Grass Fed Cattle Make Healthier Dairy Products

As with beef, the PUFA content of milk varies considerably depending on the livestock's diet.

What is the impact of pasturing on milk PUFA content?

This table shows the significant impact that changing the amount of grass in a cow's diet has on the PUFA content of its milk. The objective of the study by Dhiman et al was to measure changes in levels of Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA), an isomer of the n-6 PUFA LA.

As the proportion of grass from pasturing increases in the diet, the level of n-3 present in the meat increases and the level of n-6 decreases, resulting in a much healthier n-3 to n-6 ratio.

Because CLA is believed to offer significant protection against cancer and atherogenesis we have included it in the table.

Level of Pasturing ALA per 100g of Fatty Acid LA per 100g of Fatty Acid CLA per 100g of Fatty Acid n-3 to n-6 ratio (ALA to LA only
Cows fed on 1/3 pasture 8.1mg 42.7mg 8.9mg 0.19 to 1
Cows fed on 2/3 pasture 14.6mg 27.1mg 14.3mg 0.54 to 1
Cows fed on all pasture 20.2mg 14.0mg 22.1mg 1.44 to 1
Dhiman et al: Conjugated Linoleic Acid Content of Milk from Cows Fed Different Diets. The Journal of Dairy Science 1999, 82(10): 2146-2156.

Learn more about food products from grass fed cattle and other grass fed animals at Jo Robinson's website

Do organic production methods make a difference?

OMSCo, The Organic Milk Suppliers Cooperative in the UK, funded a research study conducted by Dr Kathryn Ellis at the Universities Universities of Liverpool and Glasgow between 2002 and 2005 to determine the compositional differences between organic and non-organic milk.

The results, published in the Journal of Dairy Science in 2006, showed that organic milk is on average 68% higher in total Omega-3 than non-organic milk. This outcome has subsequently been corroborated by several other independent researchers.

OMSCo attributes the significantly higher levels of omega-3 and other important nutrients to the access that organic cattle have to fresh grass, clover and grass-clover silage.

Find out more about organic milk by visiting OMSCO's web site

Are the benefits of grass fed cattle available in cheese?

The fatty acid composition of dairy products closely reflects the composition of the milk from which they are made (Chow p120). Thus, if you eat cheese that has been made from grass fed milk, you will benefit from its beneficial n-3 to n-6 ratio.

For an in-depth look at the benefits of grass fed cheese visit our project "Artisan Cheese - the re-emergence of small producers"