Bangalore is doing its bit for the desi cow as Harshini Vakkalanka discovers

Desi cow ghee in earthen pots, fresh butter, sweetened hung curd, kalakand, basundi, rasamalai and rasagolla, kulfi, jamun rabadi, ladoo malai or motichoor ladoo; these may seem like the bane of every health-freak in the country not to mention diabetics but that’s just the point.

These desi cow milk sweets, made at Swarg Foods, a Bangalore-based organisation that works to protect the Indian or desi cow breeds are reportedly less likely to cause diabetes, than the regular milk sold in many supermarkets and dairies across the world.

The difference is pointed out in a piece of research, Devil In The Milk, by Dr.Keith Woodford who says (as quoted from an interview) that “a mutation many years ago created an aberrant protein in some European cows, called A1 cows to set them aside from all other cows, which are called A2. As a result, the milk from these cows has been linked to a host of maladies, including Type 1 diabetes, autism and heart disease”.

The Indian desi cow is known to be of the A2 type, as many Asian breeds of cows, some African breeds and even a few Western breeds are known to be. “There has been a lot of research lately about desi cow milk in countries such as Australia and if portrayed in the correct light, can change the diary industry,” says Pradeep Swarg of Swarg Foods. “The milk sweets we make sustain our unit and help us pay our farmers. We want to bring desi cow milk and milk products to as many people as we can because desi milk products are healthy and some, like desi ghee, even have medicinal properties.”

The main objective, says Pradeep, is to revive ancient Indian agricultural practises whose lifeline was the cow, that provided milk as well as the ingredients, which were essential in producing natural pesticides and fertilizers.

“The desi cow is vital in the revival of organic farming. But that is the third phase of our project. As of now, we are focusing on protecting the cow by supplying milk and ensuring the farmer benefits in the bargain.”

“We use cross breeds, of local or desi cows and the Holstein cows,” says Dr. J.N.S. Reddy, Managing Director of Akshayakalpa Farms and Foods, which supplies organic milk to homes in the city. “These are adapted to local conditions and their productivity is high. I don’t think that the breeds themselves are important. It is what they are fed that makes a difference.”

Organic milk comes from cows that are fed only fresh, locally grown green grass as opposed to cattle feed. The cows are not fed additives of any kind. The milk is not pasteurized and freshly drawn milk is kept in the cold chain till it reaches the consumer’s doorstep.

“What we do here while cross-breeding is to ensure that the cows retain A2 characteristics. The farmer’s interest is of utmost importance to us. There is no point in keeping a cow that brings in losses just for its breed. The city cattle, even if they are of the desi breed is fed with cattle feed. They are not taken care of properly. One cannot compare this to a scientifically-managed farm.”

Sanjay Majumdar, former caretaker at the goshala on the Art of Living premises in Kanakpura road, points out how countries like Brazil have been importing large numbers of Indian cows and have now bred them to develop varieties which can yield over 25 to 35 litres of milk everyday, which is much more than cows such as the Jersey breeds yield. “Traditionally the Indian cow has been respected and I have always felt good being around them,” says Sanjay. “From what I have observed of them, I see that they exhibit a certain sense of discipline and social behaviour which I do not see in the European breeds, for instance, if a herd of desi cows is drinking water and there is not space for all of them to drink at once, they form lines and wait for the cow in front to finish. There is lot more to food than just nutrition.”