Because the feeding of cows considerably influences the nutritional value of the milk they produce, grass-fed butter is becoming increasingly popular (Couvreur et al. 20061).
What Is Grass-Fed Butter?
Butter is pure animal fat with only small traces of milk proteins and sugar. Hence, it’s a staple on my low-carb food list.
Nowadays, I think that we all agree that the nutritional content of meat depends very much on feeding the animal. The same applies to butter.
Especially people who have recognized the importance of healthy fats in their diet are crazy about butter. There are several reasons why the followers of the paleo or keto diet swear on grass-fed butter.
On the one hand, hardly any other natural food has been so demonized by negative propaganda over decades. On the other hand, butter tastes heavenly and fits almost everywhere.
Why Is Grass-Fed Butter Healthy?
Butter is made by buttering fresh cream from cow’s milk. The butter (or fat) separates naturally from the buttermilk during the buttering process.
Moreover, you need milk from grass-fed grazing cows to produce grass-fed butter.
Grass-fed cows can graze on green, grassy pastures, their best nutrition source. Since cows are physiologically suitable for this type of feeding, grass-fed milk is necessary to make the best butter.
Because those cows are fed on the grass in summer and hay in winter, grass-fed milk is often called hay milk. Moreover, they produce grass-fed cream, which can then be processed into grass-fed butter.
Since March 2018, the designation „hay-milk“has been protected by the label “traditional specialty guaranteed” (g. t. S.) in the European Union.
Furthermore, the terms “Heumilch”/ “Latte fieno”/“Lait de foin”/“Leche de heno” are also part of this protection.
Therefore, feedstuffs preserved by fermentation, such as silage, fermenting hay, or moist grass, are prohibited for so-called hay-milk butter in Europe.
Unfortunately, the addition of grains is permitted to a small extent. Moreover, the following roughage may be used when designated as hay milk:
- Green rape
- Green rye
- Fodder beet
- Hay and corn pellets
Although these rules are not yet ideal for grass-fed butter, they are a big step in the right direction. This production standard provides a certain degree of security that is probably unavailable outside Europe.
Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean you can’t get high-quality grass-fed butter elsewhere. Its dark yellow texture is the easiest way to identify a grass-fed butter. It might even be an orange tone for super nutrient-dense grass-fed butter.
In contrast, cows that cannot feed on the grass in a pasture have to eat commercial feedstuff. And that usually consists of the following elements:
- Corn and soy (mainly GMO)
- Other starchy foods
- Waste products from:
- Industrial vegetable oil producers
Cows are like people: What they eat can make all the difference. For this reason, grass-fed butter is packed with health benefits.
Grass contains many phytonutrients, one of which is beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A. Therefore, it is the same antioxidant found in carrots.
Because of this diet, the difference between grass-fed milk and regular milk is also significant.
Grass-Fed vs. Regular Butter
Due to its appearance, you can already recognize the difference between grain-fed and grass-fed butter. While grain-fed butter is light yellow or white, grass-fed butter is rich yellow.
Hence, grass-fed butter scores better in consumer studies than grain-fed butter in taste and appearance (O‘Callaghan et al. 20162).
But cows that eat fresh green grass also improve the nutrients in butter (Couvreur et al. 20063).
Besides the difference between butter made from grass-fed and grain-fed milk, there are other terminologies that we should look at more closely.
Grass-Fed vs. Full Cream Butter
Full cream or whole milk is regular unskimmed milk. Due to its high-fat content, it’s still the best version of regular milk you can get in the supermarket.
Although whole milk does not have the same disadvantages for blood sugar and insulin levels as skimmed milk, the animals are still fed conventionally.
Accordingly, the nutrient profile of grass-fed butter is far superior to that of full cream butter.
Pasture-Raised vs. Grass-Fed
The terms grass-fed and pasture-raised differ substantially in their objectives:
- Grass-fed refers to the cows’ food – as mentioned before, they should eat as much green grass, herbs, and hay as possible
- On the other hand, pasture-raised refers to how the cows are kept – they should spend as much time as possible in a pasture
Moreover, pasture milk is not legally protected as a designation in Europe, unlike the term hay milk for grass-fed milk.
I prefer grass-fed butter because I believe feeding the animals in a way appropriate to their species is a better guarantee of health benefits than how they are kept.
We will dig into the health benefits of grass-fed butter later.
Organic vs. Grass-Fed
Organic is not the same as grass-fed. Although organic butter is pesticide-free, organic farmers don’t need to feed their cows on grasses and herbs. Therefore, they usually won’t since it’s tied to effort and expenses.
If you want nutritious butter, the designation as organic butter will not be enough. Why?
Even though feed that is not appropriate for the species is grown organically, it is still the wrong feed.
So the cow can still be fattened exclusively on concentrated feed such as GMO soy or corn to maximize profits at the expense of nutrients.
After all, you don’t want to be fattened up as quickly as possible with the resulting products, do you?
However, if the grass-fed butter also bears an organic label, there is no harm in that – quite the contrary!
Clarified Grass-Fed Butter
To produce clarified butter, you must heat it until it melts. Afterward, it can cool and settle. Then you must skim the top layer of whey protein and carefully pour off the butterfat.
What remains is casein protein. In this way, butter is clarified from proteins and is, therefore, easier to digest. Therefore, clarified butter is also better suited for frying.
While any butter can be clarified, grass-fed clarified butter is the most beneficial for your health.
Ghee vs. Grass-Fed Butter
Ghee is pure butterfat that has been melted and freed from all lactose and milk proteins.
Therefore, ghee is ultra-clarified butter. Ghee has a nutty taste since the temperature is high enough to boil the water and brown the dry milk mass.
Moreover, ghee is pretty shelf-stable and can be kept for up to one year. Primarily in India, ghee was used as a traditional fat for frying.
For this reason, you will easily find ghee in Indian grocery stores. But there, you will most likely not be able to find grass-fed ghee.
Ghee is 100% pure fat and free of milk proteins and lactose.
Accordingly, grass-fed ghee is the premium version of grass-fed butter for cooking. Due to the absence of milk protein, ghee is also the better option for a sensitive gut.
Furthermore, it can be heated higher and is therefore ideal for frying. So if you can get grass-fed ghee, go for it!
What Are the Benefits of Grass-Fed Butter?
The main benefit of grass-fed butter is its much higher nutrient density than conventional butter. Therefore, grass-fed butter is deep yellow, whereas grain-fed butter is white and waxy.
The full color of grass-fed butter is mainly due to the vitamin A and beta-carotene it contains. Besides A, hay-milk butter contains K and E vitamins (*).
1. Vitamin A
Vitamin A is fat-soluble and is considered an essential vitamin. Therefore you have to absorb it through food, as the body cannot produce it.
A single tablespoon of grass-fed butter contains about 10% of the recommended daily vitamin A dose.
Furthermore, vitamin A improves vision, reproduction, and immune function.
As it plays a vital role in physical development, it forms and maintains teeth, bones, and skin (Gilbert 20134).
2. Vitamin K2
Although few people know about vitamin K2, it is an essential nutrient.
You will primarily find Vitamin K2 in fermented foods and animal products like grass-fed butter.
During fermentation in the cow’s stomach, vitamin K1 from kale, spinach, or grasses is converted into vitamin K2.
Although vitamin K2 is less common in the diet, it is vital for overall health. In like manner, it plays a crucial role in your bone and heart health (Maresz 20155).
Moreover, studies found that Vitamin K2 can reduce plaque in the arteries and prevent its formation (Barrett et al. 20186).
Also, it helps the body to use calcium properly and effectively.
Furthermore, Vitamin K2 helps support bone health by signaling bones to absorb more calcium. As a result, people who consume more vitamin K2 tend to suffer fewer bone fractures (Gajic-Veljanoski et al. 20127).
According to a population study with almost 5000 participants, vitamin K2 reduces the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by a whopping 50% (Geleijnse et al. 20048).
Another benefit of grass-fed butter is that it’s packed with carotenoids.
Your body can convert beta-carotene into vitamin A as required. Grass-fed butter has a higher beta-carotene content than grain-fed butter.
For example, a recent study suggests that butter from 100% grass-fed milk has the highest beta-carotene content, while butter from grain-fed cows has the lowest (O‘Callaghan et al. 20169).
Moreover, beta-carotene is a well-known and effective antioxidant. Antioxidants help to protect cells from potential damage caused by unstable molecules known as free radicals (Hunyadi 201910).
Besides, further studies suggest that a higher intake of foods rich in beta-carotene can reduce the risk of age-related chronic diseases, cancer, and diabetes (Bohn 201811).
4. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Food must supply food because the body cannot produce these essential polyunsaturated fatty acids. Therefore, omega-3 fatty acids are crucial. They also have the following properties (Kunesova et al. 200613; Mater et al. 199914):
- Reducing inflammation
- Acting as building blocks of cell membranes
- Working as a transmitter between cell receptors
- Fostering the production of hormones regulating blood clotting
- Helping to contract and relax blood vessel walls
- Increasing basal metabolic rate
- Helping to burn body fat more efficiently
5. Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)
Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a unique fat. Although it is a trans fatty acid, it is all-natural and exceptionally beneficial to health.
Unlike harmful trans fats, processed in industrial barrels by hydrogenation of vegetable oil to make disgusting butter substitutes and margarine, CLA forms in the digestive systems of grass-fed cows, goats, and sheep.
According to studies, conjugated linoleic acid helps reduce body fat and maintain muscle mass (McCrorie et al. 201115).
Furthermore, you do not need additional exercise or change eating habits to achieve this effect (Gaullier et al. 200716).
Grass-fed dairy contains about six times more conjugated linoleic acid than grain-fed dairy (Dhiman et al. 199917).
Moreover, it is not only dairy products that contain conjugated linoleic acids when fed appropriately but also the meat itself.
6. Saturated Fatty Acids
Grass-fed butter is one of the best dairy products with healthy fats. Especially if you follow a healthy-fat low-carb diet like the keto diet, grass-fed butter is a staple.
Since butter is almost pure fat, it contains no carbohydrates, sugar, or protein. Additionally, most of the fatty acids are saturated.
Contrary to popular belief, saturated fatty acids are not fundamentally unhealthy but protect against and promote cardiovascular disease (Mozaffarian et al. 200418).
Although the myth that saturated fats are fundamentally bad is long outdated, it remains persistent.
Studies show that sugar and artificial trans fats have been responsible for bad cholesterol profiles, high blood pressure, and heart disease, rather than natural fats (Mauger et al. 200319).
Moreover, predominantly saturated fats such as grass-fed butter or coconut oil can help you lose weight due to their fat profile.
Milk is the most complex of all natural fats, consisting of more than 80% pure fat and containing 400 fatty acids (Mansson 200820).
Butyrates are the esters or salts of butyric acid. Also, they are short-chain fatty acids that your gut bacteria can consume to grow and improve gut health.
Also, they can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (Chambers et al. 201821).
Since butyrate does not require digestive enzymes or bile production to work, your body absorbs and uses them more quickly. Thus, butyrate:
- Boost your energy level
- Contribute to a healthy digestion
The Bottom Line
Sometimes there are clear winners and losers in life.
When comparing grass-fed vs. grain-fed butter, feeding with natural grasses yields more benefits:
- More antioxidants
- Higher-quality fatty acids
- More Vitamins
Besides, I think you can taste the grass-fed difference. So, there is not much more to say. Get a source of grass-fed butter you trust and reap the health benefits!
Furthermore, hardly any other food makes adding extra healthy fats and flavor to dishes as easy.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Can grass fed butter help you lose weight?
Due to the premium content of omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid, grass-fed butter 🧈 can help you lose weight.
Why is grass fed butter better than regular butter?
Due to its higher content of vitamins, carotenoids, and omega-3 fatty acids, grass-fed butter 🧈 is way more nutritious than regular butter.
Is grass fed butter bad for your heart?
Quite the opposite! Studies suggest that grass-fed butter 🧈 reduces the risk of heart disease 💓.
Does grass fed butter clog arteries?
Grass-fed butter 🧈 does not clog arteries since it’s a superior natural fat with a higher-quality lipid profile. The easiest way to clog arteries is to consume many industrially processed vegetable oil and sugar.
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Stephan is a writer and a true man of science, holding multiple diplomas and master's degrees in different research areas. His greatest passion is closing the gap between the conventional perception of health and the latest scientific evidence – always following the data.