This is an interesting question to me, something we had never worried about with Emma.  Meat is Meat right?  Some people will say yes, many will say no.  But the question was recently asked on my Facebook page if grain-fed meat was considered gluten-free…and I figured the research was easy to find online – boy was I wrong.

So I went searching for some answers and I quickly found out I couldn’t do a post on the gluten-free angle, without at least mentioning the health benefits debate.

Grass-Fed vs. Grain-Fed Meats

So in researching this topic, I cannot find any unbiased opinions about the subject.  In fact, when I type “health benefits of grain-fed beef” into Google only grass-fed information comes up. So here is a little background:

A 2003 story from the University of California Agricultural and Natural Resources Department,  highlighted a “study to promote the benefits of grass fed beef”.

“Their report concluded that ranchers who produce grass-fed cattle may rightfully claim the product is more healthful than conventionally produced meat.

The report says that three ounces of ground beef from cattle fed conventional diets contain about 41 micrograms of beta-carotene and a typical rib eye steak has 36 micrograms. In contrast, meat from cattle fattened predominately on ryegrass has almost double the beta-carotene, 87 micrograms in 3.5 ounces of ground beef and 64 micrograms in a steak.”

According to, many of these grass-fed, pasture-raised cattle are healthier for us to eat because of their lifestyle with open fields on which to graze.  But  for cows that  are raised on industrial farms, the website said “These stressful conditions are a breeding ground for bacteria and the animals frequently become ill, so factory farms must routinely treat them with antibiotics to prevent outbreaks of disease.”

And there is a difference at the checkout counter, in the aforementioned 2003 article form U of California,

“Grass-fed hamburger meat sells for about $1 more per pound. Steaks are sold at about double the normal price – about $7 more per pound than ordinary beef,” said Glenn Nader, UC Cooperative Extension livestock and natural resources farm advisor in the Sutter-Yuba County office and the leader of the project.

I wish I could find something concrete that gives you the other side to grain-fed meat, but I just can’t find anything…other than the population of folks who say that they prefer the taste of grain-fed over grass-fed beef.

Again the debate over the health benefits is separate from the gluten-free issue.  You can take the above information and any additional information you find on the health benefits and make your own educated decision.

So Is Grain-Fed Beef  Gluten-Free?

Again there’s no research supporting whether grain-fed beef  is or isn’t safe for people on the gluten-free diet.  Forums like this one on have debated the issue with no major concrete resolution.  So I had to tap the awesome expertise of Registered Dietitian and Gluten-Free Expert Tricia Thompson.  I asked her –“Trying to research if grain-fed beef is gf? Do you have any info on that?” and her response to me was exactly what I was looking for –an explanation!

“Grain-fed beef is fine. Before protein is absorbed it’s broken down into single amino acids or very short peptide fragments-no longer gluten.” — Tricia Thompson MSRD

So please feel free to make your decisions on your butcher meat based on price, quality and sustainability — or whatever your criteria is to pick your meat– and delight in the fact that this time the criteria doesn’t have to include gluten-free.

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12 Responses to “Can a Gluten-Free Person eat Grain-Fed Meat?”

  1. Ruminants (cows, sheep, goats, deer) can digest grains very thoroughly. Poultry – I am not so sure about. Pigs can eat grains, but it changes the omega 6 levels. Pastured pork is hard to find, but has a lot less inflammatory omega 6.

    The average celiac diet has a poor omega 3/6 balance (very inflammatory) because of all the nuts and seeds which are high in omega 6.

  2. Most sources say it is okay for a celiac to eat grain-fed animal products; they say that the the animal tissue does not contain gluten because of the way the amino acids get broken down before protein molecules are absorbed…but who is to say that cows for example, who shouldn’t be eating grains (gluten or not) in the first place, don’t have inflamed intestines i.e.leaky gut syndrome that might allow larger gluten proteins to penetrate the intestinal wall and enter their bloodstreams like gluten proteins do in humans with leaky gut? …where does that gluten go? the cells & muscle tissue?

    As a rule, I only eat grass-fed animals, but my clients are loath to make the switch from grain to grass.

    Thank you for bringing this topic up.

    julie erwin

  3. Hello. Pardon my spelling.

    I which to paleo after discovering I was Celiac. But still suffered the symptons. I finally tracked down a source of Grass fed/finished beef. Once I stop eating grocery store meat I am completely free of any symptons. I will never go back to convention meat again. I don’t seem to have a problem with convention chicken though. Given the choice I would switch to pastured free range.

  4. I’m gluten intolerant, I have a freezer full of beef that was fed 4 way which contains barley, wheat & oats. I had been off beef for 3.5 months & tried some round steak in a taco. I was sick the next afternoon, but the symptoms were different. I can not tolerate barley, causes the heart to race, wheat causes anxiety, BP to elevate. I’m concerned about eating beef any where. My husband says I should be fine because I eat chicken & pork & they are fed the same grains as cattle. Your site has helped to alleviate that concern, but I intend to be very careful, I will not eat beef on a daily basis. Thank you.

  5. Hi, I am not celiac, but intolerant to many grains. I stay away from eggs as Barley is by far my worse grain. Just recently I have become ill when eating Beef, so thanks to this website, I now know that I am not alone. I never used to eat chicken or pork as they make me ill too. I can now eat both, thanks to grass feed. I truly believe that it is down to the quality of the grain at the time of feeding the animal, as to what affect it has on us humans. That is why some times you feel ill eating it and sometimes not.

  6. Grass fed Grain fed
    March 4th, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    It seems entirely reasonable that people who can not tolerate grains would have a problem eating grain fed beef. Other than that, the differences between health benefits of beef produced one way or another may be very slight at best.

    Here is some news that pertains to the health benefits of grass-fed beef versus grain-fed beef.

  7. I am a 65 year old semi-retired health care provider. About a year ago I found that my health issues were tied to grain products (non-celiac gluten intolerance). I would agree with an earlier post that sick cows (bovine intestinal permeability syndrome) will pass on the inflammation markers to a consumer of that animal.

    Last night I had a very fine cut of beef from a local butcher. The cow was grass fed but grain finished.

    Today … ALL of my symptoms are back at full chaotic level. I know that I am in for a few really bad days as this works through my system.

    Take this for what is worth.

  8. Recently, I have discovered a great cheap way to feed my kids meat.
    Cheap pork roasts that are cooked all day in my slow cooker. Makes for a fun quick way to get a meal. However, I note that after one particular roast (was a Boston Butt) I was sick to the point of wanting to vomit. The ONLY thing that makes sense to me is that this particular pig had been fed wheat.
    So, I am one to believe that wheat fed animals are indeed a NO-NO for those of us who live better OFF all things wheat gluten.

    Just my .02

  9. As someone who’s been gluten free for 12yrs I’ve recently been trying to determine the cause of major inflammation in my body. I’ve converted to a paleo type diet and cut my diet down to about 25 different foods to get to the source. I had noticed there are days that it is worse than others but it wasn’t until yesterday that the light bulb went on. I’ve been trying to buy only grass fed beef and my husband stopped and picked up a steak for dinner, he thought the package was grass fed but infact it wasn’t. Within 30 minutes after dinner, which consisted of veggies and the steak, my knees swelled to the size of a cantaloupe, that caused me to look closer at the package. I think people can read all the research that they want, but bottom line you know your body and you definitely don’t need a dr or scientist to tell you if it’s not reacting to a food. IMO

  10. I am a recent coeliac. I get instant skin reaction to gluten..oozing lumps, then excruciating gut pain. I have been really strict with gluten, and yet I still had the skin reaction and incredible fatigue after gluten free paleo meals. It happen a few times, and I worked out the common factor was supermarket beef. If I get meat from our local country butcher, I do not notice it. I wonder about GM grains being fed to cattle, and the aberant DNA complicating matters.

  11. I have been celiac for years….had numerous issues with leaky gut, candida, IBS-C and AI disorders (this is a short list which I could expand on but won’t)…..anyways, I can tell you that for me (personally) there is definitely a difference from grain-fed to grass-fed. I feel WAY better and way different when eating 100% grass-fed meat. I typically eat goat dairy products because most goat farms can’t feed goats more than 10% grain, as they get issues us humans do (bloating, gas, intestinal disorders)….that being said, goat milk is much more free of any grain. Again, in MY experience, I have stayed with goat dairy products and much better off, symptom free. Most of my old issues don’t flair up. I think there is something to be said about that…I hope this helps someone.

  12. Thank you for the FACTS on protein being broken down before being absorbed, “Grain-fed beef is fine. Before protein is absorbed it’s broken down into single amino acids or very short peptide fragments-no longer gluten.” — Tricia Thompson MSRD.
    That answers one of my questions. My other question I have been having trouble answering is what effect, if any, does GMO corn have on grain fed beef or pork? Although it is an acquired taste I prefer the taste of grass-fed grass-finished or what’s commonly called 100% grass fed beef. I am having trouble locating pastured pork however and so was curious as to the effect the corn (which we all know is all GMO) has on the pork. Do the genetically modified grains affect the meat? Also after watching the video Food, Inc. and several other videos I don’t believe cattle should be fed grain.

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