Grain-fed vs. Grass-fed: Which is better?

A question we get asked almost every day is: should we get Grass-fed or Grain-fed?

First, let's explain these terms...

Did you know that 99% of all cattle except from Japan are fed grass first? All cattle are fed on grass, and then depending on the producer they might be fed grain for a number of days.

GRASS-FED beef and lamb are from livestock that has only been fed grass.

GRAIN-FED beef is from cattle that were fed grass first, and then grain. This beef is also called Grain-finished.

Therefore Grain-fed beef was also grass-fed! The question one should ask their butcher if they are looking for fully grass-fed beef, is if it was also grass-finished.

Japanese Wagyu Ribeye

What did I mean by "except from Japan"?

In Japan, believe it or not, they feed all their cattle only with grain. This is why the marbling on Japanese Wagyu is the highest in the world with 15 marbling grades!

What is grass-fed meat like?

Since cattle which was fed grass all their lives are free to roam on pastures, there is no way to know for sure how marbled it will be (marbling is the fat distribution within muscles). Depending on genetics grass-fed beef can be marbled but it is not usually the case.

Things to look for in grass-fed beef:

  • The fat should be yellowish-orange due to the beta-carotene in grass
  • The lean part of your meat should be a dark red.

What is grain-fed meat like?

Good grain-fed meat will have very white fat and cherry red meat. The more the number of days being fed grain, the higher the marbling score and price.

How do I know if meat is grain-fed?

Ask your butcher. Angus and Wagyu breeds are usually grain-finished as they are known for marbling nicely.

Which is more expensive and why?

Grain-fed beef is more expensive because grain is more expensive and the standardized administering of feed to cattle takes special attention and resources. Wagyu beef which is the most expensive meat in the world commercially produced in Australia takes 300-400 days of grain-finishing to achieve its ideal marbling score.

And the million-dollar question... which is better?

Health-wise, a  2014 study done in Texas found that there is no scientific evidence to support the claim that ground beef from grass-fed cattle is a healthier alternative to ground beef from grain-fed cattle. According to the study, grass-fed is indeed higher in omega-3 fatty acids but also high in transfats. Grain-fed is higher in oleic acid which can lower cholesterol levels, and contains lower levels of transfats.

Taste-wise, many customers will choose grain-fed due to the flavor only made possible by good marbling in beef.

The answer is... steak is personal, so choose what your heart tells you! Science says that either is beneficial for a healthy diet in moderate portions.


Thanks for reading and have a great week ahead!

Meaty regards,

The La Carne Team

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