When you think about protein, what comes to mind? If you're like most people, you probably think of meat. But there's another source of high-quality protein that you may not have considered: whey protein. Whey is a dairy product that is made from the liquid that separates from curdled milk during cheese production. It is a complete protein, meaning it contains all the essential amino acids your body needs to function properly. But, not all whey protein is made the same. Cows that are treated differently produce different milk, resulting in different whey protein. And there is a big difference in lifestyle and nutrition for the cows that are treated poorly versus the cows that are treated the way they're meant to be.
Cravin' Some Grazin'
Conventional Vs. Grass-Fed Lifestyles
The first difference most people notice between “conventional” cows and grass-fed cows is, understandably, how they are fed. “Conventionally” raised cows are raised on a primarily grained-based feed. They are fed on relatively cramped feedlots, which often include small enclosures or stalls for the cows to stand and eat in. This style of feed practice is used to decrease land usage, increase the overall number of cows produced, and increase the fattiness of the cows for beef production. These close quarters might boost the overall output of beef or milk, but the situation is harmful to the cows themselves. Cows reared on feedlots are at an increased risk of infection, meaning sick cows and, potentially, sick people. The resulting increase in antibiotics used to fight these infections is also contributing to our current war against treatment-resistant bacteria.
In contrast, grass-fed cows are fed exactly how you might guess: on grass! While the phrase “grass-fed” doesn’t have a consistent definition across the board, it does mean that the cows are generally fed an almost 100% grass-based diet. Grass-fed cows are kept out at pasture more often, and they are allowed to roam in large paddocks or even open acreage. This has a lot of benefits for the cows, including improving their stress levels. One 2019 study showed that more pasture time improved several parameters of stress in dairy cows, including time spent lying down (which we all know is important for everyone). Chill cows are happy cows, and happy cows produce better milk! No company exemplifies the grass-fed life better than EFM partner Truly Grass Fed. On any one of the more than 3,000 farms that partner with Truly Grass fed, you’ll find cows that are fed a 95% grass diet. As well, the farms have an average of two acres of space for each cow, meaning no cramped conditions and no need for antibiotics or hormones.
Nutritional Nuts and Bolts
Health Benefits of Grass-Fed
Speaking of happy cows and better milk, better milk also means better whey! Research has shown a number of nutritional differences between products of conventionally fed cows and grass-fed cows. Grain fed cows do have higher levels of monounsaturated fats relative to their pasture-raised cousins, which is likely because of their higher overall fat content.
However, the lean, mean, grass-grazing machines out at pasture take the crown for nutritional benefits. Feed type is an important factor in the types of fat in milk products, and grass-based feeds have more than enough nutrients to help keep the cows (and, in turn, us) healthy. Whey produced from grass-fed cows has increased levels of Omega-3 fatty acids, as well as another type of fatty acid called Conjugated Linoleic Acid, or CLA.
Omega-3s are a hot health topic, and for good reason. They have numerous benefits, including decreasing the risk of heart disease. This risk reduction might be the result of Omega-3s’ ability to improve the health of our blood vessels, as well as fighting inflammation in our bodies. While Omega-3s are helping fight inflammation, CLA is making it easier for our bodies to process the nutrients we take in. Research shows that CLA improves metabolism and efficient fat burning. Think about that. Not only is your Earth Fed Muscle whey protein helping you build muscle, it’s also helping you fight inflammation and burn fat at the same time. And, to top it off, there are some very happy and healthy cows on the other end of that process.
Really, grass-fed seems like a simple way to benefit everyone in the process of making and consuming whey protein. Raise cows on the food they were meant to eat, in the spaces they were meant to live, and we get better, more nutritious products in the end. Responsible enterprises like Truly Grass Fed are even committed to making their production process truly traceable, so that there is complete transparency around how every step in the process happens. We can have a healthy and sustainable future, and we have so many solutions to make that future a reality. Sometimes, the solutions are staring us right in the face!