The internet is awash in websites proclaiming the nutritional benefits of ground beef from grass-fed cattle. However, researchers in the Department of Animal Science at Texas A&M University have published the only two research studies that actually compared the effects of ground beef from grass-fed cattle and traditional, grain-fed cattle on risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD) and type II diabetes in men. Was ground beef from grass-fed beef actually more healthful?
Americans consume approximately 40 percent of their total beef intake as ground beef, which is much higher in total fat than most intact cuts of beef. In fact, ground beef is one of the most important sources of the healthful monounsaturated fatty acid, oleic acid in the diet (the importance of this is discussed below). Ground beef from grass-fed cattle naturally contains more omega-3 fatty acids than from grain-fed cattle (three times as much) but is higher in saturated and trans-fat. At the other end of the spectrum is premium ground beef, such as from conventionally produced Certified Angus Beef or from cattle with Japanese genetics (available as Wagyu or Akaushi ground beef). Ground beef from these cattle is very high in oleic acid and is also much lower in saturated and trans-fat than ground beef from grass-fed cattle.