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Grass Fed vs. Corn Fed Cattle Research Paper

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Updated: Nov 17th, 2019


The beef industry has made remarkable progress in management, genetics, and nutrition over the past 30 years to attain the most affordable, productive, and efficient beef supply in the globe. However, the present times report the greater part of animals spend anywhere from 3 to 4 months in feedlots being nourished on granule before butchery.

Unless beef consumers knowingly choose grass-fed beef, the available beef in most stores is from corn fed cattle. Advances in corn-based grain in feedlots are more common in the food industry. These cattle live in fresh air and can increase nutritional quality of grassland; also, they can produce milk in high quality environment and grow healthier than the grain fed cattle.

On the other hand, corn fed cattle live in the feedlot, kept from the outdoor which gives the animals stress and makes them sick. In most cases, these feedlots are overcrowded which makes spread of diseases easy amongst the cattle. The feeding of cattle has been a significant issue of research and notable is the conclusion that cattle are ruminant by nature. This means that cattle feed in different ways, which means different cattle, can feed on different products.


The feeding patterns of cattle indicate that cattle feed on grass because that can easily digest. Grass is widely available, and plants can substitute in the event grass is not available. Feeding cattle on corn has several disadvantages including the fact that corn is not easily digestible. In addition, when corn stays in the stomachs of cattle for a long time it can make the animals sick.

Corn is not appropriate for animals particularly in cattle, because when they get sick, the cattle may cause an acidic environment. Corn fed cattle face health problems, which can lead, to spread of bacteria in feedlot. In order to curb the spread of diseases amongst the cattle, the animals get antibiotics injections, which help, prevent the disease in the animal, and it is widespread within the feedlot (Cynthia & Daley, 2010).

Grass fed beef is better for consumption and better for the environment. Seventy five percent of the nutrition of the people is derived from grass. For example, wheat, corn and rice. Through the support of various literatures, the paper will explore the debate of grass fed beef being superior to corn fed beef. Some factors this study paper will consider in support of grass fed beef include;

  • Grass fed cattle animals do not need the large quantities of antibiotics that feedlot cattle use
  • Perennial grasses are better for cattle and the soil
  • Animals fed on grass for their entire lives are healthier, and so is their meat for human consumption
  • The grains fed to corn-fed cattle is fossil-fuel immense and majorly subsidized

Before making a comparison of grass-fed beef over grain fed beef, it is essential to define the two beef types. According to the USDA Grass Fed Marketing Claim Standards, an animal is considered grass fed when grass and forage are the feed source consumed for the entire life of the four-chambered animal, with the exception of milk consumed before weaning. Silage, haylage, fodder, baleage, crop remains without grain, and other fiber sources comprise supply for grass-fed animals.

On the other hand, grains fed beef are animals that were deliberately fed grain during their lifetime. Concisely, several publications have been used to compare and contrast grass-fed and conventionally fed beef. The major areas of comparison include retail price, taste, tenderness, nutritional value, environmental impact, animal treatment, and cattle growth rate.

Grass-fed beef is better for consumption and it is taking over the beef industry even changing most vegetarians to beef eaters. Focusing on the issue about grass-fed beef, which is beef produced from grass-fed cattle in the U.S. According to the farmer and former vegetarian Bruce Hennessey, they are now producing grass-fed beef for recovering vegetarians (Sager, 2008).

Most Americans transformed from their normal eating habits to be vegetarians. The major reason behind this change in feeding habits is the origin of the foods in the market.

For instance, over a period, the beef available in grocery stores changed from grass-fed beef to grain-fed beef. However, there have been several limitations associated with the consumption of grain-fed beef especially in health areas. Notable researches indicate the negative aspect of consuming grain-fed beef because of the methods of rearing. The major reason behind grain-fed rearing is for economic purposes.

For this reason, the businesspersons strive to have animals that can mature faster for sale. In order to achieve this, scientists have come up with hormones and antibiotics that make it possible for the cattle to mature in lesser period than the normal time. This will fulfill the economic aspect but the hormones and antibiotics used will have a negative impact on the health and body of the users (Clancy, 2006).

The negative impact of grain-fed beef had an impact on people’s diet as they tried to avoid having health problems. There was increased number of vegetarians as people avoided beef because of the negative impact. For this reason, farmers and businesspersons have changed to production of grass-fed beef to attract more vegetarians back to their normal feeding habits.

Production of grass-fed beef will automatically encourage vegetarians to resume their normal feeding habits without fear of health complications. Just as, the name suggests, grass-fed animals strictly feed on grass and other natural plantations that ensure that the beef products have several natural elements.

On the retail price of grass fed beef, the prices are higher compared to those of grain-fed beef. However, the high prices do not deter the farmers to producing more products from grass-fed animals. The high prices for this beef are because of significant factors such as the time taken for the animals to mature.

More so, rearing these grass-fed animals requires additional land and high quality pastures to finish cattle. The proper rearing habits when farmers raise grass-fed animals have managed to increase the demand for beef hence the need for more supply.

Another aspect for the preference of grass-fed beef over corn-fed beef is on the need for healthy varieties to livestock farming. Farmers and businesspersons have resolved to feeding corn to cattle in the last weeks before slaughter (Parker, 2005). For these people, feeding cattle on corn has several advantages. Corn-fed cattle gain weight much more rapidly than in a strictly grass-fed surrounding do and this production can be done annually.

The present system of ranching design works around the accelerated growth of cattle in feedlots. Since corn-fed cattle easily fit in this model, they are cost-effective and easier to produce, and the outcome is cheaper products for users. Corn-fed cattle produce the type of meat that consumers have grown to love and create expectations over the products. The consumers look forward to a tasty, marbled, fatty meat with smooth, consistent flavor.

The farmers argue that feeding cattle on grass is better and more manageable for both the cattle and the user. Grass-fed beef has better taste than the grain-fed beef, and this makes consumers chose to have the former for their meals and other purposes.

In several researches carried out on the taste of the two products, the fatty acid content gives grass-fed beef a distinct grass flavor which lacks in grain-fed beef. For instance, flavor intensity and beef flavor scores are higher for strip loins from grain steers compared to rye grass finished steers. Taste differences between grass-fed and grain-fed beef is acknowledged and well documented.

Researchers suggest methods by which non-vegetarians can avoid the health problems connected with eating infected beef (Macy, 2006). Most of the beef consumers get beef from feedlots and the crowded surrounding increases the chances of infections.

The solution to this problem can be organic farms where animals cannot be raised with organic elements the feed must be organic, and the land must be free of designated pesticides and chemicals. Cattle are fed grass and other plantations instead of corn, which leads in meat that is leaner, has low fat content and calories, and are rich in vitamin E and antioxidants.

The above benefits come from the fact that grass fed cattle spends all their existence on a range of grass, plants or grazing land eating grass or hay. Grass-fed meat sells at a higher price, which makes grass-fed cattle worth added procedure that can be of assistance to cattle owners to earn more during hard trade and industry times. Grass-fed hamburger beef costs more than those, which come from corn-fed cattle.

Grass fed beef is advantageous for the users because of the various nutrients the product possesses. Researches on the benefits of grass fed beef indicate that the beef is rich in vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids. When determining the fatty acid composition of meat, we separate the fat from everything else in the meat sample by an extraction process. We then have a pool of fat from which we can analyze thoroughly.

Within this pool, some elements will appear with lower proportions, and this is case in grass-fed beef. Grass is not a rich source of fat, so the amount of fat consumed will not be extraordinarily influential. Further, we expect the meat of grass-fed animals to be extremely lean. Comparing the fat content of the two products, grass-fed beef will have a lower percentage of fatty acids compared to the feedlot beef.

These nutrients are thought to help reduce the risk of cancer amongst the users. Grass fed beef lowers the likelihood of high blood pressure, and make people less vulnerable to depression. To beef consumers, meat from grass-fed animals is rich in another valuable nutrient-fat, known as (CLA), and conjugated linoleum acid. This fat tends to lower the risk of cancer for the users.

The advantages of CLA are so extensively recognized that some farmers who do not grass-finish their cattle include CLA enhancements to their animals’ feed once the cattle are mature enough to go to the feedlots. CLA is a product that starts in the diet as vegetation-based fat. After being consumed by the animal, which has to be a ruminant, the unsaturated fatty acids will undergo modification in the rumen to be converted to saturated fatty acids.

People who purchase grass fed beef help preserve open rangeland diverse regions of the country. In the rapid urbanizing communities, rangelands are more welcome, and buying of grass-fed beef will ensure that rangelands continue to prosper.

Grass-fed yield sell in natural food stalls that draw increased revenue health-mindful users. For the past 30 years, researchers have maintained that using pasture and grazed forest-range for a system of producing live-stock by feeding grass alone, minimizes the inputs energy about 60% and land resources about 8%.

Grass-fed animals are instrumental in saving energy and resources. More so, grass-fed beef benefits the environment through decreased soil erosion. Environmentally, the practice helps in soil fertility, improved water quality, and improved human health. All these benefits are due to the reduced antibiotic use on the cattle that is not the case for the grain-fed cattle.

In the recent years, the humane treatment of confined animals such as chickens, pigs, and feedlot cattle has been a growing concern to some society. Grass fed cattle is healthier and have less need for organic elements than feedlot cattle. The aspect of contamination in grass-fed cattle is almost nonexistent.

This means that there will be fewer health problems in cases where a farmer practices grass-fed rearing. This only makes sense since confinement bring animals closer to human beings and increases the likelihood of the spread of disease. On a more humane aspect, pasture based agriculture is widely seen as being more humane. Rearing animals outdoors, which is the case for grass-fed animals, results in less stress and anti-social behavior and improved health for the animals?

Recent statistics in the beef industry states that most beef now being consumed may be quite different (Macy, 2006). These changes may be attributed to various reasons, which we will review in this section of the paper.

Changes in cattle raising practices; Health aspects of corn-fed beef, the ban of American beef treated with hormones and antibiotics the benefits and drawbacks of irradiated meat. The treatment grain-fed cattle undergo maybe transmitted to the consumers of the beef. In a normal setting, animals will take time to mature and be ready for slaughter.

However, the grain-fed cattle get treated with hormones and antibiotics which fasten their maturity and make their beef appealing to the users. In as much as the animals will grow faster and be ready for market, the beef has considerable side effects to the users. The hormones used in fastening the maturity of the cattle may be transferred to consumers and impact negatively on their health and body. The antibiotics can also negatively affect the consumers’ health that is not a plus for the grain-fed beef.

Grass-fed cattle, on the other hand, strictly rely on natural feeds that have minimal chances of affecting the users. In addition, the natural matters that grass-fed cattle rely on provide the beef users with distinctive additional nutrients that are not present in grain-fed beef.

However, there have been substantial changes in ways which cattle are reared. In most cases, due to business purposes, farmers and businesspersons prefer using the grain-fed mode of rearing cattle because of the quick maturity aspect.

All animals will start on milk at their tender age, but, at some point, the owners will introduce other substances, which call for quicker growth and health. At this point, the cattle are mixed because they have both the grass-fed and grain-fed elements. These changes in the rearing of cattle for beef purposes make it hard for consumers to differentiate between the grain-fed beef and grass-fed beef.


The debate on grass-fed beef and corn-fed beef continues to receive attention from researchers and even consumers. Each beef product has its advantages and disadvantages, and that is why both products are still popular in the market. Depending on which side of the bar one is, it is up to the users to decide on the type of beef to consume and at what rate.

The above discussion provides a clear guideline on the increased popularity of the grass-fed beef among beef consumers. As for the farm owners and businesspersons, it is easier to rear grass-fed cattle for beef purposes because of the minimal requirements. Rearing grass-fed animals only requires large portions of land where grass and other plantations can grow to be feed for the animals.

Recent studies and researches provide clear evidence of the health significance of consuming grass-fed beef over grain-fed beef. Grass-fed beef contains essential nutrients, which help improve the consumer’s health while the grain-fed beef has detrimental side effects. More so, consuming grass-fed beef poses no danger to the body and health of the users that is the case for grain-fed beef. Grass-fed beef requires fewer resources and less environmental impact than grain-fed beef.


Clancy, K. (2006). Greener Pastures: How grass-fed beef and milk contribute to healthy eating. New York: Union of Concerned Scientists.

Cynthia, A., & Daley, A. A. (2010). . Nutrition Journal. Web.

Macy, D. (2006). The eco-conscious carnivore. Natural Health, 36(1), 37-41. Web.

Parker, M. (2005). Greener Pastures, Better beef? Health (Time Inc. Health), 19(2). 176-177. Web.

The Newsletter of the American Institute of Stress (2003). Some Beef about Modern Meats. Health & Stress, 3, p. 6. Web.

Sager, G. C. (2008). Natural Life, 124, p. 20-23. Web.

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