Health Benefits

A review of fatty acid profiles and antioxidant
content in grass-fed and grain-fed beef 

C.A.Daley1, K.Harrison1, P. Doyle1, A. Abbott1, G. Nader2, S. Larson2

California State University, College of Agriculture1

University of California Cooperative Extension Service2

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Growing consumer interest in grass-fed beef products has raised a number of questions with regard to the perceived
differences in nutritional quality between grass-fed and grain-fed cattle. Research spanning three decades
suggests that grass-based diets can significantly improve the fatty acid (FA) composition and antioxidant content
of beef, albeit with variable impacts on overall palatability. Grass-based diets have been shown to enhance total
conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) (C18:2) isomers, trans vaccenic acid (TVA) (C18:1 t11), a precursor to CLA, and
omega-3 (n-3) FAs on a g/g fat basis. While the overall concentration of total SFAs is not different between feeding
regimens, grass-finished beef tends toward a higher proportion of cholesterol neutral stearic FA (C18:0), and
less cholesterol-elevating SFAs such as myristic (C14:0) and palmitic (C16:0) FAs. Several studies suggest that grassbased diets elevate precursors for Vitamin A and E, as well as cancer fighting antioxidants such as glutathione (GT) and superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity as compared to grain-fed contemporaries. Fat conscious consumers will also prefer the overall lower fat content of a grass-fed beef product. However, consumers should be aware that the differences in FA content will also give grass-fed beef a distinct grass flavor and unique cooking qualities that should be considered when making the transition from grain-fed beef. In addition, the fat from grass-finished beef may have a yellowish appearance from the elevated carotenoid content (precursor to Vitamin A). It is also noted that grain-fed beef consumers may achieve similar intakes of both n-3 and CLA through the consumption of higher fat grain-fed portions. For more information click here