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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Free Grazing Cows Produce Better Milk

When I first moved to Vermont in the mid-1960s, the standing joke was that there were more cows than people. It was probably true. Sadly, it's definitely not true today, although the Ben & Jerry's trucks with the black and white cows painted on the sides are pretty much all over the place. While dairy farms remain, it's become difficult to make a living as a farmer. Nonetheless, growing up here gave me an appreciation for all things fresh when it comes to foods, including dairy. Nothing but pure butter for me thank you.

The news that free grazing cows produce better milk, which of course makes better butter, cream, cheese, ice cream, and so on seems like a no brainer. After all it's what nature intended. Still, it's nice to see it validated scientifically. What the researchers found was that beneficial fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamins were significantly higher. One BFA in particular was 60% higher in the summer--conjugated linoleic acid also known as CLA9. In other words, there are seasonal differences that translate into what cows are fed in general and quality of the milk produced.

"Gillian Butler, livestock project manager for the Nafferton Ecological Farming Group at Newcastle University, who led the study explained, ‘What is different about this research is it clearly shows that on organic farms, letting cows graze naturally, using forage-based diet, is the most important reason for the differences in the composition between organic and conventional milk."

And there you have it. Another reason to go organic.

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