December 12, 2013
A new study has found that grass-fed, organic milk contains higher levels of health-promoting omega-3 fatty acids than milk from cows raised conventionally. Researchers suggested that substituting full-fat organic milk for milk from conventionally raised cows could help people meaningfully improve the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in their diets and promote cardiovascular and general health.
According to the researchers, the higher levels of beneficial fatty acids found in organic milk likely resulted from the animals’ greater reliance on grazing and forage-based feeds in their diet. The study, which was funded by Organic Valley but conducted independently by the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University, is not the first to find greater health benefits for grass-fed milk in general, including organic milk. However, it is notable for the strength of its findings as well as its large sample size and long time frame (researchers tested nearly 400 milk samples from across the country over the span of 18 months). It is also notable in stressing the health benefits of full-fat whole milk relative to reduced fat milk.
These new results fit into a growing scientific interest in the connections between human, animal, and environmental health. From helpful microbes in the soil to harmful ones in concentrated animal feeding operations, human health depends on our surroundings. This study provides one clear example of how healthy environments, in this case pastures, produce healthy animals and healthy food.