Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is one of the most common liver diseases in developed countries. Accurate, noninvasive tests for diagnosing NAFLD are urgently needed. The goals of this study were to evaluate the utility of acoustic radiation force impulse (ARFI) elastography for determining the severity grade of steatosis in rat livers, and to investigate the changes in various histologic and biochemical characteristics. Steatosis was induced in the livers of 57 rats by gavage feeding of a high fat emulsion; 12 rats received a standard diet only and served as controls. Liver mechanics were measured ex vivo using shear wave velocity (SWV) induced by acoustic radiation force. The measured mean values of liver SWV ranged from 1.33 to 3.85 m/s for different grades of steatosis. The area under the receiver operative characteristic curve (≥S1) was equal to 0.82 (95% CI = 0.69, 0.96) between the steatosis group and the normal group, and the optimal cutoff value was 2.59 with sensitivity of 88% and specificity of 76%. However, there are no significant differences in SWV measurements between the steatosis grades. SWV values did not correlate with the early grade of inflammation. In conclusion, ARFI elastography is a promising method for differentiating normal rat liver from rat liver with steatosis, but it cannot reliably predict the grade of steatosis in rat livers. The early grade of inflammation activity did not significantly affect the SWV measurements.