What makes New Zealand milk so good?


New Zealand’s pasture-fed cows produce some of the best milk in the world... here’s why!

05 May 2018

3 min

#Blog #All Categories #New Zealand

You are what you eat, and it’s no different for cows.

The quality of the milk cows produce is directly related to their diet and environment. So it’s no wonder that New Zealand’s pasture-fed cows, feasting on our lush green grass, produce some of the best milk in the world.

And it’s this milk, full of natural goodness, that we’re proud to take to the world as the leading global dairy exporter.

Thanks to New Zealand’s temperate climate, cows here can graze outdoors all year round. And being predominately grass-fed (rather than grain fed) their milk is richer in omega-3 fats, vitamin E, beta-carotenes and CLA (that’s a beneficial fatty acid called conjugated linoleic acid).

These important nutrients, along with our rigorous testing and quality standards, enable us to meet the highest customer expectations.

But let’s dig a little deeper to discover what’s behind each of these elements and why they’re so important.

Why fatty acid balance is important?

The benefits of essential fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6 are well known. But what’s also important is the balance of these fatty acids. And new evidence suggests that a  balanced ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids (e.g. 50/50) is important for human health.5 As you’ll see, pasture-fed cows (like the ones here in New Zealand) produce a preferable balance compared to those fed a higher proportion of grains.

The more grass in a cow’s diet, the higher the quality of the milk in terms of its polyunsaturated fatty acid composition. 

High proportion of CLA

Emerging evidence has shown some exciting positive health benefits of CLA including potential anti-inflammatory properties.1

Further detailed research is ongoing, but right now it’s reassuring to know that pasture raised cows have a greater concentration of CLA in their milk (up to twice as much) compared to grain-fed cows.2

Glowing with beta-carotene 

If you’ve ever wondered why your New Zealand butter has a beautiful natural golden colour, it’s all down to the beta-carotene. 

Beta-carotene is a precursor for vitamin A (which means it’s able to be converted to the active form of vitamin A). Vitamin A is an essential antioxidant and we need it for healthy skin and mucus membranes, our immune system, and vision.

Beta-carotene is found in substantial amounts in some fresh plant food, like grass. So milk products from pasture-fed cows may have a higher concentration of this nutrient.1,3,4 Another reason why New Zealand cows produce the some of the best milk in the world.

Packed with vitamin E

Another health benefit growing in our lush New Zealand grass is vitamin E. Milk from grass-fed cows generally has a greater concentration of vitamin E compared with cows fed unfortified grains.1

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble nutrient found in many foods. In the body, it acts as an antioxidant, helping to protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals.

There’s also evidence to suggest that the vitamin E concentration in milk from pasture-fed cows reduces oxidation in milk3 which in turn can improve the flavour.

All of these nutrients help make our New Zealand milk an amazing and unique food from nature that we’re proud to take to the world.

Want to find out more about our New Zealand dairy expertise?

Grass is a natural food source for cows – and New Zealand is an ideal place to grow it. Find out more about our natural advantages and how you can use them to benefit your business.

  • [1] Clancy K. Greener Pastures. How grass-fed beef and milk contribute to healthy eating. Union of Concerned Scientists. 2006.
  • [2] Dhiman T R., Anand GR.. et al. Conjugated linoleic acid content of milk from cows fed different diets. J Dairy Sci 1999;82(10):2146-56.
  • [3] Jensen, S. K. Quantitative secretion and maximal secretion capacity of retinol, beta-carotene and alpha-tocopherol into cows' milk. J Dairy Res. 1999; 66(4):511-22.
  • [4] Searles, SK et al, "Vitamin E, Vitamin A, and Carotene Contents of Alberta Butter." Journal of Dairy Science, 1969; 53(2) 150-154.
  • [5] Candela G., Lopez B., Kohen L. Importance of a balanced omega 6/omega-3 ratio for the maintenance of health. Nutritional recommendations. Nutr Hosp. 2011;26(2):323-329.

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