Grass Fed vs Grain Fed Omega Ratios

Grass Fed vs Grain Fed Omega Ratios

Omega ratios in relation to grass-fed/grain fed diet in cows

What do cows eat? It sounds like a simple question and anyone who has driven through the countryside quickly observes that cows eat grass. We may also observe that cows also eat hay (dry grass) if the farmer feeds them hay. Ok, that was a pretty simple answer, but what if I told you that is not all they ate? You see, some cows are fed grains and feed lots. And there is a good reason and a bad reason for the farmer to feed their cows grains.

The good reason to feed Grains to Cows...

Cows are regularly fed grains because of the high carbohydrate content of the grain. When the animal ingests high amounts of carbohydrates from grains, their liver converts carbohydrates into fats and stores the fat throughout the body of the cow.

A process now known as ‘marbling’, and the result is fatty streaks of fat throughout the cow’s muscle (and thus the resultant meat). At first, this may not sound appealing as we may be driven by the idea that lean meat is best! However; once the steak is cooked, the fat melts, which makes the steak ‘juicy’ and tasty. An example of highly marbled and highly expensive beef is wagyu beef. Wagyu beef is a prime example of a grain fed beef that the Japanese population in particular love to eat and is found at top end Japanese restaurants.

The bad reason to grain feed...

Strangely, the bad reason to grain feed cattle is the same a good reason to grain feed cows, and that is that it increases the fat content of the beef. While fats can be very healthy for us, unfortunately, when the animal is grain fed, the fatty acid profile of a grain fed cow becomes unhealthier.

A classic example, it is widely accepted that omega 3 fatty acids are healthy for us. Grass-fed beef, the amount of omega 3 fatty acids in the beef are around twice as high as the comparable cut of grain-fed beef, despite the grain fed cow having more total fat. When it comes to saturated fats, the grain fed cows once again have around twice the level of saturated fats.

Inclusive of one of the more harmful saturated fats (palmitic acid) that has been shown to cause harm in humans. As for the omega 6 fatty acids, the grain fed cows have twice as much omega 6 fatty acid as the grass-fed animals. On its own may not be a problem, however, the omega 6 consumption by most people in Western countries is too high when compared to their omega 3 consumption. In an ideal world, we should have an omega 6 to omega 3 ratio of 4-2:1 yet most Westerners consume ratios around 10:1. Thus, consuming grass-fed beef may further adversely affect this ratio by increasing the omega 6s in the diet.

The take-home message

If you are out at a fancy restaurant, it is fine to get the prime, grain fed beef. However; as a rule of thumb, consuming grain-fed beef nightly, this can be harmful to your health. A better health point of view, go for the natural, grass-fed beef because after all, the grass is what cows are supposed to eat at the end of the day!