humans are omnivores, it may mean something. But of course, any animal including humans can get fat easier on denser food. Amounts matter. And as we know, many other things but so many humans eat grains and don’t get fat… Obviously grain doesn’t magically make humans fat. It can help a lot in many cases, I don’t know how many, the obese people don’t just eat grains with protein and some fat, after all… They eat plenty of bad stuff and probably not all because of the grains. They may help with that though, I experienced that. My food desires are wildly different on carbs.


Does Lidl sell real butcher shop style meat over there? In the US they only sell individual packed shrink wrapped steaks that don’t look bad, but they look… budget-y. Never tried one though. Always scared of meat from Lidl and Aldi’s. Something about discount supermarkets and meat, scares me. May have to try it anyways now though lol.

(Doug) #78

Yeah, same here. In theory, if the meat is good and is sealed in, then no problem, but I guess one has to get used to it. I did try some little beef filets from Aldi, and they were darn good.


Same here in Hungary. Their price surely don’t seem budget-y, no way I would buy one.
I buy deer on sale for a quarter price instead :wink:

I do eat pork from LIDL, they have the fattiest green ham. Tastes good. Surely not as good as farm meat but that not only takes more effort, time and money, it’s very limited too. My body is happy if I eat carnivore, even with the cheapest meats I am willing to eat. Lucky. I am only choosy about my eggs.

(KM) #80

I usually get my grass fed ribeye from Aldi. Not extraordinary, but fine, and I guess in line with the slightly “better” price - currently $12.49 per lb.