Appeal of Grassmilk hinges on nutrition, flowery taste
By CAROL RYAN DUMAS
The Organic Valley dairy cooperative has a new product on shelves in selected states -- Grassmilk.
According to the company, Grassmilk comes from cows that are 100 percent grass fed, eating only fresh grasses and dried forages, never grains or soybeans.
The product is pasteurized but not homogenized and has a yellowish color and a grassy or flowery flavor, said Eric Snowdeal, Organic Valley's milk and cream product manager.
"It's a unique product in the market," he said.
Some small, regional labels produce milk from 100 percent grass-fed cows, but by and large it's a unique product, he said.
Consumers are looking for both grass-fed and nonhomogenized milk because it is seen as more nutritious, he said. The milk is higher in omega-3 fatty acids, lower in omega-6 and higher in conjugated linoleic acid, he said.
Research shows the ratio between omega-6 and omega-3 in Western diets is about 30 to 1, but some experts say humans evolved on a 1 to 1 ratio and a healthy diet should be closer to 4 to 1, he said.
Omega-6 can lead to heart disease, asthma and other inflammatory diseases, he said. Conventional milk has a higher level of omega-6, a result of the amount of corn ingested by cows, he said. The omega-6 levels are lower in organic milk and even lower in Grassmilk.
Four farms and 700 cows in Northern California's coastal plains are producing the milk for Organic Valley. The company anticipates annual production of 8.9 million to 11.5 million pounds.
The product can be found in about 100 Whole Foods Markets, natural food stores and independent food co-ops in California, Oregon, Washington and Colorado.
The milk debuted in Whole Foods Markets in April, with a suggested retail price of $5.49 a half gallon.
Response has been enthusiastic, Snowdeal said.
"We've seen a lot of excitement about it, (drawing) instant loyal fans. It's analogous to grass-fed beef," he said.
The product took more than a year to develop. Organic Valley had to find the right part of the country and the right producers, develop standards for feed and work with nutritionists and veterinarians on the care and monitoring of cows.
While Grassmilk is a unique product, Organic Valley is dedicated to pasturing cows for all its organic milk and has a strict pasture policy it fought hard to have included in the USDA National Organic Standard, he said.
Organic Valley consists of 1,723 farmers in 35 states and three Canadian provinces and had $715 million in sales in 2011.