Splurging on milk from pasture-raised cows will give us a health and nutrition advantage not found in those confined to feedlots
With the various diet trends cropping up every now and then, the alternative milk industry seems to be getting a lot of attention. Now thanks to the appearance of grass-fed dairy in grocery stores, cow’s milk is making a massive comeback with health-conscious consumers looking for nearly-natural foods. While all types of milk are the same when it comes to calcium and vitamin D, it turns out grass-fed milk has other exceptional nutritional advantages.
The main differences between grass-fed, organic and conventional milk has to do with the diets the cows are fed. Milk from cows that graze on grass — versus eating a grain-based diet on feedlots — is a better source of heart-healthy fats and certain antioxidants.
Our cows spend 90 per cent of their time on average outside on pasture — that means a healthy dose of vitamin D. As a result, our cows produce milk with typically higher levels of vitamin D compared to cows that are often kept indoors.
A study published in Food Science & Nutrition compared the omega-3 fatty acids in different types of milk: grass-fed, conventional, and organic. Researchers collected more than 1,000 samples of milk from grass-fed cows throughout three years and compared it to data from a similar study of conventional and organic milk. The results showed that the milk from grass-fed cows had 147 per cent more omega-3s — which are beneficial for battling inflammation and heart disease and for promoting brain health — than conventional milk does and 52 per cent more than organic milk does.
“Grass-fed cow dairy comes from cows that have grazed in pastures year-round, which includes the winter and early spring,” says Sharif Ramadan, Head of Brands at NFPC, which manufactures the popular milk brand, Lacnor. “Animals are free to roam the fields of New Zealand to graze all year-round including the spring, summer and early autumn. This brings them back to what their true nature is — being a grazing animal — so they are happier animals.”
According to research, you’ll find yourself getting at least 75mg of CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) from an 8-ounce serving of grass-fed cow’s milk. CLA is a type of fat associated with a wide variety of health benefits, including immune and inflammatory system support, improved bone mass, improved blood sugar regulation, reduced body fat, reduced risk of heart attack, and maintenance of lean body mass.
“The grass-fed milk coming from Lacnor is higher in CLA than non-grass-fed milk,” says Ramadan. “Our cows spend 90 per cent of their time on average outside on pasture — that means a healthy dose of vitamin D. As a result, our cows produce milk with typically higher levels of vitamin D compared to cows that are often kept indoors.”
Lacnor milk production also follows the natural pattern of pasture growth. “Cows begin producing milk at the time when grass growth picks up in early spring,” says Ramadan. “Milk production peaks when grass growth rates are the highest (October). Then in winter, our cows are generally rested when grass growth, and the nutrients it provides, is at its lowest.
“Ahead of World Milk Day, we wish to stress upon the importance of feed for dairy cows and how it can have a significant impact on the nutritional quality of milk and other dairy products,” Ramadan says.