It’s a question we get all the time: Is grass-fed beef healthy? Fortunately, we love talking about grass-fed beef almost as much as we love eating it. There are a few ways to approach that question – from grass-fed beef’s nutritional content to the way it's farmed – but one of grass-fed beef’s biggest health benefits is its Omega 3 content. So...excuse us while we brag on that for a sec:
What are Omega 3s?
If you’ve read any health advice like ever, you know that Omega 3s are important. They’re those brain-boosting, heart-healthy fatty acids that are found in nuts, seeds, fatty fish, and drumroll please… grass-fed beef. They’re also anti-inflammatory, which can help reduce the risk for a ton of chronic diseases.
There are 3 types: ALA, EPA, and DHA. ALA – the type found in nuts and seeds – is tougher for the body to convert into a usable form. That’s why EPA and DHA – the type found in animal products like fish, eggs, and grass-fed beef – get the most buzz.
What’s the difference between grass-fed and grain-fed when it comes to Omega 3s?
Let’s just cut to the chase: grass-fed beef has as much as 5x the Omega 3s as grain-fed beef1. Here’s why that matters:
The Omega 6: Omega 3 ratio
We can’t talk about Omega 3s without also talking about Omega 6s. They’re also an essential fatty acid, but we don’t hear about them as much because we’re already getting a ton of them – probably too much. Thanks to grain-fed meat and processed foods high in vegetable oils, the typical Western diet is full of Omega 6s. Today, our Omega 6:Omega 3 ratio is as high as 20:12. Back in the day (like evolutionary days), that ratio was more like 1:1. While Omega 6s aren’t necessarily bad, getting too many of them and too few Omega 3s is associated with chronic inflammation, heart disease, and several other chronic diseases3.
Does meat cause inflammation? Grass-fed vs. grain-fed beef
Meat, especially the red kind, catches flak for being inflammatory, but that Omega 6/ Omega 3 thing is critical here. With grain-fed beef, we get a ton of Omega 6s but not the Omega 3s to balance them out (an average ratio of 7.6:1), leading to the potential for inflammation. Grass-fed beef, on the other hand, has a lot more Omega 3s, for an average ratio of 1.53: 1.4
Basically, when you choose grain-fed over grass-fed, you’re getting a much healthier fatty acid profile that’s closer to what our ancestors would have eaten. It’s part of why the Paleo diet recommends choosing grass-fed beef and minimizing processed oils that are high in Omega 6s. This more favorable profile means grass-fed beef is far less inflammatory than the grain-fed stuff.
So is grass-fed beef healthier?
We try not to oversimplify things too much, but...yeah. Not only is grass-fed beef higher in Omega 3s, but it’s also lower in overall fat, and higher in nutrients like Vitamin A and E, beta-carotene, B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. 5 It’s one of the many reasons why we choose 100% grass-fed beef for all of our beef jerky products.
And just in case you didn’t catch our not-so-subtle humble brag there, we’ll wrap things up with a little shameless promotion. You can upgrade your beef jerky to Omega-3-packed goodness with Country Archer’s 100% grass-fed beef jerky and grass-fed beef sticks. Order online, on Amazon Prime, or find us in a store near you!
1. What’s the Difference Between Grass-fed and Grain-fed Beef?
2. An Increase in the Omega-6/Omega-3 Fatty Acid Ratio Increases the Risk for Obesity
3. The importance of the omega-6/omega-3 fatty acid ratio in cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases
4. A review of fatty acid profiles and antioxidant content in grass-fed and grain-fed beef