Yes, you read the title correctly. Beef is not generally thought of as a source for omega 3 fatty acids, and while grass fed beef actually contains more Omega 3 fatty acids than corn fed beef, there are greater things afoot. There are over 800 breeds of cattle world wide, but the US tends to stick to a few breeds, with Angus being the most common. Most of the US cattle are corn fed on feed lots, which leads to fattier cattle with a high ratio of omega 6 fatty acids to omega 3 fatty acids, the opposite of what health care providers recommend for a healthful diet (see my research on the ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids on The Omega 3 FAQ). Slowly, consumers are now beginning to realize the value of grass fed cattle over corn fed.
The North American Devon Association, run by Gearald Fry, is the leader in this movement. And old cattle breed from England, the Devon, is a somewhat unique breed that they believe produces the finest grass fed beef available. While on a corn fed diet, this breed produces too much fat, again, with an abundance of omega 6 fatty acids. However when grass fed, the cattle put on weight more slowly, and incredibly, produce an even ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids (1 to 1). In grain fed beef, this ratio can be as low as 1 to 10, making this breed, when grass fed, produce the most healthful beef in terms of its fatty acid components.
While there were only 200 head of Devon cattle in the US in 2002, that number is increasing dramatically. However due to the limited pastureland in the US, it is unlikely that this particular breed, and the companies that will be selling the beef, the Hardwick Beef Company and the Rotokawa Cattle Company, will dominate the market. While you may be able to find beef from these companies in your grocery store in the future, any grass fed beef is always the better choice if your criteria is a healthier ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids. Keep in mind that beef itself is not a significant source of omega 3 fatty acids relative to seafood (or fish oil supplements). For those of us who like beef, however, if grass fed beef is available it may be a better choice than grain fed beef.