Choices of Beef

Cows Grazing

There are just over one million beef farmers and ranchers across the United States. They often use the diverse local resources readily available to produce nutritious, safe and delicious beef. At the supermarket, you’ve likely seen a variety of different labels on beef, like “natural” or “grass-fed.” What do these claims really mean? Farmers and ranchers raise beef in a variety of different ways, which means you have choices when you get to the grocery store or restaurant.

Let’s explore the different beef options

Grass VS. Grain

Grass-Finished or Grass-Fed Beef comes from cattle that....

  • Spend their whole lives eating grass or forage
  • May also eat grass, forage, hay or silage at a feedyard
  • May or may not be given FDA-approved antibiotics to treat, prevent or control disease and/or growth-promoting hormones 

Grain-Finished (most beef is raised this way and likely doesn’t have a specific label claim) Beef comes from cattle that…

  • Spend the majority of their lives eating grass or forage
  • Spend 4-6 months at the feedyard eating a balanced diet of grains, local feed ingredients, like potato hulls or sugar beets, and hay or forage
  • May or may not be given U.S. Food and Drug Adminstration (FDA)-approved antibiotics to treat, prevent or control disease and/or growth-promoting hormones 


Beef Choices

Now that we’ve explored what these labels mean, let’s address the real nutritional difference in grass- and grain-finished beef. Many news articles make the (incorrect) claim that grass-fed beef is better for you than grain-fed beef. What cattle eat can have a moderate effect on the nutrient content of the beef we enjoy, but most experts agree that the overall nutrition and high-quality protein are the same from all beef choices.

Grain finished vs grass finished beef


For more than 150 years, America’s farmers and ranchers have been producing safe and delicious steaks, roasts and ground beef to nourish families through all of life stages. And each year, the goal has been to continually improve – by staying abreast of the latest nutrition science and research. You can feel good about enjoying your favorite steak, roast or burger, knowing that the beef community is constantly working to better understand the nutritional attributes of beef and the role of beef in a healthy diet.