Grass vs. Grain Fed Beef

by John Limansky, MD November 04, 2018 3 min read

Grass vs. Grain Fed Beef

So, you’re a biohacker. You want to maximize your body’s efficiency and perform at a higher level than normal. You already know the basics of the Ketogenic lifestyle. As you continue to refine your hacking, you will come across some familiar buzz words and topics. A couple of these are “Grass Fed” and “Pasture Raised”. These terms are something to consider when you’re talking about beef. If you’re committed to a ketogenic diet, you’ll probably be eating a lot of meat, so let’s dive into the differences.

Grass Fed

Let’s start with Beef and the term “grass-fed”. A cow’s diet has an enormous impact on the nutrient content of its meat. Before the rise of the conventional beef industry and their feedlots, cows ate grass for the most part. However, this is less efficient for fattening cows and requires more time and effort. Conventional beef today is also commonly referred to as “grain-fed”. Cows raised this way grow up on crowded feedlots and eat diets consisting almost exclusively of corn, soy, and other grains.

Meat from cows with a more natural, grass-fed diet has been shown to contain more vitamins and minerals. Grass and other vegetation supply all the nutrients a healthy cow requires. Grass-fed meat contains 2 to 4 times the amount of omega 3 essential fatty acids. Omega 3’s are something we do not get enough of often times so this is an obvious benefit. Another benefit of grass-fed meat is a higher concentration of conjugated linolenic acid (CLA), a fatty acid that promotes fat-loss.

Fed vs. Finished

Grass-fed cows eat a more natural diet. However, in recent years “grass-fed” cows have begun their lives with a grass-fed diet but have been moved to grain just before slaughter to fatten them up. As far as nutrient content, this defeats the entire purpose of feeding the animal a more natural diet.

The term “grass-fed” is somewhat vague and unregulated. Essentially, as long as the animal was fed grass and vegetation for some period of time in its life, it can technically be labeled as grass-fed. While “grass fed, grain finished” beef is still more nutritious than conventional, “grass finished” beef is the most nutritious option.

Pasture Raised

We’re all familiar with some of the cruelties of the beef industry at large. We’ve seen the footage of the crowded feedlots and heard about animals being treated in an inhumane manner. If you’re concerned with these things, consider also trying to switch to pasture raised beef. These animals are able to roam free and live less stressful lives.

A cow could technically be “pasture raised” and still fed primarily grain by the farmer. This, however, is exceedingly rare and highly unlikely. Pasture raised cows will naturally be eating grass in the fields that they roam and will typically be fed hay when weather prevents them from going outside.

Is it that important?

As a biohacker, you know that the devil is in the details. There are better ways to do things and there are optimal ways to do things. Beef is a naturally healthy food no matter the diet of the animal. However, if you want to optimize your lifestyle, consider changing over to grass-fed or, preferably, grass fed AND finished beef. You’ll get better fatty acids and nutrition overall.


John Limansky, MD
John Limansky, MD