Grass-Fed Butter Nutrition & 5 Health Benefits
Most industry- and government-funded pseudoscientists are in agreement that too much butter will cause health problems.
Guess what? They’re wrong.
Grass-Fed Butter is a nutrient dense superfood.
In this article, you’ll learn the truth about grass-fed butter.
Keep reading to learn the difference between grass-fed and grain-fed butter, detailed nutrition facts and why grass fed butter needs to be a part of your diet.
Table of Contents
What is Grass Fed Butter? Grass Fed vs. Grain Fed
Grass-fed butter is made when butter eats grass…Okay, no it’s not. Butter is magical, but its limits start there.
Butter comes from raw milk or heavy cream. It’s made by churning milk or cream until the water separates out from the fat and milk solids.
This healthy and delicious fat source goes back over 10,000 years ago to the time when humans first domesticated animals [*].
Grass-fed butter comes from the milk of grass-fed cows, who live their lives on pastures. It’s the traditional form of butter–until fairly recently, there were no grain-fed cows.
Because grass is the evolutionarily appropriate food for cows and other ruminants, these cows tend to be healthier and happier than grain-fed cows. I discuss the differences between grass-fed and grain-fed cows here.
Additionally, people rate the appearance and flavor of grass-fed butter higher than those of grain-fed [*].
But most importantly, cows fed on grass produce objectively higher-quality butter from a nutritional perspective. It contains more vitamins and antioxidants than grain-fed butter, as well as more omega-3s and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) [*][*].
According to a 2019 review from the journal Foods, cattle fed total mixed rations (TMR), which includes grain and unsaturated fats, produce milk with a lower concentration of healthy fats compared to grass-fed cows [*].
As the authors wrote,
“Significantly higher percentages of health promoting [fatty acids] have been recorded in milk fat derived from pasture feeding”
Now, what about grain-fed butter?
Grain Fed Butter
Grain-fed cows, on the other hand, live on pastures most of their lives, then they are fattened or “finished” on grains for about the final three months of their lives.
They spend the final 3-4 months of their life getting fattened up on feed lots called concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Think of these like the McDonald’s for cows…except without the Happy Meals.
CAFOs are less environmentally friendly and tend to be owned by large corporations. The cows are also less healthy, meaning they require more antibiotics and hormones to keep them alive and growing.
Given that toxins tend to bioaccumulate in the fat, I’m careful to only consume organic and grass fed fats.
Additionally, it’s also better for your local economy and the environment to buy products from grass-fed animals.
Economic and ethical issues aside, however, grain-fed butter is far better than no butter. Critics have overemphasized some of the problems associated with eating grain-fed animal foods.
However, grass-fed butter is worth the extra cost whenever you can budget it in.
Here’s why: It doesn’t cost drastically more than grain-fed butter, and it’s much better for you.
Grass-Fed Butter Nutrition Facts
A tablespoon of grass-fed butter (14 grams) contains [*]:
- 100 calories
- 11.4 grams of fat
- 7.2 grams of saturated fat
- 0 grams trans fat
- 0 grams of protein
- 0 grams of carbs
- 30 milligrams of cholesterol
- 500 iu of Vitamin A
- 0.4 milligrams of Vitamin E
- 0.8 micrograms of vitamin K (in the K2-MK4 form [*])
As you can see, butter is over 80% milk fat. The rest is water and trace amounts of milk solids, which give butter its whitish appearance.
Butter has at least 400 different fatty acids, making it the most complex naturally occurring fat [*].
Here are some of the most important fats in grass-fed butter:
- Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) (C4-C10) including butyrate
- Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) (C8-C14)
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), an omega-6 fatty acid
As you contemplate the nutritional value of butter, it’s also helpful to factor in the amount of butter you eat.
While most people consider a 14-gram tablespoon of butter to be a serving, carnivores and other low-carb, high-fat adherents can eat a lot more butter than that.
When you consider the fact that you can easily eat ten times that amount in a single day, the healthy fat, vitamin, and antioxidant content of grass-fed butter adds up fast.
Butter is a great way to up your fat content on a keto and carnivore diet.
5 Benefits of Grass-Fed Butter
#1: Full of Healthy Saturated Fat
This study pictured below depicted similar results. Saturated fat intake is negatively correlated to heart disease in Europe.
This benefit may be due to the fact that unlike mono- and poly-unsaturated fats, saturated fat tends not to oxidize easily.
Saturated fat also raises total cholesterol and HDL (so-called “good”) cholesterol [*]. Not to mention the fact that each tablespoon of butter has a whopping 30 milligrams of healthy, hormone-supporting cholesterol.
Lastly, butter is a great way to up your fat content on a ketogenic or carnivore diet. Many carnivores and keto dieters feel better when eating closer to 80% fat. Butter is a great way to get there.
To summarize, the saturated fats in grass-fed butter make it a fantastic choice for longevity, disease prevention, hormone production, and fat loss.
#2: Lots of Medium-Chain Triglycerides
When you think of medium-chain triglycerides, you probably think of coconut oil or palm oil.
While it’s true that these are the main commercial sources of MCTs, grass-fed butter has a respectable amount of medium-chain triglycerides, too.
Believe it or not, a tablespoon of grass-fed butter has over 5 grams of MCTs
Unlike most fats, MCTs passively diffuse from your gastrointestinal tract through your portal vein.
Whereas longer-chain fatty acids require bile salts to break down prior to absorbing through your lymphatic system, MCTs are easily absorbed as-is.
These qualities are the reason MCTs have some unique advantages over most other fats.
Compared to butter from cows fed grain or mixed rations, grass-fed butter contains more MCTs. According to Alothman et al (2019),
“[Cow] diets with high starch and unsaturated fat content have been associated with reduced milk fat concentrations. This reduction in milk fat concentration occurs due to the suppression of de novo synthesis of FA [fatty acids] which limits the milk fat content of short and medium chain FA but not long chain FA as the latter are readily derived from the diet ”. [*]
And unlike commercial MCT preparations, butter has an astounding 400 different fatty acids, making it a well-rounded source of other healthy fats as well[*].
#2: Packed with Vitamins and Antioxidants
Vitamins and antioxidants are a great thing (as long as they aren’t bundled with plant toxins).
And butter is just the ticket to getting enough of these essential nutrients.
- Vitamin K2 (menaquinone-4 or MK-4)
- Retinol (vitamin A)[*]
- Beta-carotene (which gives grass-fed butter its yellow color, and converts to retinol in your body)
- Alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E)
All these vitamins are important, but K2-MK4 is the most interesting of the bunch.
Keep in mind also that K2-MK4 occurs almost exclusively in animal products. So much for leafy greens!
Next up, vitamin A is essential for healthy skin.
When you eat beta-carotene, your liver converts it to retinol, the active form of vitamin A.
To accumulate sufficient retinol in your skin, you must consume beta-carotene regularly, and with fats [*]. In other words, supplements aren’t the best option, but butter is a fantastic choice.
Retinol is necessary for cell differentiation, immune system function and gene expression. With that being said, beef liver is a much more potent source of vitamin A retinol.
Last but not least, alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E) is also an antioxidant that plays key roles in the health of your central nervous system.
#3: Rich in Anti-Inflammatory Butyrate
Butter contains about 6% butyric acid and other short-chain fatty acids by weight [*].
Butyrate inhibits the NF-kappa B protein complex in your colon, reducing inflammation in your gut as well as throughout your body [*].
As a result, it decreases oxidative stress in your intestines and helps restore the integrity of your gut lining [*].
And compared to butter from cows fed grain or mixed rations, grass-fed butter contains more butyrate and short-chain fatty acids [*].
#4: High in CLA
Ruminants take the unstable fatty linoleic acids from plant foods and are able to transform them into CLA. This is nature’s magic. Ruminant fats are one of the richest sources of CLA.
CLA has a number of benefits:
- The CLA in beef tallow may protect against metastatic breast tumors. Relatively low levels of CLA are required for mice to experience these benefits. In this study, mammary tumor growth was suppressed when researchers replaced vegetable fat with beef tallow.
- Additionally, studies in rats have shown that a 10% beef tallow diet suppresses colon cancer [*]
- Weight loss
- Insulin sensitivity
Grass-fed butter has more CLA than grain-fed butter [*]
#5 Good Source of Omega 3’s
Like most grass-fed animal products, grass-fed butter contain up to ten times more omega-3 fatty acids than its grain-fed counterpart [*].
You may associate omega-3s with fatty fish and shellfish. While these are undeniably the best single source of omega-3 fatty acids, plenty of healthy populations thrive on grass-fed animal products and don’t eat fatty fish because it’s not available [*].
A tablespoon of grass-fed butter has over 100 milligrams of omega-3s, mainly from alpha-linoleic acid (ALA) [*]. Although grass-fed butter does not have DHA, when you reduce omega 6 content in your diet, the conversion process from ALA to DHA is more efficient.
Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory, and are associated with a lower risk of inflammatory conditions like heart disease and metabolic syndrome [*].
Whereas grain fed butter is higher in omega 6s and other polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) [*].
According to a 2019 paper from the peer-reviewed journal Foods,
“Pasture feeding has been demonstrated to have a positive impact on the nutrient profile of milk, increasing the content of some beneficial nutrients such as Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, vaccenic acid, and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), while reducing the levels of Omega-6 fatty acids and palmitic acid.” (emphasis added) [*]
On the other hand, balancing out your ratio by eating fewer omega-6s and more omega-3s can decrease your risk of disease and premature death [*].
Essentially, if you’re detoxing from grains and processed foods, eating more omega-3s from grass-fed butter will help your body adjust and reduce your inflammation levels.
Ghee vs. Grass-Fed Butter
Ghee and clarified butter are liquid butterfat with the milk solids removed. They’re commonly found in Indian and Southeast Asian cuisine, where they’ve been used for thousands of years.
Compared to clarified butter, ghee is heated longer to caramelize the milk solids prior to straining them out, which also removes all the moisture content and increases shelf life.
While butter is already perfect for most uses, these forms of butter have two useful advantages.
First of all, as I mentioned in the previous section, they have a higher smoke point than butter. That’s because the milk solids burn more rapidly than the liquid butterfat.
Second, nearly everyone can tolerate ghee or clarified butter. And ghee still has a very similar nutrition profile.
While a few people (probably less than one half of one percent) with severe dairy allergies can’t tolerate even the trace amounts of lactose and casein in butter, clarified butter and ghee have far less.
If you want to lower the lactose and dairy protein content, try ghee.
Where to Buy Grass Fed Butter
So you want to join the grass-fed butter gang. Where can you buy it?
One of my favorite grass-fed butters is KerryGold Irish Butter. Nearly all Irish butter is grass-fed, because the abundant rainfall and year-round lush green grass make pastured animals economically viable for farmers.
Additionally, two of my favorite farms sell grass fed butter online. Slankers and US wellness.
The Bottom Line: Eat Grass-Fed Butter
Here’s the summary: grass-fed butter is not only healthy, it should be one of your daily staple foods.
If you are concerned about dairy allergies, start your carnivore diet with 30 days of nothing but meat and water. Then add butter and see what happens.
Should you respond poorly to butter (unlikely), you can probably still enjoy its health benefits by making your own ghee or clarified butter.
To upgrade your knowledge of everything related to carnivore and start improving your health today, check out the free getting started with the carnivore diet guide I prepared for you by clicking the button below.