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Organic Meat and Milk IS Different


18 Feb 2016

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A new study published 16 February 2016, in the British Journal of Nutrition shows organic milk and meat contain around 50% more beneficial omega-3 fatty acids than non-organic.

In addition to organic milk and meat, the nutritional differences also apply to organic dairy like butter, cream, cheese and yoghurt. The study is the largest systematic reviews of its kind and led by Newcastle University and an international team of experts, and part funded by our very own Sheepdrove Trust, the charitable arm of the farm.  

Why is this so important?

Nutrition experts all agree that omega-3 fatty acids in food have numerous health benefits, and people are normally advised to consume more seafood for this very reason, as seafood is known to contain high levels of the fatty acids.

However, overfishing and damage to marine environments is concerning, and a way to increase omega 3 levels by switching to organic meat and milk should be welcomed.

There were also lower levels of omega 6 found in organic meat and dairy. Although vital in the diet, the balance of omega 3 to omega 6 should be weighted towards omega 3, as omega 6 has become too prevalent in modern diets, and is associated with fried foods and excessive meat consumption.

From a health perspective, the lower levels of omega 6 in organic meat are definitely a positive outcome, rather than a negative one.

Organic milk also contains 40% more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) - which is linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and obesity.

And although organic milk has lower levels of the essential mineral iodine*, it has higher concentrations of iron and Vitamin E than conventionally produced milk..

The magic of organic farming

The differences between conventional and organic animals are more straight-forward than you might think. Organic animals spend most of their lives out at grass, and in winter eat conserved forage like hay and silage. Access to a range of plant species is the key, the most notable of which is clover.

Clover is used in organic farming to fix nitrogen so that crops and grass grow (instead of manufactured/chemical fertilisers), and this research has found that clover also increases the Omega 3 concentrations in meat and milk.
It is the varied and natural diet of organic animals that provides the source for the omega 3, rather than animals subsisting on grain, which is more normal in most conventional systems.

The science is catching up

This new paper, although brilliant and enlightening, has just confirmed what thousands of organic consumers have suspected for years, that low impact organic farming which allows animals to eat and live as naturally as possible is beneficial for our health, as well as for the health of the environment.

Higher animal welfare, lower antibiotic use, no chemical fertilisers, no pesticides and improving habitats for wildlife are the main reasons people choose to buy organically, and now scientifically proven health benefits are the icing on the cake.
 

Key findings:

  • Both organic milk (dairy) and meat contain around 50% more beneficial omega-3 fatty acids than conventionally produced products.
  • organic meat had slightly lower concentrations of two saturated fats linked to heart disease organic milk and dairy contains 40% more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) - CLA has been linked to a range of health benefits including reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and obesity, but evidence is mainly from animal studies
  • organic milk and dairy contains slightly higher concentrations of iron, Vitamin E and some carotenoids
  • organic milk contains less iodine than non-organic milk*
*Historic research highlighted that organic milk contained less iodine. However, the industry has taken steps to address this. OMSCo (the Organic Milk Suppliers Cooperative) representing over 65% of the UK's organic milk supply, announced that in 2015 organic milk had achieved comparable levels of iodine to conventional and in 2016, following recent testing of bottled milk, they announced these levels of iodine have been maintained.

For more information click here.
The new research is available here.
 

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