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  • Writer's pictureR. J. Fidalgo

Milk: Is it really good for you?

Updated: Jul 8, 2023

So, is milk good for you? This has become quite a controversial subject. Each individual is unique, but in a general sense, I believe that milk and its derived products are especially good and important for those engaged in a vegetarian diet.

It is perplexing to me, to see an industry focused on selling skimmed or semi-skimmed milk. I understand that this fat is required to make butter and cream, but there is a whole other industry ready to receive their byproducts. So, why do we drink milk? Because it is considered to be a more "complete" form of food. When you buy skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, you are depriving yourself of valuable content. If you are concerned about consuming too much fat, I would say that milk fat would be the least of your worries.

Consider trying organic milk. It may be more expensive, but it offers far better quality and taste compared to products produced by more conventional methods. Organic milk has a slightly better vitamin/mineral profile than conventional products, but its real strength lies in the quality of its fats, which are richer in omega-3s and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), in other words, healthier fats.

Historically, cows were primarily grazers, feeding on natural pastures and forage found in their environment. Their diet consisted of a diverse range of grasses, herbs, and other plant species. This natural grazing behavior allowed cows to consume a balanced and nutritionally rich diet, providing them with essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.

However, with the rise of intensive farming practices and the increasing demand for dairy and meat products, the diet of cows has been heavily manipulated and controlled by man. The focus has shifted from natural grazing to more controlled feeding systems aimed at maximizing production and efficiency. One significant change has been the introduction of concentrated feeds and grains into the cow's diet. These feeds, such as corn, soybeans, and wheat, are often used as a supplement or replacement for grazing. While they can provide a concentrated source of energy, they are not part of the cow's natural diet and can have various implications for their health.

Feeding cows high amounts of grains and concentrated feeds can lead to digestive issues and metabolic disorders. Cows have evolved to digest fibrous plant material through a complex fermentation process in their rumen. Sudden changes or excessive amounts of grain in their diet can disrupt this process, causing conditions like acidosis or bloat. Another notable change in cow diets is the use of feed additives, growth promoters, and hormones. These substances are often used to enhance growth, increase milk production, or prevent diseases. While they may have short-term benefits for productivity, their long-term effects on cow health and the safety of animal products are still a subject of debate and concern.

In recent years, there has been a growing movement towards more sustainable and natural feeding practices for cows. Pasture-based systems, where cows have access to diverse grazing lands, are gaining popularity as they mimic the cows' natural diet and behavior. Additionally, organic farming practices prohibit the use of synthetic additives and hormones, promoting a more natural and balanced diet for cows. I personally drink milk and consume other dairy products, but I am mindful of how they are made and where they come from. The milk I drink comes from the archipelago of Azores (Açores), where the pastures are green and lush year-round. This is not to say that things are perfect in these pasture-based systems, but they are naturally closer to where they need to be.

The dietary habits of cows have significantly changed due to human intervention. While these changes have allowed for increased productivity and efficiency, they have also raised concerns about the health and welfare of cows, as well as the nutritional quality of their products. Striking a balance between meeting the demands of a growing population and ensuring the well-being of cows through sustainable and natural feeding practices is a crucial challenge that needs to be addressed in modern agriculture.


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