Grass-Finished Versus Grain-Finished

You must have this concern about what is actually inside your steak, or to be more precise, the beef it is made from, aren’t you? You have likely seen some labels like “grass-finished” & “grain-finished” or heard somewhere about the controversy. 

You may have many of questions, like What exactly are grass-finished and grain-finished defined by the meat industry? What are the differences between these two types of meat?  But most importantly, which type is better for your steak? Let’s dig a bit deeper and talk about these questions in this article.  

1. What are grass-finished and grain-finished?

You must see tons of articles confusingly discussing the definition of these two types of beef. So let me simply clarify the two like this:

Grass-finished cattle are raised on grass graze and pastures for the entirety of their lives (even until being brought to your table). Additionally, these cattle may consume forage, hay, or silage at the feed yard.

Grain-finished cattle also spend the majority of their lives eating grass, like the former. However, cattle are allowed to eat a balanced diet of grain, local feed components like potato hulls or sugar beets, and hay or forage at the feed yard when they are ready to be grain-finished. 

Why should I care about these two types of labels? - You may have your own answers. 

Yet, it is better to be a wise customer who can make your own decision when standing right in front of the meat case in your local grocery store or sitting in a restaurant. That makes your loved one admire your taste and knowledge, or at least you will have a choice that never lets you regret it.

2. What is the difference between these types of beef?

Grain and Grass give different flavors

Assuming you already understand the way two types of beef are produced, let's go back to our age-old question about how the grass and grain finishing could impact the flavor of your beef. 

I'll explain to you this straight:

Grain-finished beef is renowned for its marbling and tenderness, due to the fact that grains tend to create steaks with a milder flavor and because they help cows gain weight more rapidly and consistently.

Grass-finished beef typically tastes more like beef and is a little leaner, because pasture grasses contain a variety of nutrients.

So it is prominent that the main distinction between "grass and grain" focuses is in flavor and texture. And they all simply link to the fat composition. 

Additionally, according to experts, in terms of health advantages, grass-finished beef has better fats than grain-finished one: While almost all of the research comparing grass-fed versus grain-fed beef depends on fats, or lipids as scientists refer to them, meat from animals who never ate anything but the grass is consistently lower in total fat and saturated fat," the authors write. Although cholesterol levels remain stable regardless of feeding practices, grass-fed beef has a superior balance of the fatty acids that do not elevate cholesterol, including stearic acid.

Cows raised on grass have higher levels of good fats than cows raised on grains. 

However, this does not imply that grain-finished cows are less healthy. Grain-finished cows from well-managed farms may nevertheless lead healthy, fulfilling lives. To produce flavorful, nutrient-rich meat, pasture-raised.

"Well-managed farm" is also a key. 

As you can see, the consensus right now is that grass-finished beef is greater. However, this is not absolute. Not all grass is the same, and not all grain is harmful.

It's true that beef finishing with grain imparts different flavors and textures than finishing with grass. But being different doesn’t mean worse. It is better to consider the management of the farm. 

According to Tamar Haspel's research for The Washington Post, cattle finished on grain versus grass differ greatly depending on the farm.

Each farm has their own way to feed their cattle 

For example, independent farms like Gebbers Cattle Company let their cattle graze on lush pastures before completing them on locally farmed grains, in order to produce a nutritious cut of quality grain-finished beef. 

Or there are farmers that use traditionally, locally grown products like millet or apple pomace in their grain-based livestock feed. 

Both techniques, either grass-finished or grain-finished, when done effectively, produce equally delicious flavor.

Which one is better? Which should I choose from these 2 options?

It depends on personal taste. And we all know people's preferences differ drastically. Therefore, it is hard to answer accurately.

While some are strongly entrenched in one camp or the other, others contentedly appreciate the flavorful benefits of both grain- and grass-finished beef.

Particular types of grains and grasses impart a variety of flavors.

To give a more clear view about the distinction, an experiment with a tacos recipe was conducted in two weeks. The first week, the dish was used with ground beef that has been finished on grains, while the second used beef that has been finished on grass.

Not surprisingly, the tacos tasted different despite the recipe being exactly the same in every other way!

The tacos with grain-finished beef were juicier and absorbed the flavor of the spices more fully than those that were finished with the grass. But the other had a stronger beefy flavor.

Two weeks in a row, two different sets of tacos and two delicious ones.


From all of these, here is my advice to you, the wise customers. If you’re looking for a tender, juicy steak with a burst of flavor and aroma when chewing every bite, it is a great idea to buy yourself a marbling cut of grain-finished beef. And, in case you are getting some of what your body needs, something healthy, with lots of vitamins and nutrients as you could imagine, grass-finished beef is better for you.

Hope that you now have all the knowledge you need about the two feeding methods and can choose the exact item you want from the large range of options available at the grocery store or restaurant.

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