With money being tight in these difficult economic times the sale of organic produce has slumped. It will  therefore come as good news to producers that a European Union funded study conducted by Newcastle University (Nafferton Ecological Farming Group and its Human Nutrition Centre) of 22 milk brands indicates that 'Organic supermarket milk showed higher levels of nutritionally beneficial fatty acids compared with ‘ordinary’ milk … ' [1].

The research showed that, after cooler and wetter summers, the 'normal' milk collected had much higher levels of saturated fat and significantly less of the beneficial fatty acids than is normally found after average years. But changing to organic milk overcame these problems.

This study follows on from research into the difference between organic and 'normal' milk at the source in farms conducted three years ago.

Two main things came out.

The first was that at the supermarket organic milk had better uniform quality throughout the year and this was regardless of price paid. But when conducting the farm studies three years ago they found these benefits only occurred during the summer. The benefits the study says are derived from a reliance on grazing and swards of red and white clover not present where nitrogen fertiliser is used.

The second that there was a lot of difference between the brands of 'ordinary' milk and once again price was no guide. But here they found some milk labelled as from cattle grazed on grass when the samples suggested otherwise and backed up by low omega-3 levels in the samples as well as indications of the cows 'being supplemented with a saturated fat product derived from palm oil'.

Mrs Gillian Butler, the research team leader, said “We’re always being told to cut down on the saturated fat we consume and switching to organic milk and dairy products provides a natural way to increase our intake of nutritionally desirable fatty acids, vitamins and antioxidants without increasing our intake of less desirable fatty acids,

The head of policy at the Soil Association, Emma Hockridge, said "This groundbreaking research proves for the first time that people buying organic milk will be benefitting from the higher levels of beneficial fatty acids in organic milk through the whole year.”

This does all though contradict the Food Standards Authority's verdict four years ago that the increased levels of short chain omega-3 fatty acids in organic milk was of 'limited health benefit'.

But this latest study does show that organic produce may not be the fancy packaging and marketing money making exercise many believe it to be.

[1] www.ncl.ac.uk/press.office/press.release/item/choosing-organic-milk-could-offset-detrimental-effects-of-climate-change

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