Grass-fed meat and dairy products have gained popularity in the United States, based on their potential health benefits and concerns about animal welfare.
A cow’s diet affects the nutritional contents of their milk. According to some studies, grass-fed butter may have a better fat profile and texture than regular butter.
In this article, we look at the health benefits and nutrition of grass-fed butter, compared with regular butter.
Benefits of grass-fed butter
Although cows naturally eat grass, it is more cost-effective for farmers to feed their cattle grain or corn. The United States primarily produces beef from grain-fed cows, which is common in many other areas of mass production.
The food that cows eat affects the nutritional content of their milk. Some research suggests that cows that eat more grass produce milk with a better nutritional profile and more benefits than regular milk.
Grass-fed butter may provide the following benefits, compared with grain-fed butter:
A more healthful fat profile
A 2006 study looked at how the properties of milk changed, depending on how much grass the cows were eating. The researchers noticed the following:
- Grass-fed milk contained less fat. Cows that ate more grass produced more milk, but no extra fat, meaning that the fat concentration in the milk was lower.
- Grass-fed milk contained more healthful fats. The more grass a cow ate, the more unsaturated fatty acids their milk contained, at the expense of saturated fats.
Higher in omega-3 fatty acids
According to older research, from 1993, butter from cows that ate green grass contained more omega-3 fatty acids than those that ate conserved grass, such as hay. This is because green grass contains these healthful fatty acids.
The authors suggest that “Milk from grass-fed cows may be nutritionally superior to milk from cows eating conserved grass.”
Omega-3 fatty acids play important roles in heart, brain, eye, and lung health. Studies suggest that omega-3s reduce the risk of some chronic diseases, such as heart disease and cancers, though more research is needed.
Rich in CLA
Research from 1999 says that grass-fed butter is also a source of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a natural fatty acid that could be useful in promoting fat loss.
Studies show that CLA has positive effects on cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic inflammation, and diminished immune response.
According to a 2006 study, trained panelists reported that butter from cows with a higher-grass diet was likelier to melt in the mouth, a texture that many people find pleasant.
This may result from grass-fed butter having a lower melting temperature than regular butter and a different composition of fats.
Can butter be healthful?
A person can include grass-fed butter in a healthful diet.
Despite fears over the negative effects that butter — as a food high in saturated fats — can have on health, some believe that eating grass-fed butter in moderation is healthful.
However, like other animal products, even grass-fed butter contains saturated fats, and a person should limit their intake.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommend that people restrict their consumption of foods high in saturated fats, including butter. Evidence suggests that these foods raise levels of LDL — or “bad” — cholesterol and increase the risk of heart disease.
The AHA also recommend that people replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats. Grass-fed butter contains a higher percentage of unsaturated fats than regular butter, which may make it a more healthful option, in moderation.
Eating lots of butter, grass-fed or otherwise, may also contribute to weight gain, especially when a person pairs it refined carbohydrates and sugars. People consuming butter should balance their diets accordingly to support their health.
Regular butter and grass-fed butter have different nutritional compositions, and grass-fed butter has many beneficial nutritional components that can help promote health.
Grass-fed butter can be healthful in limited amounts. When a person uses butter, it is important to consider the contents and balance the diet accordingly.