Grass-fed dairy is quickly gaining traction in the health food scene. If you haven’t noticed it, go check out the dairy aisle at any market that focuses on high-quality, organic goods. You’re sure to see everything from grass-fed milk and butter to grass-fed cheese and yogurt. So if you’re curious about this new trend, I’m here to break it down for you.
It’s no secret that I love dairy. While I could live my entire life without having meat again, dairy is a different story. I try to limit it when possible, due to the many health and environmental benefits of plant-based eating, but a world without cheese is simply not a world I want to live in. I’m also a huge “milk & cereal” fan, and regularly use yogurt as a replacement for mayonnaise and sour cream. So yes, I consume a good amount of dairy.
When I began noticing grass-fed whole milk and grass-fed greek yogurt at the market, I didn’t hesitate to purchase them instead of the conventional counterparts. Why? Initially it was because grass-fed dairy means that the cows producing it are able to roam pastures eating their food of choice, grass. You see, cows do not properly digest grains, they simply weren’t designed to eat grains, which means that the majority of the dairy-producing cows in the world are eating a food that makes them feel uncomfortable 24/7. Yes, they are bloated and confined 24 hours a day. Everyday. Yikes! So pretty much without question, when I see a grass-fed option, I’m all over it. For the love of cows, you know?
But there is more than just an ethical reason to be consuming grass-fed dairy products. Grass-fed dairy is better for you! Dairy that comes from 100% grassfed cows contains more omega-3 fatty acids, which is important because so many people consume too many omega-6 fatty acids and not enough omega-3’s. Regularly consuming too many O-6’s and not enough O-3’s has been linked to heart-disease, obesity and diabetes. Grass-fed milk is one way to lower O-6 intake while increasing O-3 intake. 100% grassfed dairy is also known for increased levels of another fatty acid, Conjugated Linoleic Acid (aka CLA). Adequate amounts of CLA’s in the diet have been linked to increased muscle mass and decreased body fat.
Now, I want to focus on balance for a minute. Because many people have an “all or nothing” mentality. Do I now only consume grass-fed dairy? Hell no. I still eat cheese at restaurants (most likely not grass-fed) and I’ll buy standard cheese at the market. But just because I’m not solely eating grass-fed dairy products doesn’t mean that using them as often as possible isn’t beneficial to my health and the cows.
I’ve personally committed to purchasing only grass-fed milk and only grass-fed yogurt (if it’s available where I’m shopping, which it usually is). But you maybe wondering, why yogurt and milk, and not cheese? Simple. Because I eat a million different kinds of cheese and very few of them are available in a grass-fed variety. Milk and yogurt is easy for me because I only drink whole milk and I only buy whole milk plain yogurt, and there’s always a grass-fed option for those two items, so why not?
I’m glad I asked “why not?” Because there is a reason not to. It’s typically more expensive. Not always though (depending on brands, sales, etc). But let’s do a quick comparison, shall we? Currently at Whole Foods, you can find both non-grass-fed greek yogurt (plain, whole, organic) and grass-fed greek yogurt (plain, whole, organic) from the same brand, Stonyfield…
Non-Grass-Fed Organic Plain Whole Milk Greek Yogurt = $.23 per ounce
Grass-Fed Organic Plain Whole Milk Greek Yogurt = $.29 to $.38 per ounce (depending on container size)
So yes, it’s more expensive to by the grass-fed version. But too expensive to buy the grass-fed version? That’s your call. Now how about for milk? This time, using Organic Valley brand.
Non-Grass-Fed Organic Whole Milk = $.085 per ounce = $5.49 per half gallon
Grass-Fed Organic Whole Milk = $.093 per ounce = $5.99 per half gallon
Still more expensive, but just barely. Granted, if you’re currently buying conventional milk (aka non-organic), the jump to both organic AND grass-fed will be a greater cost price bumb. So maybe in that case, going from conventional to organic is a good enough change for now, and that’s great! For me though, while I’m frugal in most areas of my purchasing, food is where I draw the line. I will pay the premium for higher-quality, healthier and more ethically manufactured food, and that’s a huge part of the food vibes lifestyle after all.
1) check labels for 100% grass-fed cows to be sure you (and the cows) are fully benefitting from consuming grass-fed dairy
2) note that not all grass-fed dairy is organic, so look for organic AND grass-fed products where available – an organic label ensures that there are no synthetic hormones, no antibiotics, no pesticides and no GMOs
3) grassmilk is an alternative name for milk made from grass-fed cows