Grass Fed – Is it Better For Your Gut?

If we eat meat or if we’re plant-based but still eat dairy products, it’s worth being up to speed on the different ways animals are reared on farms. It’s not just for interest or because we care about animal welfare. We need to buy the right kind of meat and/or dairy if we’re serious about fixing our gut.

If we buy ‘regular’ meat or dairy it means the animal it comes from was probably reared in intensive, industrial farming conditions and quite possibly finished on a feedlot, a place where hundreds or thousands of animals are penned tightly together and fed a cocktail of agrochemicals to gain weight as fast as possible.

Cruel Conditions

Cows, for example, are fed grain in these feedlots, which is not their normal food but helps to make them fat. These conditions also make them sick so they need antibiotics. In the US (but not currently in UK) cows are also given growth hormones.

A grass fed cow lives outside in the fresh air and eats grass. The equivalent for pigs and chickens is ‘outdoor reared’.

The question for today is which is better for gut-healing, industrial or outdoor-reared, or are they the same?

This debate raises important ethical considerations about the treatment of animals but that’s not the focus of this post. I personally feel extremely uncomfortable about the way animals are treated in industrial farms, but I also recognise that food needs to be produced at an affordable price. We all need to keep food on the family table without blowing our monthly food budget apart.

Gut Irritants

However in terms of which is better for our gut, there’s no contest. Outdoor-reared animals have a very different nutrient profile to industrial. They contain much higher levels of important nutrients and much lower levels of harmful toxins.

Meat from industrially-reared animals contains the residue of antibiotics that were fed to them, and as we know, antibiotics upset the delicate balance of friendly bacteria in our gut.

Industrial meat also contains residues of pesticides and herbicides. These irritate our gut. Animals in the US are also fed genetically modified crops and growth hormones, which can further upset our own internal ecosystem.

The big food manufacturers state confidently that the levels of these contaminants in our meat are safe for us. While they might be relatively safe for the average person, these contaminants are not ok for us while we’re struggling with gut problems. They irritate the inflamed gut lining and disrupt our already-unhappy microbiome.

Also, if we have leaky gut these little molecules of high-tech agrochemicals pass more easily into our bodies, where they cause more damage and inflammation.

It’s true that ‘grass-fed’ has become a Paleo buzzword that you might well be skeptical about, but if our gut is in bad shape and our budget allows, grass-fed is definitely the best choice.

What if we’re plant-based but eat dairy?

If we follow a plant-based diet and eat some diary products such as milk, cheese or yogurt, we still need to be aware of whether these products come from a grass-fed herd of cattle or an industrially raised herd.

This is because the residue of all those gut-bothering toxins – pesticides, herbicides, hormones and antibiotics – pass through the cows’ bodies and into the milk.

If you’re not sure whether or not diary products are helping your get, check out Should I Stop Eating Dairy?

Animal-based collagen supplements

Another time to consider grass-fed is when we’re choosing a collagen supplement. Collagen is a kind of gluey protein that humans and other animals produce inside their bodies to construct bones, skin and all sorts of connective tissues.

Collagen is also believed to be an important building block in our gut wall. For that reason it’s frequently taken as a supplement by folks with chronic leaky gut. Supplements generally come in the form of collagen extracted from chickens, cows or fish.

If you’d like to try this supp, the best kind is sourced from grass-fed cows, for all the reasons mentioned in this article!

Animal-based collagen supplements

If you’re plant-based and don’t like the idea of taking a supplement derived from an animal, don’t worry, there are plenty of other ways to boost your gut-healing progress.

How To Find Grass-Fed Meat And Dairy

It takes a little extra effort to find grass-fed meat but it’s totally worth it. So where do we find it?

Outdoor-reared meat and dairy products are generally not available in typical supermarkets so head over to a health store, butchers or local farmers’ market. Ask your butcher where their meat comes from, or look up the brand of meat yourself.

Here’s where it gets confusing…Organic meat is not the same as grass-fed or outdoor-reared. For example, organic cattle might be fed organic grain rather than actual grass.

So being organic is less important than being outdoor-reared (grass-fed in the case of beef). But organic is still a much better option than regular meat. This applies to both meat and diary products

By the way, avoid products with meaningless or misleading labels like ‘farm fresh’, ‘country fresh’, ‘natural’ or ‘corn-fed’.

Where does ‘free range’ fit into this? Free range animals are slightly better off than their most intensively farmed brothers but they can still be in an overcrowded barn with no natural light, poor air quality, being overfed GM corn with no access to the outdoors.


Whenever you’re ready to become a fully-fledged Gut Geek™ here are 4 ways we can help you heal your gut, get your sh*t together and transform your health

1. Subscribe to receive regular strategies and hacks that you can use TODAY

All our blogposts and social media are focused on bringing simplicity to the baffling world of nutrition and supplements. We also provide easy-peasy action steps that you can use to start seeing immediate improvement. Subscribe to get the very best of our content straight to your inbox!

2. Follow our daily social posts and video stories religiously

Our content is produced in a combination of written posts and video stories, all neatly tied together around the topic of the week. This gives you constant learning in manageable, bite-sized chunks.

3. Join us for a live online workshop

Head to our workshop registration page for info on our next free online training, and get ready to geek out

4. Join our coaching program

There’s nothing like 1-on-1 coaching to massively accelerate your progress and achieve the results you dream about! We’ll create your very own personalised gut-healing roadmap and then guide you through it. Just send us a message telling us a little about your current challenges and what you’d most like help with and we’ll get right back to you.

23 thoughts on “Grass Fed – Is it Better For Your Gut?”

  1. Very informative, I wish more grass fed options were available close to me, I have only ever found it at artisanal butchers.

  2. blair villanueva

    We have sheep on our farm and they freely roam around to eat grass. Their meat is much tastier than those sheep artificial alternatives.

  3. Some really good information from you. We have a farm in my parents land and they’re firm believers in organic hey for their cattle.

  4. I’m a bit worrying right now. I am not sure if the meat I buy at the market/grocery are grass-fed or not. I do know how to spot if they’re fresh or not. Thank you for this informative post, I learned something new today.

  5. I’ve always noticed that grass fed cows tastes better. We are meat eaters but we always choose environment friendly raised animals to eliminate the intake and impact of pesticides and what not.

  6. Thanks for this great information. I don’t know if the cows here in japan are grass-fed, I have to ask around as this post got me curious about what kind of meat I should be eating.

  7. I am a vegetarian but never been tried a grass fed before. But looking forward to try it, seems healthy and good.

  8. Grass fed all the way! I try to be vegetarian but when I do use dairy I try to aim for the most natural process as possible. Great post!

  9. I am a vegetarian but I make sure to but grass fed dairy products. So true that people pay more attention to organic food than grass fed. Organic is good for vegetables but when it comes to meat and dairy grass fed is more important.

  10. Yes! I absolutely agree that grass-fed is best. I actually have my own cows because I believe so strongly in this. Still, it is difficult to find organic hay (dried grass-necessary to feed in Winter as the green grass goes dormant). The nutrient content in our grass-fed milk is actually visible. Our butter is bright yellow because of the high levels of beta-carotene.
    We free-range our chickens as well and our eggs have deep orange yolks and are so much tastier than store-bought.

  11. my mom keeps talking about this book called Grain Brain ( where it talks about something similar, except it’s talks about how the non-grass fed beef is bad for your brain and that the fat in grass-fed beef is somehow chemically different and better for you

Let us know what you think

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share this article

Help spread the word! Every share matters.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on whatsapp
Share on linkedin

Other recent blog posts

Simple Gut-Friendly Foods

If we’re looking to fix our gut – and keep it healthy in the long run – we must restore our balance of friendly gut bugs while simultaneously healing our gut lining. Here are some simple ideas to help with this process.

What Is My Microbiome And Why Does It Matter?

A massive shift in our understanding of human biology has happened since the turn of the 21st century. We have discovered that the bacteria inside us are vital for how our body works and without them we get sick, fat and depressed.

Leaky Brain: Astonishing New Discovery

While knowledge of ‘leaky gut’ is gradually entering the mainstream, the closely related condition of ‘leaky brain’ is only just beginning to gain recognition.

Fix Your Gut to Fix Your Weight: 6 Dead-Easy Steps

There’s a big piece of the weight loss puzzle that you may not have considered: your gut bugs, also known as your microbiome. More and more studies are linking an unhealthy microbiome to being overweight.

7 Stress Busting, Gut Soothing Strategies

Our bodies aren’t build for the near-constant, low-level stress that seems unavoidable in modern life, and our gut in particular suffers as a result. We dive into 7 effective strategies that can help you turn things around.