Grass fed and grain fed

Grass feeding

The majority of cattle in Australia are raised on natural pastures and are considered grass fed. Some cattle are fed grain during poor seasons or to meet market specifications. These are known as grain fed.

Grass feeding

In Australia the majority of cattle and sheep are raised on natural pastures and this meat is described as ‘grass fed’, ‘pasture fed’ or ‘free range’. The breed type, as well as changes in seasons, can influence the style and quality of beef and lamb produced on grass. 

Livestock grazed on pastures absorb a pigment from the grass called carotene, which can result in fat that has a yellowish tone. This has no effect on the eating quality; however some markets express a preference for a whiter colour. 

It is said that grass fed meat has a complex flavour due to a varied pastoral diet.

In Australia, at any one point in time, approximately 97% of cattle are located in a grass fed environment.


Grain feeding

Cattle are generally grain fed because the quality of grass at certain times of the year or during poor seasons (such as droughts) is such that it doesn’t contain enough nutrients for the cattle to grow to required weights. In addition, grain feeding cattle increases the red meat industry’s ability to produce a consistent product – yield, quality and supply.    

In Australia, at any one point in time, approximately 3% of cattle are being grain fed. To be classified as grain fed cattle need to be fed more than 60 days.

Grain fed beef tends to have brighter white fat, more marbling in meat than grass fed beef resulting in a more buttery flavour.  This marbling is a result of the type of feed cattle receive during their time in the feedlot as well as the breed of cattle being fed.  

Grain assisted

There is no agreed definition for grain assisting yet, however some farmers will supplement the grass diet of their cattle with grain fed to them in the paddock.


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From The Community

Beryl Switch
Dec 15, 2014 #

Beryl Switch replied
Dec 15, 2014

Thanks so much, this is just what I need to know when shopping for beef.

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Monika Courtney
Dec 14, 2014 #

Thanks, great info!

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Beryl Switch
Dec 12, 2014 #

What colour is the fat of the grain fed beef?

Beef and Lamb replied
Dec 12, 2014

Hi Beryl, in Australia you will generally find that grass fed beef has creamy white coloured fat while grain fed beef fat will take on a brighter white colour. This is influenced by the predominate feed source of the cattle.

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