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Why consume pasture-grazed dairy products?
We've probably all have seen the labels in the dairy aisle touting 'grass-fed', 'free-range', 'pasture-grazed', but as much as we are flooded with these labels we are equally confused. It's easy to get flustered because despite all the name calling they all roughly imply the same thing: that this animal is raised in the field and eats primarily grasses or hay. To further complicate things, there is yet to be a standard set for this type of dairy herding. In a recent report detailing the special aspects of Wisconsin pasture-based dairy, author Laura Paine attempts to simplify things. She asks to refer to these dairy products as 'pasture-grazed' as this term most fully envelops the management practices used. As well, she as defines 'pasture-grazed' as dairy that is fed on a diet of a minimum of 60% pasture, the rest being made up of hay or grain. No ensiled feed, that is fermented hay or grain, is allowed. Understanding that the milk you consume comes from an animal that eats grass may not be enough to convince you to buy pasture based dairy, but there are a few more compelling reasons as to buy such wonderful dairy.
1. Color, Texture, Flavor: Best for when in the Kitchen When working in the kitchen, pasture-grazed dairy enhances your cooking experience. You may notice the butter has a warm yellow hue to it, this comes from the grasses it eats and reflects a higher nutrient profile, but it also adds a rich color to baked goods. The texture of pasture grazed butter is much more stable than conventional butter and remains consistent over a wide range of temperatures. It is not brittle when cold nor does it lose its shape when at room temperature, instead it is more pliable making pastries much easier to work with. Pasture grazed butter isn't just for baking, it also performs exceptionally while cooking. More viscous, pasture butter makes a thicker and satiny sauces. And not only does it brings out and compliments other flavors in simple dishes, it also can stand on its own with a full, rich flavor.
2. Support Wisconsin and Local Dairies We often think of Wisconsin as the dairy state, but this state isn't just about producing high quantities of milk. Wisconsin also leads the nation in pasture-grazed dairy production with 22% of all its dairy coming from pasture based practices. This gives Wisconsin the ability to compete with other high volume milk producing states. Through pasture based dairies, Wisconsin can take advantage of value-added artisan products. When you buy pasture-grazed you show support for local dairies and keep Wisconsin on the cutting edge of high-quality and skilled artisan dairy.
3. Your Health: Getting the best out of the cream from the top Pasture grazed dairy is rich is wholesome, healthy, beneficial fats. Contrary to popular belief, fats are not only good for you but necessary. While on pasture, the butterfat content of milk has greater amounts of vitamins and nutrients, particularly vitamin A and E and caratenoids. More importantly, pasture grazed dairy has a 1:1 ratio of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. These are both essential to the body, but are only healthy when consumed in the one to one ratio. Pasture grazed dairy provides you with the omega 3 fatty acids that are heart healthy, raise the good cholesterol, and supplies the material needed to build your cell membranes. Further, pasture grazed dairy is highly more satisfying. This is again because of the fat content. Much conventional dairy has the fat stripped out of it and replaced with sugar which raises the bad cholesterol and spikes your blood sugar which makes you hungrier. By sticking with pasture grazed dairy you consume all of the good fats that give you energy and supports a more balanced diet.
4. Renew your Earth With the potential to reverse damaged soil, pasture grazed dairy and managed grazing keeps both animals and the land healthy. Managed grazing reduces soil erosion and minimizes runoff by keeping grasses on the earth all year long. This leads to higher organic matter and water retention in the soil. Animals raised on pasture have the freedom to exercise, eat a diversified diet of grasses, and breath fresh air. Because of this, pasture grazed dairy typically have no use for hormones and antibiotics. With chemicals absent and nature allowed to manage the land less pollutants are washed downstream keeping our waterways clean and our soil strong.
By consistently buying pasture based dairy you set a standard of what you want out of your dairy products. You show that you want Wisconsin to be a strong force in specialized dairy. You show that your health and your earth matter to you. You may be able to find pasture grazed dairy at your local food co-op, or try Trust Local Foods. We can provide you with a bounty of products for you choosing, from Saxon Creamery's crowd favorite Snowfields cheese to un-homogenized milk from Clover Meadows Family Farm. Cheese, yogurt, butter, and milk we have it all local and pasture based.
Paine, Laura (July, 2013) Growing the pasture-grazed dairy sector in wisconsin: Summary of findings and recommendations, Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.
Glacierland Resource Conservation and Development (2013) Managed grazing, www.glacierland.org
Eat Wild (2013) Health benefits of grass-fed products, www.eatwild.com Green, Emma (Nov, 2013) The controversial life of skim milk, The Atlantic