Myth: Grass-Fed Beef Is More Nutritious Than Beef From Cattle Finished On Corn And Grains

Fact:

Grass-fed beef has slightly lower levels of saturated fat than corn fed beef. While grass-fed beef does have slightly higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids than cattle finished on corn and grain, neither type of beef is a rich source of omega-3s compared to fish. Salmon, for example, contains 35 times more omega-3s than beef. Whether these differences translate to a truly meaningful health benefit in the context of a varied diet has not been established.

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Interestingly, new research from Texas A&M University 1 found that men who consumed corn-fed beef improved their cholesterol levels while men who consumed grass-fed beef experienced no change.

"There really were no negative effects of feeding ground beef from the pasture-fed cattle," said the study’s director Dr. Stephen Smith. "We did see many positive effects in men that consumed ground beef from corn-fed cattle. The ground beef from the USDA Prime cattle increased HDL cholesterol and LDL particle diameter. Both effects are protective against cardiovascular disease. The Prime ground beef also decreased insulin, so it may have some protective effect against type II diabetes."

Both grass-fed and corn-finished beef are among the most nutrient-dense foods available and both are good choices. Consumers should choose the one that they prefer. “And if you are looking for omega-3s, you need to go to the fish products,” says Benjy Mikel, Ph.D., professor of animal science at Mississippi State University.

  1. Study shows ground beef from grain-fed cattle healthier than grass-fed, 2010 (accessed July 20, 2010).