Pasture-raised vs. grass-fed: Differences and the Latter’s Advantages

by | Jun 11, 2021 | Mikes Farm

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When we think of the cow, two features typically come to mind: pasture-raised and grass-fed. 

These are statements people love to hear in animal agriculture, especially those chasing a healthy lifestyle. With more and more people criticizing the meat industry’s unsustainable practices, including the intensive chemical feeds and drugs used, companies are now turning to green practices. Thus, pasture-raised and grass-fed became widespread buzzwords.  

With these phrases, people could imagine pictures of lambs bounding across hillsides, pigs let loose in the woods, and cows cavorting through vast grasslands. However, it’s not so blissful when you are in the supermarket on a hectic Wednesday evening. You notice both grass-fed and pasture-raised meat for sale, and you recognize that these two choices are a significant boost over factory-farmed beef. But which of the two should you select?

You can also be at the local farmers’ market, and you inquire one of the growers if they have grass-fed pork. But then the farmer laughs and corrects you saying, “You’re looking for pasture-raised pork, right?” That makes you even more wondering. 

Understanding the Difference

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Let’s present a simple way to understand the difference between the two terms better: “pasture-raised” pertains to where an animal feeds, such as a pasture, while “grass-fed” pertains to what it eats. So, if you’re looking for meat with consideration of what it ate, then you’re probably after grass-fed beef. But if you’re after a cow raised in natural settings, then pasture-raised meat is for you. 

Hmmm. But what if the pasture has grass on it? Isn’t it automatically that a pasture-raised cow is a grass-fed cow? Well, not necessarily. Because a pasture-raised cow might have been consuming grains provided by the farmer especially during the winter when it is too cold to venture or when the snows have blanketed the pasture. 

If a pasture-raised cow’s diet for most of its life was grass, then it can undoubtedly be grass-fed. 

But why isn’t a grass-fed cow automatically pasture-raised? That’s because a cow can be fed grass in the form of hay and housed indoors in all its existence. Now that is a pretty rare situation, although most cows that are branded as grass-fed spent an extensive amount of time grazing on pasture. 

Now, what about the grower who corrected you when you inquired for “grass-fed pork?” Here is the thing. Pigs need some grains in their diets since they can’t survive only on grass like with chickens. That is why you’ll never come across labels such as grass-fed chicken or grass-fed pork on any packaging. 

You will only read grass-fed goat, lamb, and beef because these species can depend on grass for their subsistence. But you would see pasture-raised pork and pasture-raised chicken because grains can supplement their diet while in the pasture. 

What other practical information do you want to know about pasture-raised vs. grass-fed? Ask yourself. Do you want a 100% grass-fed cow? The cow might have been finished on grain, even though the packaging may say grass-fed. That means it has been feeding on grains for the last two to three months of its life. So, if you’re more meticulous, choose products branded as 100% grass-fed beef. 

On the other hand, are you craving 100% pasture-raised pork? That is a rare find, especially in northern countries where winter composes half of the year. Consider inquiring from the farmer how long it took for their pastured animals to graze on the outdoors. Ask them also about the indoor conditions of the animals. Sure, that can be confusing for a lot of people. But no worries, that can be resolved by the right people. 

So, there you have it. We hope that those details have given you hindsight on the differences between the two phrases. 

Benefits of Grass-Fed Cows

Why are grass-fed cows becoming popular these days? You’ll find on social media various posts about grass-fed cows and their benefits. No wonder customers are eyeing this particular kind of why and in the following paragraphs, let’s detail why.

Note that these apply for grass-raised beef in Arizona.

1. Grass-fed beef contains fewer calories

According to Jo Robinson, the founder of the famous website, switching to grass-fed beef will save you 16 642 calories every year. That is compared to the calories consumed when you eat a typical amount of meat per year in the United States. That’s a drastic reduction. 

Now here is a scientific explanation. Since their diets are more natural and cleaner, beef from grass-fed cattle contains less total fat content. That makes it a viable option for those who want to avoid possible illnesses from too much fat content. Older people, in particular, would love this option. 

But expect that grass-fed beef will fetch higher prices at approximately $300. But that is worth it since the number of calories you can save is significant. 

Here is the thing. Eating cattle that have been fed with antibiotics and other unnatural substances can only increase your family’s susceptibility to diseases. What if you get hospitalized? You would have to pay a substantial amount. 

Now that is a scenario you can avoid when you eat grass-fed beef. 

2. Grass-fed beef supports a healthy blood sugar level

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Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a specific beneficial fatty acid common among beef from grass-fed cows. Multiple studies have shown that CLA can entirely prevent various conditions and diseases such as diabetes and obesity. A group of scientists lately conducted a double-blinded and randomized study which showed that 37% of the people who were given CLA demonstrated a stronger insulin sensitivity over those who were not given CLA. Insulin sensitivity boosts the body’s capacity to achieve a healthier blood sugar level. 

That’s a natural way of preventing your loved ones from falling into diabetes which is one of the world’s deadliest diseases. 

Eating grass-fed beef along with a ketogenic lifestyle can significantly boost blood glucose levels if you are insulin resistant. On the other hand, utilizing a high-fat, low carbohydrate ketogenic blocks any attempt to increase blood glucose, which then signals insulin release. Such insulin release leads to insulin resistance which is a precursor to diabetes. 

3. Grass-fed Beef Contains Electrolytes

Keto flu is a typical issue for people who start their keto lifestyle in the hopes of a better and healthier living. That condition happens when electrolytes are not replenished after being flushed out. Magnesium, potassium, and sodium are the three main electrolytes out there. 

Thankfully, grass-fed beef has a substantial amount of all the said three essential electrolytes. A grass-fed strip steak has 118 milligrams of sodium, 49 milligrams of magnesium, and 732 milligrams of potassium. 

Those are essential elements that you can get without having to rely on capsules and other synthesized products. 

4. Grass-fed Beef Helps Fight Cancer

Now, that statement may come as a total surprise, especially that mainstream media is saying that meat is one of the leading causes of cancer. 

But here is the thing. Compared to beef from grain-fed cows, grass-fed meat has roughly twice the level of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Most naturally occurring nutrients containing anticarcinogenic features come from plant meals, but CLA is unique because it is the only anticancer nutrient that comes from meat. 

CLA is dubbed as one of the most effective nutrients in protecting the body from cancer growth. A random study showed that women who were provided high amounts of CLA-laden foods had approximately 60% lower breast cancer susceptibility compared to those who had no or negligible amounts of CLA in their meals. 

5. Grass-fed Beef Contains More Healthier Fats

Grass-fed beef contains up to six times more omega-3 fatty acids than beef from cattle fed with grains. On the other hand, grain-fed beef provides a higher amount of omega-6 fatty acids, which are already consumed excessively in most typical diets in the United States. 

The following are the proven benefits of increasing omega-3 consumption:

  • Omega-3s are highly effective in lessening all indicators of inflammation, thus, alleviating rheumatoid arthritis. 
  • Multiple studies have proven that supplementing the diet with omega-3 fatty acids can significantly boost mental well-being, thus, helping a person cope with depression and daily stresses. 
  • Studies have also shown that omega-3s are better alternatives to stimulant drugs in addressing attention deficit disorders (ADHD), thus, helping a person be more focused.

6. Grass-fed Beef has Less Bacteria

Various studies suggest that conventional beef is more susceptible to containing more bacteria compared to grass-fed beef. Consumer Reports conducted one of the most detailed studies on this matter, analyzing more than 300 packages of ground beef.

Their reports have shown that three of the grain-fed samples indicated the existence of methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and the antibiotic-resistant bacteria, while the grass-fed samples showed none. 

The results have also shown that 18% of the non-grass-fed beef samples contained superbugs – bacteria immune to different antibiotics. That is in contrast to beef samples from grass-fed livestock, which had only 9%. Although this is a rare situation, it can lead to food poisoning, a severe condition. 

We also laid out the various benefits of grass-fed beef. So if you’re gearing for a healthy lifestyle, go for grass-fed beef! Now that you can better understand the differences between pasture-raised meat and grass-fed meat, you can better decide which to choose when serving meals for your loved ones.

Farm Raised & Grass Fed Cows

Our farming approach is about practicing holistic, natural, and systematized grazing through regenerative agriculture. We aim to boost the regeneration of our natural grasslands and soil.