Organic meat and milk products have been found to have higher nutrient levels compared to non-organic products, according to newest findings. Team leader Carlo Leifert said, “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. But much less is known about impacts on nutritional quality, hence the need for this study.”
“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,” Leifert explained.
The researchers reviewed worldwide studies that included 196 studies on milk and 67 on meat. The findings revealed that organic products have higher levels of fatty acids, certain essential minerals, and antioxidants.
For comparison, organic milk and meat were found to have 50 percent more essential omega-3 fatty acids, and organic milk provides 40 percent more conjugated linoleic acid. Furthermore, organic milk has slightly higher levels of iron, vitamin E, and some carotenoids. On the other hand, conventional milk has 74 percent higher levels of iodine and selenium, compared to organic.
Organic meat has slightly lower levels of saturated fats that contribute to heart disease.
The findings suggest that switching to organic meat and milk can help increase people’s intake of essential fatty acids that many of us are lacking. Furthermore, these fatty acids work to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, so it’s important to consume an adequate amount.
Leifert added, “We have shown without doubt there are composition differences between organic and conventional food. [These studies] suggest that a switch to organic fruit, vegetables, meat, and dairy products would provide significantly higher amounts of dietary antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids.”
Additional research is required in order to estimate the differences in meat from different farm animals and for nutritionally important compounds. Leifert concluded, “However, the fact that there are now several mother and child cohort studies linking organic food consumption to positive health impacts shows why it is important to further investigate the impact of the way we produce our food on human health.”