Cows and barn

Cows that feed on pasture grasses and dry forage produce milk with more beneficial fatty acids than cows that eat supplemental grains like corn and soybeans, according to a study released Dec. 9.

Funded by Organic Valley and conducted by scientists at Washington State University, the first large-scale, nationwide comparison of organic and conventional milk found that organic whole milk is 62 percent higher in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acid than conventional whole milk.

Scientists tested 384 samples of organic and conventional milk in 14 dairy plants in seven regions over a period of

18 months. Only organic milk from Organic Valley farms was tested for comparison.

“We’re just thrilled to have a study that shows a direct relationship between (organic) farming practices and healthier milk,” said George Siemon, Organic Valley CEO. “This confirms what we already knew.”

In order to be legally considered organic, dairy cows must graze during the growing season on pasture grasses, which are rich in omega-3s. Cows on conventional dairy farms typically eat more corn, which is high in omega-6s. Organic whole milk has a more favorable balance of the two fatty acids, the study found.

“As much as we feel that this study shows the benefit of organic agriculture, this really is about the higher forage diet and pasturing,” Siemon said, emphasizing that pasture grazing would improve the fatty acid content in nonorganic milk as well.

While both fatty acids provide essential health benefits, the typical Western diet includes a higher level of omega-6s, which come from processed plant oils. Western diets typically have an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of about 10-to-1 to 15-to-1, while a ratio of 2.3-to-1 is thought to maximize heart health, according to the study.

Although the role of milk in a healthy diet is debated by some experts, it is “probably the best, most readily available source of calcium, protein, vitamin D and potassium available,” said Marisa Pruitt, a registered dietitian nutritionist at Gundersen Health System.

“That makes milk a unique and valuable package,” she said.

Pruitt cautioned that whole milk is still high in calories and emphasized that the best nutrient to calorie ratio comes from low-fat milk. Fat-free milk, however, is stripped of the beneficial nutrients found in the milk fat.

Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce inflammation, decrease elevated tryglyceride levels and stimulate visual and neurological development.

Studies conducted by the National Institutes of Health showed that while the optimal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 may vary depending on the disease being considered, a “lower ratio is more desirable in reducing the risk of many of the chronic diseases” prevalent in Western society.

However, Pruitt emphasized that conventional milk is a safe, nutritious product that delivers the same benefits as organic milk. For consumers looking to increase omega-3 consumption, she recommends tuna and flaxseed as alternative sources if organic milk is too expensive.

“The bottom line is, whether you choose organic or conventional milk, feel confident that you’re receiving a quality product that’s full of nutrition and safe to consume,” Pruitt said. “If you can’t afford organic milk, that’s OK.”

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(12) comments


Our local organic leaders smoke enough wacky weed to believe cows are eating green grass in the lush pastures today. Shame on you trib for putting propaganda on your front page again. Organic is a scam.


What a surprise. Organic Valley selects the University, designs the study, provides the test samples, and funds the "research" and believe it or not, the finds turn out to be just what they need to promote their product. Will miracles never cease.


You are correct thay did for their 300 Dairy cows, however they didnt for their 200 or so that weren't milked. I lived on a small farm and don't in any way object to farms at all. Farmers are very hard working people for very little financial reward except their love for what they do. Please don't take my comment as a negetive thought for farms or what thy contribute to our state.


I had to laugh when I read scomis's post. I was left whith a home when a family member died that was in a subdivision where my property was directly next to a 500 cow farm. The house was 30 years old and had a drain field. When I decided to sell I wasn't allowed too and had to spend 10,000 dollars for a holding tank. They were afraid that the drain field would contaninate the ground water. go figure.


I' m betting that 500 cow dairy had a manure storage system to protect the ground and surface water as well. They also have to follow a strict manure nutrient management plan to protect the environment from manure contamination.


Let's get rid of government dairy subsidies...


So you WANT to pay $8 / gallon for milk ? The "subsidies" you speak of help the "poor" people sitting at home and too busy to look for work a lot more than they help the farmers. You think farming is such a lucrative business ??? Put your $$ where your mouth is - BUY a farm and show em all how its done. Your ignorance will be cured quickly.


Do you know how much we all pay to subsidize non organic milk via grain/corn [feed] subsidies? If we got rid of government grain/corn subsidies a gallon of milk would cost around $8.


Organic farmers get the exact same subsidies as non organic. The price difference in organic vs non organic is needed to lure dairy farmers to produce their milk organically since the cost per gallon to produce it is higher due to lower production levels.


Organic also uses grain in their diets. Doesn't matter if is is an organic cow or a conventional cow, their diet requirements and tolerance are the same.


LOL !!! You're kidding right ? An 18 month study ... funded by Organic Valley ... found a benefit to organic milk. WOW ! How about the benefits of organic cows standing in the middle of the trout stream while they "relieve" themselves ? How bout the benefit of people starving if we all had to depend on organic milk (they produce half of the milk conventional cows produce) ? How bout the benefits of these dope smoking hippies wandering around preaching organic (George Siemon being one of them - openly admitting to regularly smoking marijuana) ?If you're brain washed and crazy enough to buy this junk (organic) I feel sorry for you.


really? a study had to be done on this?

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