Grass fed Vs Grain fed? Many of you may have heard this question raised in regards to beef, but how many of you have taken this into account when it comes to milk – and in turn, your all-important Whey Protein.
Before we delve into why or why not grass fed cows may be producing superior whey, we should understand the difference between grass-fed and grain-fed cows. The life of a cow generally always starts in the same way. A calf is born in the spring and in its infancy will drink milk from its mother before it begins to roam free and eat grass as it pleases. Pre-1940’s this would continue for the remainder of its life. So, what changed in the 40’s? The demand for beef and dairy products increased, causing a need for more efficiency in the farming process. The answer was to move cows to feedlots at the age of 6 to 12 months, where they are fattened up rapidly on grain based feeds, usually made with a soy or corn. These now “conventionally” raised cows are also given hormones to grow faster and antibiotics to survive their poor conditions. The above, all leading a number of potential digestive issues over the life of the cow.
On the other hand, cows that are left in their natural grass fed environment develop in the way nature intended. In general they will be leaner, have more robust immune systems, lead longer healthier lives, and suffer far fewer issues than their grain fed counterparts.
So, after reading the above, it’s quite obvious that the life of a grass fed cow is far better than that of a grain fed. But what about the quality of its whey?
Let’s start with the Amino Acid profile of the milk which ultimately becomes our whey. Grass fed cows produce milk with an optimum biological value and is a complete protein. That is, it contains all nine essential amino acids. It is also around 25% higher in branched-chain amino acids (BCAA’s) than any other non-whey protein source.
Feedlot or grain raised cows are often lacking in essential amino acids and produce an inferior quality milk.
So how important is it for our whey to have a good amino acid profile – well considering they play the role of driving the mTOR pathway for protein synthesis and in turn muscle recovery and growth; I’d say it’s extremely important!
When consumed after exercise, grass fed whey may also contribute to a reduction in body fat. In comparison to “conventional” whey, grass fed is three to five times higher in the fatty acid Conjugate Linoleic Acid (CLA). CLA has been shown to burn body fat by increasing both muscle growth and metabolism. In addition to body fat reduction, CLA has also been linked to not only reducing, but combating cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, inflammation and osteoporosis. High levels of CLA is not the only way grass fed whey helps to boost general health. Grass fed also strengthens the immune system by increasing production of the body’s most powerful antioxidant glutathione. This occurs due to the increased level of protein fractions called immunoglobulins.
Aside from the major reasons mentioned above, there are a number of additional benefits of grass fed whey over grain fed. The first being that grass fed is higher in Omega 3 fatty acids – important in supporting your body’s anti-inflammatory response. Another is that the milk from which the whey is derived will not be subjected to the same levels of hormones and antibiotics as that of grain raised cows. When you combine all these factors it’s clear to see that the milk, and therefore the whey of a grass fed cow is superior in taste, nutrition and muscle building potential – a major plus in our book!
So back to the question that started this discussion - Grass fed or grain fed whey? The above makes it quite clear that whether it’s for ethical or nutritional reasons grass fed whey is far superior to grain fed. With a better amino acid profile, fat burning and immune health properties grass fed whey should be your only choice.