Organic Meat, Milk Could Offer Health Benefits

Organic Meat, Milk Could Offer Health BenefitsOrganic Meat, Milk Could Offer Health Benefits

Organic meat and milk could offer more health benefits than conventionally delivered products, according to a new study by scientists from the UK, Poland, Norway, Italy, Denmark, Switzerland, Greece and Turkey.

Both organic meat and milk provide 50% more of the omega-3 fatty acids that are important in human nutrition. Organic meat has slightly lower concentrations of two saturated fats that are linked to greater risk of cardiovascular disease.

And organic milk contains 40% more linoleic acid, and carries slightly higher concentrations of iron, vitamin E and some carotenoids.

But conventional milk contains 74% more iodine and slightly more selenium, two minerals essential for healthy development, reported.

The comparison is delivered in two studies in the British Journal of Nutrition, both led by Professor Carlo Leifert of the Nafferton Ecological Farming Group at the University of Newcastle.

Neither study is based on new laboratory work: both are what are called meta-analyses. Researchers looked at data from around the world, and reviewed 196 research studies of milk and 67 papers on meat to identify clear differences between organic and conventional milk and meat, in terms of fatty acid composition, and in the concentrations of certain minerals and anti-oxidants.

The logic behind meta-analysis is that any single study could be skewed, or deliver an arguable conclusion, but a review of all the studies might give a surer guide. The reviews included several studies of mothers and children and the consequences of organic milk and dairy consumption.

 “People choose organic milk and meat for three main reasons: improved animal welfare, the positive impacts of organic farming and the perceived health benefits. But much less is known about the impacts on nutritional quality, hence the need for this study,” said Leifert.

 “Several of these differences stem from organic livestock production and are brought about by differences in production intensity, with outdoor-reared, grass-fed animals producing milk and meat that is consistently higher in desirable fatty acids such as the omega-3s, and lower in fatty acids that can promote heart disease and other chronic diseases.”

His co-author and colleague Chris Seal, professor of food and human nutrition at Newcastle said, “Omega-3s are linked to reductions in cardiovascular disease, improved neurological development and function, and better immune function. Western European diets are recognized as being too low in these fatty acids and the European Food Safety Authority recommends we should double our intake. But getting enough in our diet is difficult. Our study suggests that switching to organic could go some way towards improving intakes of these important nutrients.”