Is Grass-Fed Butter Healthier?

Is Grass-Fed Butter Healthier?

Butter’s back on the table, as more people wake up and realize spreading creamy butter on a piece of whole grain toast is more healthful than using margarine containing trans-fat. In the past, foods high in saturated fat, like butter, were frowned upon due to their connection with heart disease, but recent research doesn’t completely support this idea. In fact, diets high in refined carbs may be more problematic than moderate amounts of saturated fat, although the issue isn’t entirely settled.

These days, you have more options when shopping for butter. Traditional butter, organic butter, and butter from grass-fed cattle are all competing for a place on your dinner table with interest in grass-fed butter growing fast. As the name implies, grass-fed butter comes from cows raised on grass rather than grains. It might sound like a small difference, but, like humans, cows are what they eat and a natural grass diet is arguably a healthier choice than genetically modified corn or soy. Plus pasture-raised cows, unlike factory-raised animals, at least get to see the light of day. They’re required to spend 120 days or more during the grazing season in the pasture eating grass and must be able to access the outdoors throughout the year.

Nutrient Content of Grass-Fed Butter

One of the biggest nutritional advantages grass-fed butter offers is vitamin K2, a nutrient that’s now recognized as distinct from vitamin K1, a vitamin known primarily for its role in blood clotting. Vitamin K2 does something different – it directs calcium to where it should be, in your bones and teeth, and away from where it shouldn’t be, along the inside walls of your arteries.

Because of vitamin K2’s ability to play “traffic cop” for calcium, getting more of this lesser-known form of vitamin K may reduce the risk of heart disease and osteoporosis. A large study called the Rotterdam study found those who consumed the most vitamin K2 had a 57% lower risk of dying of heart disease. Other small studies also show that vitamin K2 is important for heart health.

While vitamin K1, the one most of us are familiar with, is abundant in green, leafy vegetables, the best sources of vitamin K2 are organ meats and full-fat dairy products from a grass-fed animal as well as a fermented soy food called natto. As a bonus, butter from grass-fed cows is much higher in vitamin K2 than traditional butter.

Grass-fed butter also beats grain-fed butter in terms of its vitamin A, D and E content. The grass-fed variety has more of all three of these necessary nutrients. In addition, butter from cows fed grass is richer in omega-3 fats and antioxidants. Conjugated linoleic acid, a type of fat that some research shows lowers the risk for heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes, is more abundant in milk from grass-fed animals as well.

Butter made from grass-fed cows also contains significant amounts of a short-chain fatty acid called butyrate. One of the benefits of eating certain types of fiber is bacteria in the small intestinal tract convert indigestible fibers into short-chain fatty acids like butyrate. These fatty acids help keep the lining of your lower intestinal tract healthy and may lower the risk for colon cancer. Butyrate also has anti-inflammatory activity, which is good for overall health.

Overall, most people think grass-fed butter has a richer, deeper taste. When you open a container, you may be surprised by its intense, yellow color. The deeper coloration comes from the beta-carotene that is in grass-fed butter, but not butter from cows feed grains.

 Still, Moderation is Key

As you can see, grass-fed butter is more nutritionally dense than butter from grain-fed cows and you get vitamin K2, a nutrient that’s hard to get enough of through dietary sources alone. Though grass-fed butter is a better choice, be cautious about eating unlimited quantities of dairy foods. Cows store the fat-soluble toxins they’re exposed to in fatty tissue and these toxins accumulate over the lifetime of the animal, a process called bioaccumulation. When you consume dairy foods or drink milk, you’re exposed to these toxins and, in turn, store them in your own fatty tissue. In fact, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, milk fat is the greatest source of human exposure to toxic pollutants, including dioxins.

With respect to bioaccumulation, purchasing organic butter could significantly reduce your exposure to toxins like dioxin since the cows, theoretically, are exposed to fewer pesticides since they’re fed organic feed. Organic butter is also produced without antibiotics or synthetic hormones and the cows are raised on non-GMO grain or, in the case of grass-fed butter, grass. Butter from grass-fed cows certified organic offers the best of both worlds – grass-fed and absence of pesticides, antibiotics, and synthetic hormones. The best place to find it as at a natural food market, although some Farmer’s markets may also offer it.

Like a piece of dark chocolate, grass-fed butter has health benefits but is best consumed in moderation. Similar to regular butter, grass-fed butter is energy dense with about 100 calories per tablespoon. At the very least, it’s superior to the man-made version of “butter,” we know of as margarine, a cheap synthetic spread that’s loaded with unhealthy fats, preservatives and artificial dyes.

The Bottom Line

Grass-fed butter, preferably organic, is more nutritionally dense than regular butter and it offers vitamin K2, a nutrient most people don’t get enough of – but enjoy sweet, creamy butter in moderation. Don’t slather your bread with it or eat it by the spoonful just because it’s from cows fed grass. When you do eat butter, grass-fed butter offers nutritional advantages you don’t get from butter derived from cows that eat primarily grains.



Ohio State University. “Study: Doubling Saturated Fat in the Diet Does Not Increase Saturated Fat in Blood”

Arch Intern Med. 2006 Jun 26;166(12):1256-61.

Today’s Dietitian. Vol. 15 No. 6 P. 54. June 2013.

J. Nutr. November 1, 2004 vol. 134 no. 11 3100-3105.

Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 1993;63(3):229-33.

FASEB J. 2000 Dec;14(15):2380-2.

World J Gastroenterol. 2011 Mar 28; 17(12): 1519-1528.

EPA. “National Cow Milk Survey for Persistent, Bioaccumulative and Toxic (PBT) Pollutants”

Ohio State University. “Study: Doubling Saturated Fat in the Diet Does Not Increase Saturated Fat in Blood” November 21, 2014.


Related Articles By Cathe:

Is Butter Healthy – or Not?

Can a Diet Higher in Fat Still Be Heart Healthy?

Beyond Calcium and Vitamin D: Another Vitamin You Need for Bone Health

Dietary Fat Made Simple

Why Grass-Fed Beef Is Healthier


Hi, I'm Cathe

I want to help you get in the best shape of your life and stay healthy with my workout videos, DVDs and Free Weekly Newsletter. Here are several ways you can watch and work out to my exercise videos and purchase my fitness products:

Get Your Free Weekly Cathe Friedrich Newsletter

Get free weekly tips on Fitness, Health, Weight Loss and Nutrition delivered directly to your email inbox. Plus get Special Cathe Product Offers and learn about What’s New at Cathe Dot Com.

Enter your email address below to start receiving my free weekly updates. Don’t worry…I guarantee 100% privacy. Your information will not be shared and you can easily unsubscribe whenever you like. Our Privacy Policy