If you are looking for milk that is easier to digest, you may want to try milk from cows that produce the A2 protein. A2A2 milk has been shown to be easier on the digestive system than other types of milk. We discuss what it is and the best cows for producing it on the homestead.
I grew up drinking fresh milk from the cow to the glass. Granny taught me to milk before I was 7 years old. Betsy, the Jersey cow, was the first cow I milked. I took for granted the goodness of raw, organic milk.
For the last 30 years, there’s been a strong push to make us believe raw milk is not good for us. It’s even illegal in many states. We are told raw milk, which has been used since the dawn of civilization, is no longer safe unless it’s treated with pasteurization and homogenization.
If we are to believe the advocates for the pasteurization of all milk at all costs, raw milk is as bad as rat poison. The fact is humans thrived long before Pasteur was ever heard of and milk has been consumed in its raw form since the beginning of time.
Learn About A2A2 Milk
What Does A1 and A2 Mean?
In my studies, I met and talked with a man who worked with the State of Idaho dairy farmers. His job was to help them establish healthy herds and pastures. As part of his job, he educated them on the importance of breeding and buying A2A2 cows.
“A simplified explanation is that the solids found in cow’s milk are composed of fat, protein, lactose, and minerals. Beta-casein is one of six milk proteins and is produced by the CSN2 gene. There are twelve genetic variants of CSN2 known to cause changes in certain amino acids in the beta-casein protein and alter its properties. These variants can be classified into two groups, A1 and A2. These variants code for different amino acids at one specific site in the gene.”
All of this is too technical for me, but I get the general gist of what he’s saying. When researchers first categorized the exact makeup of Beta-casein protein, the first one was numbered A1.
Later, a chain was discovered that had a difference in the 67th amino acid and it was numbered A2. When tracing the genetics, it was discovered that the A2 gene was in fact the original and the A1 gene is a genetic mutation.
We’re told this mutation originated unknown years ago in European cattle. There has actually been a total of 12 bovine beta-casein variants found which are mutations of the original A2 gene.
The Reason For The “A1 vs A2” Debate
A1 is a protein most often found in milk from the high-producing Holstein cows which dominate most American and some European dairies. The A1 protein is much less prevalent in milk from Jersey, Guernsey, Scotch Highland, and most Asian and African cow breeds and is usually non-existent.
Breeding and how it affects the results in offspring works like this:
- When you breed an A2/A2 with an A2/A2, there are 2 copies of A2 present. This means you have an A2/A2 offspring.
- When you breed an A1/A2 with an A2/A2 animal, there’s one copy of A2 present. Only 50% of their offspring will be A2/A2.
- A1/A1 has no copies of A2 present so their offspring is, of course, A1/A1.
Whew! Did you get that?
According to Professor Keith Woodford, a professor of farm management and agribusiness at New Zealand’s Lincoln University, “We’ve got a huge amount of observational evidence that a lot of people can digest the A2, but not the A1”.
He goes on to say: “More than 100 studies suggest links between the A1 protein and a whole range of health conditions” everything from heart disease to diabetes to autism. Though some people contend the evidence is far from conclusive but isn’t this usually the case.
Professor Woodford wrote his book, “Devil in the Milk: Illness, Health, and the Politics of A1 and A2 Milk” in 2007.
What Does Pasteurization Do?
We should at least understand what pasteurization does. It sets out to accomplish two things: the destruction of certain disease-carrying germs and preventing souring. These are accomplished by keeping it at a temperature of 145 degrees to 150 degrees F for half an hour.
After this, the temperature is reduced to not more than 55 degrees F. Pasteurization does more than destroy dangerous germs, it also kills off useful bacteria at the same time. By subjecting the milk to high temperatures, nutritious components are destroyed as well.
Pasteurization kills the lactic acid bacilli. This means it cannot sour naturally but instead decomposes which allows unwanted germs to quickly multiply.
Over the years, I’ve been told by friends visiting from other countries: “American milk will make you sick.” It turns out they could be on to something. More and more research suggests most of the 1 in 4 Americans who exhibit symptoms of lactose intolerance are actually only unable to digest A1 milk.
In many countries where it’s not illegal, sour, raw milk is still widely used medicinally. It’s given to invalids because it’s easily digested and is a good laxative without many of the common side effects of modern medicines.
My Bottom Line
Now, all this study and research has its place, but it doesn’t really carry that much weight with me. I feel this way mostly because for every study done by one research group, I can find another study performed by a different group that says the exact opposite.
The A1A1 dairies, which dominate the American market, make their money selling millions of gallons in the stores. The possibility of certain groups getting paid to release studies and research with a predetermined favorable outcome is high.
I would say this happens more times in research than we would like to admit. So how do I know what research or book to believe on the subject of what the best milk is for my family? I listen to my own body.
We did a blind taste test. Mr. Farmer’s Lamp says we need to redo the test and make a video to share with you. I’ll update this article and share the video when we make it.
In this taste test, I was blindfolded. Then he poured three glasses of milk.
- One was pasteurized, organic milk we bought at our local grocery store
- One was raw A1A1 we bought from a health food store 50 miles to the north of us
- The third one was raw A2A2 milk purchased from a health food store about 40 miles to the east.
Each time I was able to pick out raw, unpasteurized A2/A2 milk over raw, unpasteurized A1/A1 milk. Who couldn’t taste the difference between store-bought A1 pasteurized milk and compared to A2/A2 raw? That’s really easy to do. As a matter of fact, it isn’t hard to tell them apart just by looking at them in the glass.
When I got married and moved away from the farm, we drank store-bought A1 milk. I began having all manner of digestive issues. I received a diagnosis of lactose intolerance from my doctor. I had never even heard of such a thing. He told me I would suffer from this for the rest of my life.
You know me, I’m not one to surrender so easily to any “condition.” I did a 14-day cleanse and returned to raw A2 milk. I was no longer lactose intolerant! I’ve not had any problem again. What a relief!
However, the best milk issue goes deeper than simply raw milk vs. pasteurized milk. It all starts with what kind of cow you get your milk from.
The Best A2A2 Cows For the Homestead
When looking to buy a milk cow for the homestead, you will have to decide if you want an A2 cow or not. Jersey cows, as far as I can determine, are the only breed that has been crossed as A1A2. Unless you know a Jersey farmer you fully trust, you will need to ask for tests to show if the cow is A1A2 or A2A2 before purchase. Sadly, some will deceive you and you won’t know until you experience problems with the milk.
- Scotch Highland
- Brown Swiss
I love milk and all of its wonderful uses in the kitchen! The best milk comes from grass-fed cows. Not just any grass, but grass growing in healthy, living soil. Nutrient-rich pastureland makes for the best milk along with non-GMO, organic grain when it must be fed.
Since I was raised on raw milk and my ancestors relied on it for so many of their dietary needs, we believe raw milk, having a longer and better track record, is the best milk for our family’s health.
Are there cut-and-dry answers to the questions about A1 and A2? For us there are, but we base this on our own experience.
Like all things, you have to make the best decision you can for yourself and your family. After you make the decision, move on in confidence you did the research, you experimented, and you made the best decision you could.
As always, we’re here to help.