Grass-fed beef has more beta-carotene, vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids than beef produced using conventional feeding strategies.

That’s according to a research review by the University of California Cooperative Ex-tension and California State University, Chico. Researchers reviewed 55 articles and other information. They concluded that ranchers who produce grass-fed beef may right-fully claim the product is more healthful than conventionally produced meat.

Compared with cattle finished on grain, grass-fed animals have leaner, less tender meat that contains higher nutrient levels. It also can bring higher prices.

“Grass-fed hamburger meat sells for about $1 more a pound,” says Glenn Nader, farm advisor in Sutter and Yuba counties. “Steaks are sold at about double the normal price, or about $7 more per pound than ordinary beef.”

However, because of the higher cost, the market is limited to a certain type of con-sumer.

“These products sell in natural-food stores that attract high-income, health-conscious consumers,” says Nader. “We don’t think grass-fed beef is a wave of the future. It represents a small niche market that we’re trying to make available to ranchers.”

The California researchers found that 3 oz of ground beef from grain-fed cattle contain about 41 micrograms of beta-carotene and a typical ribeye steak has 36 micrograms. Meat from cattle fattened predominantly on ryegrass has almost twice as much.

The amount of vitamin E in grass-raised beef is 9.3 micrograms/gram vs. 3.7 micro-grams/gram in beef from high-grain diets.

Cattle fed primarily grass have 60% more omega-3 fatty acids and a more favorable omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and help prevent heart disease and arthritis, while omega-6 promotes inflammation, blood clotting and tumor growth.

In addition, raising cattle on grass boosts the beef’s level of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which is credited with numerous health benefits.

Results of the research review are available at www.csuchico.edu/agr/grsfdbef.