Study: Organic Valley's milk healthier than conventional alternatives

2013-12-12T08:19:00Z Study: Organic Valley's milk healthier than conventional alternatives La Crosse Tribune
December 12, 2013 8:19 am

Organic Valley's milk not only tastes good, but it has more healthy properties than milk from conventional dairy farms, according to a recent scientific study.

PLOS ONE, an open access, peer-reviewed scientific journal from the Public Library of Science, published a study recently finding that organic milk from Organic Valley farms contains significantly higher concentrations of heart-healthy fatty acids compared to milk from cows on conventional dairy farms.

To view the complete study, visit

The study, led by Washington State University researcher Dr. Charles Benbrook, concludes that while all types of milk fat can help improve an individual’s fatty acid profile, Organic Valley organic whole milk does so even better. A large body of research has shown that grazing on pasture and consuming dried forages, like hay instead of supplemental grains such as corn and soybeans, promotes cow health and improves the fatty acid profile in dairy products. Only organic milk from Organic Valley farms was tested.

The study is the first large-scale, nationwide comparison of organic and conventional milk, testing 384 samples of organic and conventional milk in 14 dairy plants in seven regions. When it comes to omega-6 to omega-3 ratios, low numbers are the most beneficial. Conventional milk had an average omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio of 5.8, more than twice that of organic milk’s ratio of 2.3.

“Organic Valley is proving what our farm families have known for a long time,” said George Siemon, a founding farmer and CEIEIO of Organic Valley. “Not only is high-quality pasture and forage better for cows, it produces nutritionally superior whole milk. It's been said the organic industry has been lacking in science. Today, it's getting harder and harder to argue that."

Specifically, the study found that Organic Valley whole milk is 62 percent higher in the omega-3 fatty acids ALA, EPA, and DHA than conventional whole milk. While omega-3 fatty acids have been recommended especially for pregnant and lactating women, and for children for optimal brain, eye and nerve development, the medical community has concluded that omega-3 fatty acids are required at all stages of life to ensure overall health and well-being. They also play a crucial role in protecting cardiovascular health and prevention of certain cancers.

The consumption of more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids is a well-known risk factor for a variety of health problems, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, excessive inflammation and autoimmune diseases. The higher the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3, the greater the associated health risk.

Western diets typically have a ratio of about 10-to-1 to 15-to-1, while a ratio of 2.3-to-1 is thought to maximize heart health. The study team modeled a hypothetical diet for adult women with a baseline omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 11.3, and looked at how far three interventions could go in reducing the ratio to an ideal balance of 2.3.

“The team was surprised by the magnitude of the difference in the nutritional quality of organic and conventional whole milk,” Dr. Benbrook said. “In fact, the 2.5-fold improvement in the fatty acid balance in of organic dairy products is likely the most significant nutritional benefit associated with any major category of organic food.”

“When cows eat well, we do, too,” said Altfrid Krusenbaum, an Organic Valley farmer-owner who farms on 320 acres of rolling hills in Walworth County, where he and his wife farm with their three children. “There’s a complex science to the nutritional and environmental aspects, and an true art to managed grazing. However, the simple truth about cows and pasture is that my cows are healthier and produce better milk when they eat grass, and science now backs it up.”

The analysis and preparation of the PLOS ONE paper was funded by the Measure to Manage program in the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University. Organic Valley helped fund the Measure to Manage program, but had no role in the study’s design or analysis.

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(1) Comments

  1. JlNt30
    Report Abuse
    JlNt30 - December 24, 2013 1:50 am
    What about the Organic Farmers that buy non-organic feed from the area??
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