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Why spring grass milk is the most healthy, creamy, yellow, and delicious.

written by

Aaron Miller

posted on

May 5, 2023

spring-grass.jpg

Ahhhh, spring grass fed milk. It’s just the best milk of the entire year. 

You can see that it’s yellower and creamier. You can taste its full flavor and earthiness. In your gut, you just know that this milk is good for you. It’s simply the best.

With modern testing, we can quantify that we’re not crazy for believing this or feeling this within our bodies. It’s scientifically true. Spring grass fed milk is the healthiest milk.

Let’s explore.

Spring milk is creamiest because it has high butterfat.

Interestingly, it seems that seasonal temperatures have an effect on butterfat. Butterfat is typically lowest in July and August and highest in January. It’s still high in spring. 

If you take into account the breed of the cow, our milk is hands down the creamiest around. Our herd is 80% Jersey and 80% Jersey crosses. Jersey cows produce the highest butterfat.

Whole milk in the store is a steady 3.5% (regardless of the season). On our farm, our full fat grass fed spring milk has 5%+ butterfat. Since all of our milk is non-homogenized, you can see that hefty creamline when you let the jug settle.

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Spring milk is tastiest because of the diversity of the pasture and the high fat content.

There are 12+ species of plants growing in our pasture. Since the flavor of the plants come through in milk, this diversity of forage leads to a diversity of flavor in spring milk. Our well kept pastures produce spring milk that’s earthy and grassy tasting. 

A word of warning is that the farmer needs to be careful of strong tasting plants like onion grass or sneezeweed growing in the pasture. If cows eat those, an unpleasant bitter taste can be transferred to the milk.

Spring milk is the yellowest because of the beta-carotene in spring grass. 

Beta-carotene is a naturally growing plant pigment. It’s what gives many fruits and vegetables a yellow or orange color. It occurs naturally in many pasture grasses and legumes (even though most of these are green rather than orange or yellow).

A sign of high beta-carotene is yellow fat. Since our milk and butter is yellowest in the spring, we know that it has a high beta-carotene content from the fresh spring pasture. 

Grass fed milk in the spring is the healthiest milk, because the cows are eating the best quality feed. Here are 3 specific nutritional boosts in spring milk:

Beta-Carotene

It’s no secret that beta-carotene levels in spring milk are highest. As stated above, we can see it in the yellow color of the milk and butterfat. Here’s a chart that clearly shows the difference. 

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Beta-carotene is a carotenoid that your body converts into vitamin A. Since too much vitamin A can be toxic, consuming beta-carotene is a safer option compared to taking a Vitamin A supplement. Your body will convert beta-carotene to vitamin A on demand and as needed, avoiding any potential vitamin A toxicity.

Beta-carotene can:

  • Prevent the onset of eye disease and help promote good eye health;
  • Increase our immune health by reducing oxidative stress in the body;
  • Improve skin health and appearance;
  • Help with proper lung health and function; and
  • Increase cognitive function and memory.

Vitamin E (α-tocopherol)

One study looking at levels of α-tocopherol (AKA Vitamin E) by season found that grass milk in the spring had the highest levels. Per gram of milk fat, α-tocopherol was 13.3 - 18.0 μg in spring, 12.6 - 13.9 μg in summer, and 10.6 - 11.7 μg in fall.

Another study didn’t look specifically at Jersey cows, but we can see that among Brown Swiss and Holstein cows, Vitamin A was clearly highest (by a significant amount) in the spring. 

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Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant that can:

  • Protect cell constituents from the damaging effects of free radicals that, if unchecked, might contribute to cancer development;
  • Improve overall immune function;
  • Prevent or delay coronary heart disease;
  • Prevent or treat eye disorders; and
  • Optimize brain function.

CLA (conjugated linoleic acid)

Studies have shown that there is an eight-to-ten fold variation in CLA concentrations in milk. The variation comes from what the cows are eating and how mature the forage is.

When a cow eats pasture, you can see a 2-4 fold increase in CLAs. The more pasture a cow eats, the higher the CLAs in their milk. And, the less mature the forage, the higher the CLAs. This is why our cows eating 100% immature pasture in the spring produce milk with the highest levels of CLAs.

Conjugated linoleic acid is the only fatty acid shown unequivocally to inhibit carcinogenesis in experimental animals. CLA can reduce new tumor growth and destroy existing tumor cells. CLA has killed existing cancer cells in colon, ovarian and prostate carcinoma, leukemia, melanoma, and breast tumors. CLA-enriched butter inhibited a rat mammary tumor yield by 53%

Beyond cancer, CLA has many other benefits, too:

  • Reduced plaque build-up in the blood (atherosclerosis)
  • Enhanced immune system
  • Prevention and treatment of diabetes
  • Weight reduction; reduced body fat and increase body protein
  • Enhanced bone formation

Eating fresh biodiverse pastures is also healthiest for our cows. They can self-select their diet and use food as medicine.

When cows (or any animal) eat biodiverse pasture, it may seem like they’re eating whatever they can find. But, this isn’t true. They are choosing what to eat and what not to eat, like you do at a salad bar. Our biodiverse pastures have 12+ different types of plants growing at any time.

Research shows that herbivores self-select their diet and choose antimicrobial, antiparasitic, or antifungal plants if they are suffering from a disease or feel they need to prevent this. Wow!

For example, a study in New Zealand found that eating tannin-containing legumes can prevent and treat worms in cows (seeds from our alfalfa plants are high in tannins). Larvae have a hard time growing in the host, adult worms excrete fewer eggs, and the eggs that are laid are typically impaired. 

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Sources

  1. Grazing increases the unsaturated fatty acid concentration of milk from grass-fed cows: A review of the contributing factors, challenges and future perspectives
  2. Phytochemicals in animal health: diet selection and trade-offs between costs and benefits
  3. Effect of Sicilian pasture feeding management on content of α-tocopherol and β-carotene in cow milk
  4. Grass-fed cows produce healthier milk
  5. Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) in Animal Production and Human Health
  6. Conjugated Linoleic Acid and Cancer in Humans-Is there a Role or not? A Review of the Scientific Evidence
  7. THE INFLUENCE OF ENVIRONMENTAL TEMPERA- TURE ON THE PERCENTAGE OF BUTTER FAT IN COW'S MILK* 
  8. Vitamin E
  9. Have You Heard Of Beta-carotene? Here Are The Top 5 Benefits

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