7 Grass-Fed Butter Benefits That Are Good for Your Health

This article is based on scientific studies

Definition | Other Butter vs. Grass-Fed Butter | Benefits | Conclusion | FAQ | Studies

Due to the fact that feeding cows has a considerable influence on 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 substantially 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 the feeding of 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.

How to Make Grass-Fed Butter

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, which are the best source of nutrition for them. Since cows are physiologically suitable for this type of feeding, grass-fed milk is necessary to make the best butter.

Because those cows are feed 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.

Hay-Milk

Since March 2018, the designation „hay-milk“ is protected by the label “traditional speciality 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 hay 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 not available outside Europe.

Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean you can’t get high-quality grass-fed butter elsewhere. The easiest way to identify a grass-fed butter is by its dark yellow texture. 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 feed on commercial feedstuff. And that usually consists of the following elements:

  • Antibiotics
  • Hormones
  • Corn and soy (mainly GMO)
  • Grain
  • Other starchy foods
  • Waste products from:
    • Industrial vegetable oil producers
    • Breweries
    • Distilleries

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 Butter vs. 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 has a rich yellow color.

Hence, grass-fed butter also scores better in consumer studies than grain-fed butter in both 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 Butter 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.

grass-fed cattle grazing

Pasture-Raised vs. Grass-Fed Butter

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
  • Pasture-raised, on the other hand, refers to the way the cows are kept – they should spend as much time as possible in a pasture

Moreover, unlike the term hay milk for grass-fed milk, pasture milk is not legally protected as a designation in Europe.

I prefer grass-fed butter because I believe that feeding the animals in a way that is appropriate to their species is a better guarantee for health benefits than the way there are kept.

We will dig into the health benefits of grass-fed butter later.

Organic vs. Grass-Fed Butter Benefits

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, most times, they won’t since it’s tied to effort and expenses.

If you want a 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

In the production of clarified butter, you must heat the butter until it melts. Afterward, it can cool and settle. Then you must skim off the top layer of whey protein and pour off the butterfat carefully.

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 type of 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 out and freed from all lactose and milk proteins.

Therefore, ghee is ultra-clarified butter. Since the temperature is high enough to boil the water and brown the milk dry mass, ghee has a nutty taste.

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.

As it is 100% pure fat, ghee is not only free of milk proteins but also 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 have the opportunity to get grass-fed ghee, go for it!

Health Benefits of Grass-Fed Butter

The main benefit of grass-fed butter is that it has a much higher nutrient density compared to 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 also contains D, 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 dose of vitamin A.

Furthermore, vitamin A improves vision, reproduction, and immune function.

As it plays a vital role in physical development, it is involved in the formation and maintenance of 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 such as 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 your 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).

grass-fed butter has more benefits

3. Beta-Carotene

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 one (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

Compared to grain-fed butter, grass-fed butter shows higher concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids (Hebeisen et al. 199312).

As the body cannot produce these essential polyunsaturated fatty acids itself, they must be supplied by food. 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 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 acids (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, which are 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 to do additional exercise or change eating habits to achieve this effect (Gaullier et al. 200716).

Grass-fed dairy contains about six times as much 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, and protein. Additionally, most of the fatty acids are saturated.

Contrary to popular belief, saturated fatty acids are not fundamentally unhealthy, but rather protect against than 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 all along, 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 fat is the most complex of all natural fats as it consists of more than 80% pure fat and contains 400 different fatty acids (Mansson 200820).

7. Butyrate

Butyrate 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 do 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

Grass-Fed Butter Benefits Can Make You Healthy

Sometimes there are clear winners and losers in life.

When comparing grass-fed vs. grain-fed butter, feeding with natural grasses wins by far:

  • More antioxidants
  • Higher quality fatty acids
  • More Vitamins

Besides, I think you can simply taste the grass-fed difference. So, there is not much more to say. Get yourself a source of grass-fed butter you trust and reap the health benefits!

Furthermore, there is hardly any other food that makes it as easy to add extra healthy fats and flavor to dishes.

Grass-Fed Butter Benefits FAQ

Can grass fed butter help you lose weight?

Due to the superior 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 diseases 💓.

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 lots of industrially processed vegetable oil and sugar.

Studies

#1-7

1Couvreur S, Hurtaud C, Lopez C, Delaby L, Peyraud JL. The linear relationship between the proportion of fresh grass in the cow diet, milk fatty acid composition, and butter properties. J Dairy Sci. 2006 Jun;89(6):1956-69. doi: 10.3168/jds.S0022-0302(06)72263-9. PubMed PMID: 16702259.

2O’Callaghan TF, Faulkner H, McAuliffe S, O’Sullivan MG, Hennessy D, Dillon P, Kilcawley KN, Stanton C, Ross RP. Quality characteristics, chemical composition, and sensory properties of butter from cows on pasture versus indoor feeding systems. J Dairy Sci. 2016 Dec;99(12):9441-9460. doi: 10.3168/jds.2016-11271. Epub 2016 Oct 19. PubMed PMID: 27771086.

3Couvreur S, Hurtaud C, Lopez C, Delaby L, Peyraud JL. The linear relationship between the proportion of fresh grass in the cow diet, milk fatty acid composition, and butter properties. J Dairy Sci. 2006 Jun;89(6):1956-69. doi: 10.3168/jds.S0022-0302(06)72263-9. PubMed PMID: 16702259.

4Gilbert C. What is vitamin A and why do we need it?. Community Eye Health. 2013;26(84):65. PubMed PMID: 24782580; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3936685.

5Maresz K. Proper Calcium Use: Vitamin K2 as a Promoter of Bone and Cardiovascular Health. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2015 Feb;14(1):34-9. Review. PubMed PMID: 26770129; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4566462.

6Barrett H, O’Keeffe M, Kavanagh E, Walsh M, O’Connor EM. Is Matrix Gla Protein Associated with Vascular Calcification? A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2018 Mar 27;10(4). doi: 10.3390/nu10040415. Review. PubMed PMID: 29584693; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5946200.

7Gajic-Veljanoski O, Bayoumi AM, Tomlinson G, Khan K, Cheung AM. Vitamin K supplementation for the primary prevention of osteoporotic fractures: is it cost-effective and is future research warranted?. Osteoporos Int. 2012 Nov;23(11):2681-92. doi: 10.1007/s00198-012-1939-4. Epub 2012 Mar 8. PubMed PMID: 22398856.

#8-13

8Geleijnse JM, Vermeer C, Grobbee DE, Schurgers LJ, Knapen MH, van der Meer IM, Hofman A, Witteman JC. Dietary intake of menaquinone is associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease: the Rotterdam Study. J Nutr. 2004 Nov;134(11):3100-5. doi: 10.1093/jn/134.11.3100. PubMed PMID: 15514282.

9O’Callaghan TF, Faulkner H, McAuliffe S, O’Sullivan MG, Hennessy D, Dillon P, Kilcawley KN, Stanton C, Ross RP. Quality characteristics, chemical composition, and sensory properties of butter from cows on pasture versus indoor feeding systems. J Dairy Sci. 2016 Dec;99(12):9441-9460. doi: 10.3168/jds.2016-11271. Epub 2016 Oct 19. PubMed PMID: 27771086.

10Hunyadi A. The mechanism(s) of action of antioxidants: From scavenging reactive oxygen/nitrogen species to redox signaling and the generation of bioactive secondary metabolites. Med Res Rev. 2019 Nov;39(6):2505-2533. doi: 10.1002/med.21592. Epub 2019 May 10. Review. PubMed PMID: 31074028.

11Bohn T. Carotenoids, Chronic Disease Prevention and Dietary Recommendations. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2017 May;87(3-4):121-130. doi: 10.1024/0300-9831/a000525. Epub 2018 Dec 14. PubMed PMID: 30545279.

12Hebeisen DF, Hoeflin F, Reusch HP, Junker E, Lauterburg BH. Increased concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids in milk and platelet rich plasma of grass-fed cows. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 1993;63(3):229-33. PubMed PMID: 7905466.

13Kunesová M, Braunerová R, Hlavatý P, Tvrzická E, Stanková B, Skrha J, Hilgertová J, Hill M, Kopecký J, Wagenknecht M, Hainer V, Matoulek M, Parízková J, Zák A, Svacina S. The influence of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and very low calorie diet during a short-term weight reducing regimen on weight loss and serum fatty acid composition in severely obese women. Physiol Res. 2006;55(1):63-72. Epub 2005 Apr 26. PubMed PMID: 15857162.

#14-21

14Mater MK, Thelen AP, Pan DA, Jump DB. Sterol response element-binding protein 1c (SREBP1c) is involved in the polyunsaturated fatty acid suppression of hepatic S14 gene transcription. J Biol Chem. 1999 Nov 12;274(46):32725-32. doi: 10.1074/jbc.274.46.32725. PubMed PMID: 10551830.

15McCrorie TA, Keaveney EM, Wallace JM, Binns N, Livingstone MB. Human health effects of conjugated linoleic acid from milk and supplements. Nutr Res Rev. 2011 Dec;24(2):206-27. doi: 10.1017/S0954422411000114. Review. PubMed PMID: 22296934.

16Gaullier JM, Halse J, Høivik HO, Høye K, Syvertsen C, Nurminiemi M, Hassfeld C, Einerhand A, O’Shea M, Gudmundsen O. Six months supplementation with conjugated linoleic acid induces regional-specific fat mass decreases in overweight and obese. Br J Nutr. 2007 Mar;97(3):550-60. doi: 10.1017/S0007114507381324. PubMed PMID: 17313718.

17Dhiman TR, Anand GR, Satter LD, Pariza MW. Conjugated linoleic acid content of milk from cows fed different diets. J Dairy Sci. 1999 Oct;82(10):2146-56. doi: 10.3168/jds.S0022-0302(99)75458-5. PubMed PMID: 10531600.

18Mozaffarian D, Rimm EB, Herrington DM. Dietary fats, carbohydrate, and progression of coronary atherosclerosis in postmenopausal women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Nov;80(5):1175-84. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/80.5.1175. PubMed PMID: 15531663; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC1270002.

19Mauger JF, Lichtenstein AH, Ausman LM, Jalbert SM, Jauhiainen M, Ehnholm C, Lamarche B. Effect of different forms of dietary hydrogenated fats on LDL particle size. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 Sep;78(3):370-5. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/78.3.370. PubMed PMID: 12936917.

20Månsson HL. Fatty acids in bovine milk fat. Food Nutr Res. 2008;52. doi: 10.3402/fnr.v52i0.1821. Epub 2008 Jun 11. PubMed PMID: 19109654; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2596709.

21Chambers ES, Preston T, Frost G, Morrison DJ. Role of Gut Microbiota-Generated Short-Chain Fatty Acids in Metabolic and Cardiovascular Health. Curr Nutr Rep. 2018 Dec;7(4):198-206. doi: 10.1007/s13668-018-0248-8. Review. PubMed PMID: 30264354; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6244749.

Mag. Stephan Lederer, Bakk., MSc

Stephan is a writer and a true man of science holding multiple diplomas and master degrees among different areas of research. Closing the gap between the conventional perception of health and the latest scientific evidence is his greatest analytical passion – always following the data.

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