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Sustainable intensification? Increased production diminishes omega-3 content of sheep milk

Lookup NU author(s): Nikolaos Voutzourakis, Dr Leo RempelosORCiD, Dr Michael Eyre, Dr Alparsan Atahan, Gillian Butler



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2020 by the authors.Intensifying agricultural production alters food composition, but this is often ignored when assessing system sustainability. However, this could compromise consumer health and influence the concept of "sustainable diets". Here, we consider the milk composition of Mediterranean dairy sheep, finding inferior fatty acid (FA) profiles with respect to consumer health as a result of a more intensive system of production. Semi-intensive management produced 57% more milk per ewe, with a 20% lower fat content (but inferior fat composition). The milk had a nutritionally poorer fatty acid (FA) profile, with an 18% lower omega-3 FA concentration (n-3) (19% fewer long-chain n-3s) and a 7% lower monounsaturated FA concentration but a 3% higher saturated FA (9% higher in C14:0) concentration compared to ewes under traditional, extensive management. A redundancy analysis identified close associations between fat composition and animal diets-particularly concentrate supplementation and cultivated pasture grazing-and n-3 was associated with grazing in diverse, native mountain pastures. This paper questions if identifying such key elements in traditional systems could be deployed for "sustainable intensification" to maintain food quality while increasing output.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Voutzourakis N, Tzanidakis N, Stergiadis S, Rempelos L, Eyre M, Atsali I, Franceschin E, Leifert C, Stefanakis A, Sotiraki S, Butler G

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Sustainability (Switzerland)

Year: 2020

Volume: 12

Issue: 3

Online publication date: 08/02/2020

Acceptance date: 03/02/2020

Date deposited: 26/03/2020

ISSN (electronic): 2071-1050

Publisher: MDPI AG


DOI: 10.3390/su12031228


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