Grass vs. Grain Fed Beef

Lean red meat is high in protein, iron, zinc and b12 – all of which are extremely important for a healthy functioning body1. Large amounts are not recommended due to their link with colorectal cancer so be sure to stick to the guidelines on how much you should be eating2.

Protein– some of its key roles in the body1

  • Growth and maintenance – not only important for muscle growth and repair but also tissues including your skin, organs and bones.
  • Hormones– several of the hormones in your body are proteins and control the body’s processes.
  • Protection – proteins produced by the immune system deactive  foreign invaders therefore preventing disease.
  • Transport – vitamins, minerals, oxygen and fats are transported around the body by proteins.

Iron– needed to carry oxygen to the blood and muscles, making it possible for them to contract1. Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional disorder that affects adults and children. Infants, young children, teenagers, women (pregnant or menstruating) or an athlete you are at risk1.

Zinc – wound healing, sperm production, foetal growth and taste perception are some of the duties zinc have in the body1. Zinc also helps with immunity, creation and function of hormones (insulin and thyroid) and blood clotting1. As you can see this is a very important trace element!

Vitamin B12 – all the B vitamins help the body convert the food you eat into fuel, which is used for energy production3.  B12 helps keep your nerve function healthy and works closely with B9 (folate) to help the iron function properly3. Vegans and vegetarians are especially at risk of low levels as this vitamin is found in only meat and dairy products.

Grass vs. grain fed beef- which is better?


In Australia, grass-fed beef means the cows have solely grazed on grass whereas grain fed cows spend their final 70-100 days of life feeding on grain in feedlots (approximately 34% of Australian cattle are finished in feedlots)4.

Grain fed beef is said to have a better marbling, however, due to the short amount of time spent in feedlots, it seems to have little impact5.  Grass fed beef has said to have a richer flavour although the can be less tender.

Grass fed beef has a higher level of the beneficial fatty acids known as Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)5. This naturally occurring group of fatty acids (found in beef and dairy foods) have shown to decrease body fat and increase lean muscle mass5. It also has a higher content of Omega-3 fatty acids, however, these  are not high enough to labelled a good source so you are better off including salmon or walnuts into your diet to get this nutrient5.

Personally, I like that grass fed cattle have plenty of space to express their natural behaviour and you get the bonus fatty acids. It can be more expensive but because I only eat a few hundred grams per week, it’s worth it.

How much should you be having?

A maximum of 455g of lean, cooked, red meat per week is recommended2.

Next time you make spaghetti bolognese, try using the grass fed beef mince.

Works Cited

[1] E. Whitney, S. R. Rolfes, T. Crowe, D. Cameron-Smith and A. Walsh, Understanding Nutrition: Australian and New Zealand Edition, Melbourne, Victoria: Cengage Learning, 2011.

[2] National Health and Medical Research Council, “Australian Dietary Guidelines,” 2013. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 17 November 2016].

[3] M. Fenech, “Folate (vitamin B9) and vitamin B12 and their function in the maintenance of nuclear and mitochondrial genome integrity,” vol. 1, no. 733, pp. 21-33, May 2012.

[4] Meat & Livestock Australia, “What is the difference between grass-fed and grain fed meat?” [Online]. Available: [Accessed 17 November 2016].

[5] Australian Lot feeders Association, “Grass-fed versus Grain fed beef,” June 2013. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 17 November 2016].


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