Montana Grass Fed Beef – What’s So Special About It?


Confined vs. Free Range Fatty Acid Ratio

Consumer expectations differ with grass-fed products because of the differences in the chemical make-up of fatty acids in grass-fed and grain-fed meat.

What is it about Grass-fed Beef?

Grass-fed meat has a much higher ratio of omega-3 fatty acids to omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3 fat is the “good” fat promoted in fish, flax seed and a variety of other health foods. Omega-6 fat has been labeled as bad because of its propensity to create clogged arteries. When experts recommend eating less beef, they speak of grain-fed beef, not grass-fed.

“The omega-6 to omega-3 ratio in grass-fed beef is 2.5. In grain-fed beef, that 6 to 3 ratio is four or five,” says Tilak Dhiman, an animal nutritionist at Utah State University.

Other sources site an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio as high as 20.

“This well exceeds the 4:1 ratio where health problems begin to show up because of the essential fat imbalance. Also grain fed beef can have over 50% of the total fat as the far less healthy saturated fat,” says osteopathic physician Joseph Mercola.

Grass-fed meat has other health benefits, too.

Grass-fed meat will have three times more CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), two to three times more vitamin E and 60% more omega-3 fatty acids than grain-fed. Also, beta-carotene is twice as high in grass-fed,” Dhiman says. “In animal models, CLA helps reduce the risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease.”

Dhiman researched CLA and omega-3 levels in milk and meat at the U.S. Dairy Forage Center at Prairie du Sac, Wisc., before moving to USU.

Milk and meat from animals raised only on forage have the highest levels of CLA. Research shows the level of CLA in grass-fed products is four to five times that of regular supermarket products,” he says.

Recent publicity about food safety issues such as mad cow disease and E. coli tend to highlight other benefits of grass-fed beef.

Although no one is sure, some researchers suggest that cattle contract bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease) when they eat animal bi-products that have been mixed with grain to increase the amount of protein – an illegal practice in the United States. Grass-fed animals are never fed grain or other supplemental feed so the risk of contracting bovine spongiform encephalopathy is significantly reduced.

E. coli risks are reduced

“Consumers of grass-fed meat nearly eliminate their risk of becoming infected with pathogenic E. coli bacteria.  In the (unlikely) event that meat from a grass-fed animal is contaminated with the naturally occurring E. coli bacteria, it will be easily killed by the normal acidity in a human digestive tract. Feeding large amounts of grain to animals causes the E. coli bacteria to become resistant to this acidity,” according to the American Grassfed Association Web site.

While grass-fed producers could theoretically benefit from consumer fear of commodity beef, most know that what is bad for the beef industry will hurt niche markets, too.

“We’re never happy when people are concerned about food safety. But we can’t be sad when people want more information about their food,” says AGA president Marlene Groves.

For more information about Montana Grass Fed Beef and Lamb, please contact A Land of Grass Ranch in Conrad, Montana 406-278-0159.