Organic Valley, the nation's largest cooperative of organic farmers and a leading organic brand, today announced that PLOS ONE, a prestigious, open access, peer-reviewed scientific journal from the Public Library of Science, published a study 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, please visit PLOS ONE.
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% 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,” pointed out Dr. Benbrook. “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 Regina Beidler, an Organic Valley farmer-owner who milks 35 cows with her family on 145 acres of rolling hills in Randolph Center, Vt. “There’s a complex science to the nutritional and environmental aspects and a true art to the rotational grazing part. But the simple truth is that our cows are healthier and produce better milk when they eat grass, and people and the planet are healthier as a result, too.”
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.
Organic Valley: Independent and Farmer-Owned
Organic Valley is America’s largest cooperative of organic farmers and one of the nation’s leading organic brands. Organized in 1988, it represents 1,834 farmers in 35 states and three Canadian provinces. Focused on its founding mission of saving family farms through organic farming, Organic Valley produces a variety of organic foods, including organic milk, soy, cheese, butter, spreads, creams, eggs, and produce, which are sold in supermarkets, natural foods stores and food cooperatives nationwide. With its regional model, milk is produced, bottled and distributed right in the region where it is farmed to ensure fewer miles from farm to table and to support our local economies. For further information and to learn about Organic Valley’s 25 years of sustainable agriculture as it celebrates its anniversary in 2013, visit www.organicvalley.coop. Organic Valley is also on Twitter @OrganicValley and Facebook at www.facebook.com/OrganicValley.