Recently, we’ve talked about the benefits of grass fed organic dairy and cheese, but did you know that cows are not ONLY fed grass? According to Eat Wild, grass fed cows are often also fed legumes, such as clover or alfalfa or lower quality hay and grass silage at times. Cows that are 100% grass fed produce milk with the highest omega-3 fatty acid and CLA content but sadly, there are very few farms that do that in America. 100% grass fed cows produce less milk, so you can see why it’s not a popular choice. In addition, organic farmers are required to feed their cattle organic feed, but alfalfa and grazing pastures can be can be unintentionally contaminated by GMO seeds. So while your dairy may be marked as coming from a grass fed cow, that does not means she hasn’t been exposed to GMOs or non-grass food items.
Grass Fed Organic Dairy Farms and the California Drought
Another issue affecting the promise of organics is poor weather conditions. In the early months of 2014, a severe drought hit California organic farmers, forcing them to feed their cows mostly hay, rather than feeding on grass. Organic hay is hard to come by in an ordinary year. With drought conditions spread so far and wide, organic farmers were forced to pay as much $100 more per ton to import organic hay from up to 1000 miles away.
Since 2014 was one of the warmest years in the U.S. in record-keeping history, support for organic farms is needed because droughts are now severe. Additionally, the topic of the poor sustainability of cattle ranching has been hotly debated, but a new book by environmental lawyer and former cattle rancher Nicolette Hahn Niman called, “Defending Beef: The Case for Sustainable Meat Production,” makes the case for the benefits of cattle ranching on the planet. Take Part reports that the author turns many of the common arguments you hear – like water waste – on their ear. Hahn Niman believes that cattle are good for the environment. “Herbivores are nourished by grass, and in turn their grazing and trampling maintains grasslands. Grazing and trampling also keep down the emergence of woody plants that transform grasslands into environments less hospitable to grass.” While she does not agree that cattle have to be 100% grass fed, it’s rare to see a vegetarian supporting cattle farming.
Supporting Grass Fed Organic Dairy Farms
What can we do as a society? It’s important to support farmers that provide grass fed organic dairy, especially with rising heat waves and droughts.
5 Reasons to Support Grass Fed Organic Dairy Farmers
- These farmers value quality over profit. With lower production and higher costs for certification, these farmers do their best to provide the highest quality dairy – no shortcuts here!
- The more natural the cow, the safer the milk. Grass fed cows that are fed other types of feed are more susceptible to E. coli outbreaks than 100% grass fed cows and may be exposed to GMOs.
- Cows raised naturally are cleaner, healthier and treated more humanely.
- Grass fed dairy farming more sustainable when crop rotation is used to give time for the land to heal and grass to flourish.
- Farmers have taken pains to get organic certification and keep their soil free from cross contamination and pesticides.
Brands That Provide 100% Grass Fed Organic Dairy
We realize that finding these brands can be a challenge, so we’ve done some research to bring you the top brands available nationally that provide 100% grass fed organic dairy:
- Kingdom Cheddar works with farms that are committed to organic, grass fed practices for their dairy products. Their cows graze on naturally grown grass. They use crop rotation for the most fertile soil and ensure their cows live in a peaceful, natural environment. And because they are in the UK, cross contamination with GMO pesticides is not a problem. Their farmers are families, some who’ve had their farms in the family for 100 years and many have been organic for over a decade. Organic dairyman in England care about the land so much that they tend to call themselves “grass farmers” because the clover is that important to them. They also care about sustainability and the beautiful landscape that comes from raising cows as naturally as this.
- You can also buy 100% grass fed organic dairy from U.S. farmers. Organic Valley Grassmilk comes from 100% grass fed, giving a bigger dose of Omega-3 and CLA. It’s minimally pasteurized and not homogenized. And, of course, they are USDA organic.
- Maple Hill Creamery provides 100% grass fed dairy, including grass fed yogurt in a variety of flavors.
- Traders Point Creamery is an Indiana farm that carries milk, yogurt, artisan cheeses, cottage cheese and more. You have to contact them, but they do ship nationally.
- For local farms that you can order grass fed dairy products for pick up, please check this list on Eat Wild.
- Note that raw milk is not legal to purchase in every state, so you may not be able to get an out of state product that you want.
100% grass fed organic dairy is the best choice for your family, if you can get it. It supports an industry that is just beginning to grow and is good for our environment and for the animals. Support local grass fed organic dairy farms today.
Disclosure: Bookieboo LLC has worked with numerous brands in the natural space, including Kingdom Cheddar and Organic Valley.