Research: Grass-fed beef and butter

Research DefinitionResearch Definition

Fatty acid profiles improved in grass-fed beef and butter

butter curls

fresh butter curls in a dish

There is growing consumer interest in more naturally raised products.  One example is grass-fed beef and butter.  The interest has expanded the market of products from free range to grass-fed beef to free-range chicken and eggs.  The interest and expansion of new products have created a number of questions with regard to the perceived differences in nutritional quality between grass-fed and grain-fed cattle.  

Research spanning decades suggests that grass-based diets can significantly improve the fatty acid composition and antioxidant content of beef.  Grass-based diets have been shown to enhance total conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which is a precursor to conjugated linoleic acid[1]. CLA has been shown to reduce inflammation and lower the risk of both heart disease and multiple types of cancer[2].  In fact, it might offset the risk of saturated fat from dairy.  

The bottom line:  Many studies show that people who eat the most CLA have improved metabolic health and a lower risk of many diseases to include heart disease.  More research is needed, but this seems to point to eating more grass-fed over grain-fed beef and dairy such as butter.   


C. S. Poulson, T. R. Dhiman, A. L. Ure, D. Cornforth, and K. C. Olson, “Conjugated linoleic acid content of beef from cattle fed diets containing high grain, CLA, or raised on forages,” L, vol. 91, no. 1–2, pp. 117–128, Dec. 2004 [Online]. Available: 10.1016/j.livprodsci.2004.07.012″ target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>
L. A. Smit, A. Baylin, and H. Campos, “Conjugated linoleic acid in adipose tissue and risk of myocardial infarction,” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 92, no. 1, pp. 34–40, May 2010 [Online]. Available: 10.3945/ajcn.2010.29524″ target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>
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About the Author

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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