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The Weekly News Source for Wyoming's Ranchers, Farmers and AgriBusiness Community

Food For Thought – Sun

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

 These days, at times we argue on what kind of beef is better – grass-fed or grain finished. It is like what kind of pickup you like – the facts are out there to back up any argument. Instead of bells and whistles, we have taste, tenderness and what is healthier for you and your family. We all know there is a difference in taste, as a lot of us grew up on grass-fed, and we knew it could either be tough or tender, but that was most likely our fault as we usually didn’t butcher until we were out of meat and had to start on the fresh beef that week.

There are many studies on grass-fed or grain finished, and most have different results. I just read one by Stephen Smith, a AgriLife Research meat scientist, and a team of researchers have found that contrary to popular perception, ground beef from pasture-fed cattle had no beneficial effects on plasma lipid, but high monounsaturated fat ground beef from grain-fed cattle increased HDL cholesterol, increased LDL particle diameters and decreased insulin, suggesting that ground beef produced by intensive production practices provides a healthy, high-quality source of protein. 

“We wanted to see from this study if product from pasture-fed and corn-fed cattle had different effects on LDL or HDL cholesterol,” Smith said. “We looked at the scientific literature and could not find any justifications for the statement that pasture-fed beef is better for you. All we found were rat studies in which they were fed omega-3 fatty acids, so we wanted to know if this applied to beef from grass-fed cattle.”

They tested three groups of Angus steers. One group was fed a pasture diet with supplemental hay until the steers were 20 months of age. The second group was fed the same way a feedlot operator would and kept on a corn-based diet until 16 months of age, when they reached USDA Choice, and the third group was fed the corn-based diet the longest, until reaching USDA Prime. Beef cuts from the plate and flank were taken from all three grades and were made into ground beef containing 24 percent fat. 

Then, a group of 27 men completed a three-way crossover study. Each group rotated, consuming five 114-gram ground beef patties per week for six weeks from each of the three sets of cattle used in the study.

“There really were no negative effects of feeding ground beef from the pasture-fed cattle,” Smith said. “We did see many positive effects in men that consumed ground beef from corn-fed cattle. The study said that the longer the cattle are fed corn and the fatter it is, the healthier the product will be, but feeding corn is expensive.”

Smith said, “The ground beef from the USDA Prime increased HDL cholesterol and LDL particle diameter, both effects are protective against cardiovascular disease. If you want a healthier product, you need more marbling. Time on feed is a big factor.” 

I have to show this to my doctor. 

Well, there you go – some food for thought. But the truth is, whatever beef you want to raise, sell or eat, it’s still your choice.

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