Grass Fed Health Benefits

Additional Resources:

American Grass Fed Association Top Ten Health Reasons to Buy Grass Fed Beef: Reasons

Nutrition Journal evaluates fatty acid content in Grain and Grass Fed Beef: NutritionJournal

An excellent Grass Fed website: www.eatwild.com

American Grass Fed Association website: www.americangrassfed.org

It’s All in the Fat!

Popeye wasn’t far off. Healthy fats ultimately derive from the chloroplasts of green leafy vegetables

For many Americans, meat is a favorite source of protein. But actually the way meat influences your health, for better or for worse, depends as much on its fat profile as it does on high protein content. When it comes to your health, the different types of fat are not created equally. “Good fats” as well as “bad fats” are common in many of the foods we eat every day, and learning to eat the right kinds of fats can actually make you leaner and healthier. Consider the following excerpt from Artemis P. Simopoulos’s book, The Omega Diet:

“Studies show that individual fatty acids can have remarkably different effects on your health. Some promote cancer growth; some block it. Some increase your risk of heart attack and stroke; some reduce it. Some are more likely to be stored as body fat; some are quickly burned as fuel. Some are linked with depression and other mental problems; some foster emotional wellbeing. The way a given fat influences your health depends on its unique blend of fatty acids.” [1]

The key for your health, therefore, is to make the right quantity and the right types of fats a consistent part of your diet. In fact, Simopolous explains that if you choose foods that contain the proper ratio of good fats to bad fats, “30-35% of your calories can come from fat free of guilt!”[2]

Unfortunately for those who like to eat beef, the total fat in Grain Fed beef is about 6-8 times that of other high protein alternatives, such as skinless chicken breast. Within this total fat content, there is a very high proportion of saturated fats which are well known to belong in the category of fats that are likely to be stored as body fat, and can be a cause of cardiovascular disease, cancer, heart attack, and stroke. The remaining fat is mostly made up of poly-unsaturated fats. Of those, there is a high proportion of omega-6 fats to omega-3 fats. This ratio represents an imbalance in the diet that has been consistently linked to the aforementioned litany of health problems.

The case is much different with Grass Fed meats. In the first place, the overall fat content (especially saturated fat) is much lower than in Grain Fed alternatives, or about the same as conventional skinless chicken breast.[3] But remember, the right kinds of fats are essential to your health, and therefore it is important to understand the importance of the fat that is in Grass Fed beef. This fat is poly-unsaturated and is made up of a much lower and therefore more favorable ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids than in Grain Fed beef. While both omega-3 and omega-6 EFAs (Essential Fatty Acids) are necessary to your body’s proper functioning, most Americans have a diet characterized by an imbalanced ratio of omega-6’s to omega-3’s that is far too heavily tipped toward the omega-6 side of the scale. This can be remedied by eating foods higher in omega-3’s, such as Grass fed meats, seafood, walnuts, and green leafy vegetables.

Why is Grass Fed meat high in omega-3’s? Simply because omega-3’s are found in the chloroplasts of green leafy plants, and so are present in the meat of the ruminants that eat green leafy plants. The problem, as the graph at left illustrates, is that omega-3’s disappear rapidly for each day ruminants are fed grain in a feedlot.[4]

Grass Fed beef also delivers other significant health benefits compared with the Grain Fed alternative. Along with the milk from grass fed cattle, their meat is the most abundant source of another good fat called “conjugated linoleic acid” (CLA), which has been shown to be a potent defense against cancer. Vitamin E has also been linked by researchers with lower rates of cancer and heart disease, and Grass Fed beef has levels of vitamin E that are four times higher than feedlot cattle.[5]

Although many Grass Fed advocates have touted the leanness of Grass Fed meat over and against the high levels of total fat in Grain Fed meat, overly lean Grass Fed products are low in the fat that is actually good for you. Therefore, some Grass Fed producers cater to consumers who mistakenly think that an overly lean beef product is the key to a healthier diet. In reality, they have thrown the baby out with the bathwater! Remember, the right amount of the right kind of fat is essential to your health.

This is why Grass Fed beef from different producers is far from being created equal. High quality Grass Fed beef requires an optimal amount of the fat or “finish,” that is essential to the health benefits, flavor, and tenderness of beef. This requires management expertise, the right bloodlines, and sufficient time on grass for the cattle. The quality of Mannix Family beef comes from the high priority we place on a sufficiently fattened animal, and is the reason for emphasizing that our beef are not simply 100% Grass Fed—most importantly they are Grass Finished.

We Manage for Optimum Fat Content

Our genetic program and management practices set Mannix beef apart for three reasons. First, we have selected for a small, deep-bodied phenoptype that allows cattle to make the most efficient use of the feed energy that our particular environment offers. Because there is less skeletal growth in these smaller, stockier cattle, the animals stop growing “up” and begin putting on finish (i.e. backfat or “condition”) sooner, and so do not need the extra energy artificially provided by grains. This optimal level of back fat protects against cold shortening (a detrimental tightening of the muscle caused by cooling too rapidly) by insulating the carcass while it is aged in your processor’s cooler, and allows for maximum tenderness.

Secondly, we have selected for cattle with the genetic potential to “marble” (i.e. put on intramuscular fat), which is the single most important contributor to good flavor in beef. The goal is to produce a product that combines the best of both worlds: beef with much lower total fat content than grain fed beef, a healthier ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 EFAs, and exceptional flavor and tenderness

Finally, our method of preparing cattle for slaughter is patient and methodical. We take great care to give our cattle both the feed and necessary time to gain optimum finish before slaughter. If this increases our costs, it nevertheless assures consistent product quality.


[1] Artemis P. Simopoulos, The Omega Diet, 4.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Excerpted with permission from “Eatwild.com.”

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.