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From the News Archives ...

Dairy products from grassfed cows have an ideal essential fatty acid balance

Certain fatty acids are essential for human health, yet we cannot make them in our bodies and must get them from our diet. There are two types of these "essential fatty acids" or EFAs—omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. New research suggests that there is also an "essential balance" of these EFAs. In other words, we not only require these fats, we require them in a particular ratio to each other. In the pre-agricultural era, the human diet had an approximately equal ratio of these EFAs, and many researchers now maintain this ratio is ideal.

When dairy cows get all their nutrients from fresh pasture, their milk has roughly equal amounts of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, which may make it more beneficial for human health. Take away some of the omega-3 rich pasture and replace it with omega-6 rich grains, and you upset this critical balance of EFAs. The graph below shows the dramatic shift in fats that occurs when fresh pasture is replaced with varying amounts of a standard dairy diet.

100% pasture creates ideal EFA balance

In most of Europe and New Zealand, dairy cows are raised on pasture and fed much less grain than cows in the United States. Approximately 10-15 percent of American dairy farmers are bucking the trend toward factory farming and raising their animals on pasture. Unfortunately, most send their milk to bulk distributors, so this super nutritious milk is mixed with the milk from confinement dairies. Now a few grazers are keeping their milk on the farm and turning it into homestead cheese.

To locate suppliers of homestead cheese from grassfed cows, search the Eat Wild Pastured Products directory.

Dhiman, T. R., G. R. Anand, et al. (1999). "Conjugated linoleic acid content of milk from cows fed different diets. J Dairy Sci 82(10): 2146-56.


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