What is grass fed milk and why does it matter when it comes to formula?

By Mandy Sacher, Munchkin

With 101 variants in any given grocery aisle, when it comes to choosing a toddler formula, the choice is never easy. From gold to goat, something many mums can overlook, is thinking about the source quality of the milk that their formula is made from.

Munchkin Grass Fed Milk-Based Toddler Drink is a new formula offering that is made from 100 per cent New Zealand grass fed cows. Going beyond organic, it aims to offer mums an alterative that is produced from naturally nutrient-rich grass-fed milk.

If the term ‘grass fed’ is new to you, we spoke to leading paediatric nutritionist and Wholesome Child founder, Mandy Sacher to explain exactly what makes this milk different, and why it matters.

Q: What is grass fed milk?

A: 100% grass fed milk is made from cows that are fed an exclusive diet of grass, plants and shrubs. Most farming practices today have the feed of dairy cows supplemented with grain, corn and soy based foods, which can expose cows to GM ingredients and impact the nutritional properties of the milk itself. When cows are fed a 100% grass fed diet, the milk has been proven to contain more nutritional benefits than grain-fed. So when cows are fed a nutrient rich diet they are healthier and produce a higher grade quality of milk.

Q: Why is the milk used in a formula important to its overall quality?

A: Most parents don’t realise that on average up to 65% of a formula is made up of milk and milk by-products so the quality and source of milk used in any formula is of paramount importance.

While it can be confusing with so many options available, mums really need to do their research and to first identify whether milk is right for their child and then to make sure the formula they are offering is made from a high grade quality milk.

Q: Is there a difference between organic and grass fed?

A: The main difference between organic and grass fed milk is in relation to the way a cow is fed. Certified Organic Milk can come from cows that feed on certified organic grain, whereas only grass fed milk specifies that the milk must come from cows that feed on grass, plants and shrubs exclusively.

Q: What are the key benefits of grass fed as opposed to grain?

A: As the preferred natural diet of cows, 100% grass fed milk contains multiple nutritional benefits when compared to the milk produced from cows fed a grain based diet. This includes:

  • Up to five times the naturally occurring conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). CLA is a fat also found in breast milk and has various benefits for toddlers including boosting the immune system, improved bone mass and controlling blood sugar levels
  • Higher levels of beta carotene from grazing on natural pastures, assists with immune health, visual health and fat metabolism
  • Increased levels of antioxidants such as vitamin E
  • Higher levels of minerals and vitamins
  • A healthier ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Further, cows on a 100% grass fed diet do not consume genetically modified ingredients like corn, soy or canola oil, making it naturally GMO free

Q: Does the amount of grass in a cow’s diet matter and why is 100 per cent grass fed important?

A: The more grass present in the diet of a cow, the higher the nutritional output of that milk will likely be. With that in mind, looking out for a 100% grass fed distinction is important as this means that a cow is not only fed grass as part of their diet, but rather this is what makes up their diet exclusively. A 100 per cent grass fed stamp ensures that the milk is of a high quality, combining all the nutritional benefits offered by grass fed milk.

Q: Why is it important to choose a formula with probiotics?  

A: One of the main benefits of breast milk is that it is saturated with beneficial bacteria, which influences the state of a baby’s health. A healthy gut (microbiome) is the cornerstone of good health in young children. A formula supplemented with probiotics, or prebiotics, can help maintain a healthy microbiome in formula fed babies who are not receiving breast milk. 

Note: The views and advice expressed on this blog post are those of the author and are not representative of the Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo.

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