Fatty acid ratio better, but that might not matter
A study done by Washington State University researchers suggests that organic milk, produced by cows eating primarily pasture grass and hay, provides a better ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.
The study is the first large-scale, nationwide comparison of organic and conventional milk, testing 384 samples of organic and conventional milk in 14 dairy plants in seven regions. When it comes to omega-6 to omega-3 ratios, low numbers are the most beneficial. Organic milk’s average omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio of 2.3 was less than half that of conventional milk’s 5.8 ratio.
"The team was surprised by the magnitude of the difference in the nutritional quality of organic and conventional whole milk," says Charles Benbrook, the leader of the research effort.
"In fact, the 2.5-fold improvement in the fatty acid balance in organic dairy products is likely the most significant nutritional benefit associated with any major category of organic food," Benbrook says.
While that could be true, it might not be all that meaningful, says Greg Miller, executive vice president of research, regulatory and scientific affairs at the National Dairy Council.
"It is important to note that dairy products are not considered a good source of omega-6 or omega-3 fatty acids in the total diet," Miller says. "The levels of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in dairy products are in general very low or extremely low, regardless if they are conventional or organic products.
"As such, the differences in omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in conventional versus organic dairy presented by the authors would not impact the overall dietary ratio of these fatty acids," he says.
"Milk provides a small proportion of the omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids we need each day, but the reality is people enjoy organic and regular milk because they deliver a powerhouse of other nutrients in an appealing, safe and readily available way," Miller says.