Recent studies have shown that both organic milk and meat contain around 50 per cent more beneficial omega-3 fatty acids than conventionally produced products. Analysing worldwide data, 196 papers on milk and 67 papers on meat found clear differences between organic and conventional milk and meat, especially in terms of fatty acid composition, and the concentrations of certain essential minerals and antioxidants.
The data shows a switch to organic meat and milk would go some way towards increasing our intake of nutritionally important fatty acids. Omega-3s are linked to reductions in cardiovascular disease, improved neurological development and function, and better immune function. Many diets are recognised as being too low in these fatty acids. The study suggests that switching to organic would go some way towards improving intakes of these important nutrients.
Most importantly, a switch from conventional to organic would raise omega-3 fat intake without increasing calories and undesirable saturated fat. For example, half a litre of organic full fat milk (or equivalent fat intakes from other dairy products like butter and cheese) provides an estimated 16 per cent (39mg) of the recommended daily intake of very long-chain omega-3, while conventional milk provides 11 per cent (25mg).
Other positive changes in fat profiles included lower levels of myristic and palmitic acid in organic meat and a lower omega-3/omega-6 ratio in organic milk. Higher levels of fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin E and carotenoids and 40 per cent more CLA in organic milk were also observed.
The study showed that the more desirable fat profiles in organic milk were closely linked to outdoor grazing and low concentrate feeding in dairy diets. People choose organic milk and meat for three main reasons: improved animal welfare, the positive impacts of organic farming on the environment, and the perceived health benefits.