With an increasing focus on healthy eating for healthy living, organic and natural foods have become buzz words and are being seen as the panacea for many lifestyle diseases. Hence, the increasing awareness and demand for organic as well as local or desi milk comes as no surprise.
During the recently concluded 7th IFCN (International Farm Comparison Network) regional workshop in Pune, it was observed that milk is being increasingly contaminated by bacteria, antibiotics and aflatoxins.
But some players in the industry are working to change this.
Pure and farm fresh
So, what exactly is organic milk? Any milk that is obtained from cows that are fed with organic fodder grown on chemical-free soil, and that are not injected with antibiotics and hormones, qualifies as organic milk.
This process ensures that the milk these cows give is completely free from any residues of pesticides, fertilisers, adulterants, antibiotics and hormones.
“Additionally, to be truly organic, milk should be obtained from one source, say one farm, as one can have complete control over the cows, their health, their feed, the milk production, etc. If the product is collected from various farms, it is highly difficult to maintain a certain level of quality and uniform organic standards,” says Mehal Kejriwal, co-founder, Happy Milk, Bengaluru.
Technology and innovation
The key in the production of organic milk is the way the cows are fed and nurtured. Most farms producing organic milk are characterised by the use of technology facilitating the use of automatic milking machines, systems to monitor cow health, bio-digesters, fodder choppers and chilling units. The animals are reared in a clean, stress-free environment and undergo regular veterinary check-ups. The milk is untouched by the human hand and thoroughly chilled, right from the farm until it reaches the customer’s doorstep.
“Our farm is driven by top-notch German technology, right from herd management to the packaging of end products. Also, we have tied up with an Israeli company for managing the cows’ health, their feed and the milk production,” adds Kejriwal, whose products are certified by Aditi Organic Certifications, accredited by Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority.
A1 vs A2 milk
While it is generally accepted that organic milk is healthier, there is yet another element that proves to be quite a significant factor.
This is the breed of the cow. A large part of the milk produced in India and by several organic farms is from Jersey and Holstein Friesians (HF) cows, cross-bred with Indian cows. These cows are known to produce more milk than pure Indian humped breeds like the Gir, Ongole, Sahiwal and Tharparkar.
While the former produce A1 milk, the pure Indian breeds produce A2 milk. Traditionally, the milk from humped Indian breeds has always been considered to have medicinal properties.
“In India, we are fortunate enough to be blessed with 64 different primary breeds of native cows. Unfortunately, right now, only 32 breeds are alive and the rest are possibly extinct. There are different native cows for different states, which are well-adapted to their home climatic zone. Truly good milk is milk from cows of that region, or at least cows that are well-adapted and allowed to graze freely,” says C Pradeep Kumar of Bengaluru-based Swarg Food, which supplies only A2 milk.
The nuts and bolts of it
So, what is the difference between A1 and A2 milk? The answer is the type of beta-casein present in the milk.
Milk protein is made up of whey and caseins, of which beta casein is one type of casein found in milk. Beta casein is essentially a chain of 209 amino acids, and while the beta casein structure of A1 milk has histidine which allows the formation of BCM7 during digestion, A2 has proline which does not allow BCM7 formation. The latter is not absorbed well by the human body, and is hence a potential cause for health concerns.
The verdict with regard to the health benefits of A1 vs A2 milk is divided and largely inconclusive.
Some studies reveal that A2 milk is easier to digest and prevents bloating, apart from being good for the immune system and overall brain development in children.
Other researchers opine that as long as the cows are free-range and grass-fed and the milk is fresh, the genetic mutation of the beta casein should not matter.
“While A2 milk definitely has health benefits, it really depends on the body type of the individual and what food suits them. Each case is specific,” says Surya Ramesh, Naturopath, Vitalife Clinics.