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Evidence that forage-fed cows can enhance milk quality

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Hannah DavisORCiD, Eleni Chatzidimitriou, Professor Carlo Leifert, Gillian Butler



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


© 2020 by the authors.Researching the distinguishing factors of nutritional milk quality is key to sustainable production and addresses increasing media and scientific scrutiny regarding human health effects and ecological impacts of dairy products. Modern Western diets have high omega-6 relative to omega-3 fatty acid (FA) consumption. This ratio in milk can be manipulated by management practices; increasing forage in dairy diets raises omega-3 in milk. Whilst studies identify higher concentrations of nutritionally beneficial FAs in organic dairy, milk from 100% forage-fed cows in the UK has not been investigated. This study explores differences in FA composition between supermarket conventional and organic and Pasture for Life Association (PFLA) milk, collected in April, July and October, 2017. PFLA milk had higher concentrations of conjugated linoleic acid (+94%) and omega-3 (+92%) than conventional milk. Additionally, concentrations of palmitic acid (+11%), omega-6 (+69%) and the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 (+201%) were higher in conventional than PFLA milk. PFLA milk had higher concentrations of alpha-linolenic acid (+39%), conjugated linoleic acid (+30%) and omega-3 (+21%) and lower concentrations of omega-6 (??36%) and a lower ratio of omega-6/omega-3 (??44%) than organic milk. This supports previous studies and demonstrates the scope to improve milk FA profiles further for potential health benefits through pasture-based management.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Davis H, Chatzidimitriou E, Leifert C, Butler G

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Sustainability

Year: 2020

Volume: 12

Issue: 9

Online publication date: 02/05/2020

Acceptance date: 30/04/2020

Date deposited: 08/06/2020

ISSN (electronic): 2071-1050

Publisher: MDPI AG


DOI: 10.3390/su12093688


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