Study: more pasture access leads to improved nutritional profile for cows

Photo credit: Maciej Lewandowski Photo credit: Maciej Lewandowski

Recent studies comparing the nutritional profile of organic and conventional milk have found that organic dairy products contain 50 percent more beneficial omega-3 fatty acids and 40% percent more heart-healthy conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) than their conventional counterparts. Organic milk also had increases in beneficial nutritional minerals and antioxidants, such as higher concentrations of iron, vitamin E, selenium, and carotenoids.  While scientists suspected that these differences stem from increased pasture time in organic systems, this had not been proven until now.  A new study sought to determine the mechanism leading to differences in the nutritional profiles in organic and conventional dairy by comparing the nutritional profile of milk from organic cows and conventional cows given equal access to pasture. They found that when conventional cows had access to pasture, the nutritional content of their milk rose to meet the level of organic milk.  This study highlights how mandated organic practices, such as providing adequate pasture time for livestock, can translate into direct positive impacts for consumers.