What Is the Difference Between Grass-Fed and Grass-Finished Beef?

Grass-fed beef is becoming a more recognizable term when shopping for meat. But there’s some confusion between the definitions grass-fed and grass-finished. If grass-fed beef describes meat from cattle that ate grass, what does the term “grass-finished” mean? Don’t they both mean the same thing? Not quite.Simply put, grass-finished beef comes from cattle that ate nothing but grass and forage for their entire lives. Grass-fed, on the other hand, may be used to label meat from cattle that have that were started on a grass diet but have either received supplemental grain feed or are finished on a fully grain-based diet. Many “grass-fed” cows spend the last few months of their lives eating grain in feedlots to help them quickly gain weight before going to slaughter. Cattle are not required to have a full grass-fed diet in order to get the grass-fed label on your beef’s packaging. Moreover, “grass-fed” cows are not necessarily pasture-raised.

Verde Farms signature line is 100% organic, grass-fed and grass-finished beef. Our Never Ever line (no antibiotics, EVER) is also 100% grass-fed and grass-finished. There are several reasons to choose grass-fed and grass-finished beef, including a number of significant health benefits. Grass-finished beef is 20% lower in calories than grain-finished beef and has higher levels of Omega-3 fatty acids, CLA’s (Conjugated Linoleic Acid — an essential fatty acid that fights cancer and inhibits body fat), and Vitamins A and E.

We support sustainable farming practices that prioritize animal welfare. ALL of Verde Farms cattle are 100% pasture-raised, with no feedlots EVER. In fact, a Verde Farms cow could graze in an area the size of a football field. Compare that to a US feedlot where cattle live in confined pens that house between 100 – 125 animals and allow 125 – 250 square feet per animal. Our cattle are never given growth hormones. Verde Farms is truly free range beef.

So if consuming grass-finished beef is important to you, it’s good to know the distinction between these two terms when shopping for it. Grass-finished beef may be marketed as grass-fed beef, but not vice versa. We offer only grass-fed and grass-finished beef options – so more consumers can access a better for you, better for the planet, better for the animal, and better for the farmer alternative to conventional beef.


  1. Steve Campbell says:

    Pamela, thank you for putting the distinction into words. The data out there suggests Grass-Fed is above 6% of all beef marketings in the US. Grass-fed and grass finished is a smaller percentage. Over half of the grass-fed beef marketed in the US comes from overseas.

    In the the next 5-8 years the forecast is for grass-fed to become 30% of all beef marketings in the US. I believe 3/4 of this increase in grass-fed marketings will simply be a relabeling of what we are currently doing in the feedlot system. As you point out, virtually all beef animals start out on grass and then the vast majority are finished in a feedlot.

    In the interest of “show me the money” some of the feedlot beef will start using grass-fed as a marketing tool to capture some of the health dollars that grass and Omega 3’s offer, yet the product will fall short of the truly grass-finished product. If more people like yourself will continue to write on this subject, the consumer will be more likely to get the health benefits of a truly grass-fed and grass-finished beef product.

    I don’t mean to say all grass-finished beef is an excellent eating experience. Phenotype of the animal, glandular function and butterfat of your herd, development of the rumen of the calves before weaning, vitamin/mineral content of the grasses, grazing methods and livestock handling (to name a few areas) all play a big part in how well animals will perform on an all forage diet.

    Thank you for your blog!

  2. Steve Campbell says:

    To be fair, some producers are selling a product labeled as grass-fed and never feeding any grain during the life of that animal. That is Grass-fed and Grass-finished.
    Know your farmer.

    “Caveat Emptor” Let the buyer beware.

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