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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.


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

    1. I dont eat diary products as I am lactose intolerant. But yes meat I do. The list you have mentioned will be helpful to me next time I’m out for grocery shopping.

  1. Wow I didn’t know that there’s still a difference between grass-fed and industrially raced animals. It’s really important to know this stuff especially if we want to take care of our gut. Thanks for this helpful article!

  2. there is so much we don’t know and reading this article again highlighted the importance of what we pick from the stores based on the reassuring labels on the covers thanks fo this article

  3. I agree with you and now that we are facing so many problems with the food supply, we have to choose carefully, and really look into where the food is from. – Knycx Journeying

  4. I rarely eat beef anymore. Partly because I know it not necessary for us to eat it, but mostly because I know it is the worst industry in the world for the environment.

  5. This is such a good point that I haven’t really taken into consideration before. I will do that now — it only makes sense to look for grass-fed products. I need to do that with our dairy as well. Thank you for these tips — this is really helpful!

  6. I am a total cheese addict and find it hard to let go of dairy, maybe I should be looking into it! Great post and great read. I really find these posts very informative.

  7. Very informative, grass fed meat is more expensive but tastes better and has less waste (so I’m told). Free range eggs taste nicer – I would never eat battery farm eggs, the conditions the birds are kept in are cruel

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

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. Thanks for sharing this very informative post about grass fed meat and it’s effects. Good read.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

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

  16. Ever since i watched game changers in netflix I started to eat more plant based meals. But it is so hard to quit milk and cheese

  17. 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!

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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

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