Bacon: Comparing grass-fed, grain-fed beef

Posted by: Victoria Klimczak  | Friday, December 8, 2017 11:44 am

Indiana’s agriculture industry helps fuel the state’s economy and touches the life of every Hoosier. A major component of that industry includes the production of beef. Our state has around 870,000 head of cattle, more than 190,000 of which are beef cows. I recently visited a farm in Pike County that raises grass-fed beef, and learned that the number of farmers investing in grass-fed beef production is increasing. Speaking with the farmers on this tour, I learned a lot of new information about the differences between grass-fed and grain-fed cattle that I’d like to share.

The lives of cattle in both varieties start very similarly. As calves, they drink milk and then graze on grass in a pasture for up to a year. After this, cows either continue to graze in this way, or are given grain-based feeds, typically made up of corn and soy. For beef to be packaged and labeled as “grass-fed,” besides drinking milk as a calf, the cow must have fed on only grass and forage its entire life.

Beef from grass-fed cattle can be more nutrient-rich, containing more omega-3 fatty acids and higher levels of vitamins E and C. With less total fat, a serving of grass-fed beef typically has fewer calories and less marbling. On the other hand, studies show that grain-fed beef can be lower in saturated fats and a have more oleic acid, which has benefits for heart health and blood circulation.

I believe there is a subtle difference in taste between grain-and grass-fed beef. Grass-fed has been described as chewier and having a lighter, gamier flavor than traditional beef, which has a more classic flavor and texture that most people associate with beef. While there may be a difference in taste, everyone has their own palette and can determine which they prefer.

Because grass-fed cattle need more pasture to graze on, the beef might be more expensive in grocery stores and harder to find depending on where you live. It is also important to remember that grass-fed is not the same as organic. Both grass-fed and grain-fed beef can be either organic or conventional, depending on the diet of the cattle.

Our successful agriculture industry contributes to the state economy, provides jobs to many Hoosiers and is a major part of Indiana’s legacy, and I’m grateful for the hardworking farmers in our community and state. As we get closer to the end of 2017, please continue to contact me with any questions or comments at or 317-232-9833.


State Rep. Ron Bacon (R-Chandler) represents House District 75,
which includes portions of Warrick, Pike and Spencer counties.

A high-resolution photo of Bacon can be downloaded by clicking here.