Grass vs. Grain-Fed

Q&A with Sharon Portenier


What’s the difference between grass and grain-fed beef?

Sharon: The difference between grass and grain-fed beef boils down to what the animals eat. For at least part of their lives, all cattle on our ranch eat grass. When cattle enter the “finishing” phase of their lives is when that can change. “Grass-finished” cattle are fed grass products, such as hay.

By contrast, “grain-fed” or “grain-finished” cattle finish out their time eating a ration made from grain products such as corn or soybeans.

I am very passionate about agriculture! I enjoy sharing my passion with consumers, and I want them to realize we put the same food on our table as they do.

Sharon Portenier
Farnam, Neb.
Sharon Portenier, Farnam, Neb.

Q: Are both grass and grain-fed beef healthy?

Sharon: Beef is healthy no matter how it is finished. Regardless of whether the animals grow up consuming grain or grass, the nutrient profile of the meat we buy in the grocery store is essentially the same, containing many essential vitamins and nutrients.

Q: Why is grass-fed beef more expensive?

Sharon: On average, grass-fed beef costs about $2.50 to $3.00 more per pound — and that’s mainly because we typically need at least a year longer to grow grass-fed cattle to maturity. This extra time increases feed and labor expenses. The extra cost has nothing to do with the nutrient profile of the meat.

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CornsTalk is a newsletter produced by the Nebraska Corn Board that covers important subjects and provides regular updates on various programs of interest to corn growers and others.