Research Highlights Key Benefits of Choosing Organic Meat, Milk

Research Highlights Key Benefits of Choosing Organic Meat, Milk

Like probably many of you, I have friends who have no clue why eating organic is a big deal. Prepare to show this piece to them the next time they laugh at you for spending a little extra on foods that aren’t genetically modified and covered in pesticides.

A new study analyzing data on milk and meat found that the organic varieties contain 50% more omega-3s than the non-organic types.

The study was funded by the European Commission (EC), the executive body of the European Union (EU), and the Sheepdrove Trust, a British charity that supports organic farming research. The two spent about $600,000 on the analysis.

Do the results spell better health for people who eat organic milk and meat?

Richard P. Bazinet, a professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Toronto who was not involved in the research, said:

“We don’t have that answer right now. Based on the composition, it looks like it should be better for us.” [1]

The international team of researchers reviewed 196 papers on milk, and 67 papers on meat and analyzed fatty acid composition and concentrations of certain minerals and antioxidants in both organic and non-organic varieties. Along with the higher levels of heart-healthy oils, researchers also discovered that:

  • Organic meat had lower levels of myristic and palmitic acid – long-chain saturated fatty acids that purportedly raise LDL “bad” cholesterol and contribute to cardiovascular diseases.
  • Organic milk contained higher levels of fat-soluble vitamins including vitamin E and carotenoids, as well as 40% more conjugated linoleic acid and a lower omega-6/omega-3 ratio. Omega-6 is a polyunsaturated fat that, along with omega-3, is vital for the functioning of the human body. However, some experts say that an imbalance of more omega-6 than omega-3 could be damaging to health.
  • Non-organic milk contained more iodine because it is found in cattle feed. This means that half a liter of milk would supply 53% of and 88% of the daily recommended intake from organic and conventional milk, respectively. [2]

Read: What – You Still Believe Cholesterol Causes Heart Attacks?

The nutritional difference comes from the fact that organic milk and beef comes from cows that are raised outdoors and eat grass, whereas traditional milk and beef comes from animals that are primarily fed grain. Grass contains many more omega-3s than grain.

Carlo Leifert, lead researcher and professor of ecological agriculture at Newcastle University in England, said:

“People choose organic milk and meat for three main reasons: improved animal welfare, the positive impacts of organic farming on the environment, and the perceived health benefits. But much less is known about impacts on nutritional quality, hence the need for this study.

Several of these differences stem from organic livestock production and are brought about by differences in production intensity, with outdoor-reared, grass-fed animals producing milk and meat that is consistently higher in desirable fatty acids such as the omega-3s, and lower in fatty acids that can promote heart disease and other chronic diseases.” [3]

Dr. Walter C. Willett, the chairman of the nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, explained to The New York Times that the high saturated fat content in milk and beef made the added benefits of eating the organic types “trivial.”

He explained:

“Far greater, and beneficial, differences in fatty acids are seen if poultry and fish replace red meat.”

Read: 5 Nutritional Reasons People Keep Eating Meat

Of course, if everyone consumed the amount of fish they’d have to eat to reap the benefits of getting more omega-3s, there would be no fish left in our seas and waterways.

Dr. Leifert is currently conducting experiments to see if rats fed organic foods are healthier. So far, he says, pesticides do appear to have a noticeable impact on the rats’ hormones.

He said:

“We still don’t know whether it kills you, but we do know it has an effect on hormonal balances. It’s something that makes you think a little bit.”


[1] The New York Times

[2] RTT News

[3] Irish Examiner