Have you ever wondered what A2/A2 milk is and why there is so much discussion around it? Come learn more about this significant milk protein and how it could affect you.
What is A2/A2 Milk?
All milk (from all mammals) contains a beta casein protein. For many species, that beta casein protein is the A2/A2 milk protein. The milk from goats, sheep, camels, water buffalo, and even humans, contains only A2/A2 milk proteins.
But what about cow milk? Centuries ago, a mutation (A1) took place in the composition of cow milk. This variation in the beta casein protein means that while cows used to create only A2/A2 milk, there are now many cows who produce milk with the A1 milk protein variation.
Cows can carry either A2/A2 , A1/A2, or A1/A1 genetics. The genetics they carry affects the type of milk they create and the genetics they will pass on to their offspring.
A2/A2 Milk Benefits
There are many claims to the benefits of A2/A2 milk, the main one being that many people find A2/A2 milk easier to digest. Many people who have struggled with a dairy sensitivity or lactose intolerance report that they are able to drink A2/A2 milk without adverse affects.
There are also some scientific studies that suggest A1 milk can be linked to heart disease and Type 1 diabetes.
Is A2/A2 Milk Better?
Honestly, there is no clear cut answer to this. Many claim that A2/A2 milk is far superior and healthier than milk that contains the A1 beta casein protein.
However, it is hard to find studies that are unbiased. Many of the studies that are out there have been funded by the A2 Milk Company, an Australian company that claims the superiority of A2 milk and has created a whole market for A2/A2 milk.
The sad truth is that there are a lot of politics and money involved with the A2/A2 milk industry. And that is a big turn off for me.
But here is my take on it.
I think it is interesting that many other mammal species only make A2/A2 milk. That alone is an indicator to me that perhaps milk, in its purest form, is meant to be A2/A2.
That makes me think that perhaps there is something to the claims of the benefits of A2/A2 milk.
But at the same time, I do not think it is worth getting too caught up in the A2/A2 debate.
While I may slightly favor A2/A2 genetics, they are not the end all be all for me. The factors that I personally find to be more important in milk production are that it comes from cows that are 100% grass fed and raised on pasture.
I also prefer drinking raw whole milk. If raw milk is not available, then I prefer low temperature pasteurized (vat pasteurized) non-homogenized (creamline) milk.
I believe that the way a cow is raised and how the milk is processed is more significant than the milk protein composition.
A2/A2 Milk Brands
Is it possible to purchase A2/A2 milk in stores? The answer is yes, it is. Most health food stores, and even some regular grocery stores carry cow milk that is A2/A2.
The previously mentioned A2 Milk Company has expanded from Australia and can be purchased in California.
Alexandre Family Farm is a great company that sells 100% grass fed A2/A2 milk. I order it through Azure Standard, and have also found it in my local health food store. My kids love their vanilla milk!
Origin Milk is another brand that I buy regularly at my local health food store. They make delicious creamline A2/A2 Guernsey milk.
You can also search around for local dairies in your area that breed for A2/A2 genetics. Real Milk is a great resource for finding raw milk in your area.
A2/A2 Milk Cow Breeds
All milk cow breeds are capable of producing A2/A2 milk, but there are several breeds that have a larger genetic pool of the A2/A2 milk protein.
The breeds that tend to have a higher percentage of the A2/A2 beta casein protein are: Guernsey, Jersey, Brown Swiss, Milking Shorthorn, and Normande.
(Check out my post Which Dairy Cow Breed is Best for Your Homestead?)
Does that mean if you buy one of those breeds that you will be guaranteed to get A2/A2 genetics? The answer is no, it is not a guarantee. It simply means that there is a higher chance that those breeds will have A2/A2 genetics, but not ALL cows from those breeds have A2/A2 genetics.
Many people also seem to confuse pasture raised cows with A2/A2 milk. They think that if a cow is raised out on pasture then it will produce A2/A2 milk. This is incorrect. A2/A2 milk has nothing to do with what a cow eats, it is an entirely genetic (inherited) attribute.
How to Test a Cow for A2/A2 Milk Genetics
If you already own a family milk cow or are interested in purchasing one, it is possible to test the cow to see what its genetic beta casein protein makeup is.
I recently tested two of my heifers. Meet Buttercup (left) and Marigold (right). Buttercup is a two year old bred Jersey heifer and Marigold is a 15 month old Jersey/Friesian cross who we will breed this summer.
My daughter has raised these two as a 4-H project. Fun fact, Marigold was actually the All Around Champion Dairy Heifer and the Reserve Champion Overall Dairy Female at our county fair last summer.
Both of our girls came from a commercial dairy that uses rotational grazing and keeps their cows out on pasture, so they have some good grazing genetics.
I used the Neogen Igenity Milk Proteins test. Some people like to use the lab at UC Davis for testing. I chose the Neogen lab because not only does the test determine the A2/A2 protein, but it also gives details on other markers of the milk composition that are helpful for determining milk yield and desirable cheesemaking attributes.
The Neogen website is a bit cumbersome to navigate, so here is a step by step guide of how to complete the test.
Before you place your order, download the submission form onto your computer (found at the Neogen link above). Follow the directions that are found on the first sheet of the .xlsx document.
Once you have read the directions, scroll down to the bottom of the document and click on “Sample Upload Template.” This is where I filled in the information about Buttercup and Marigold. I only filled in the required columns (C, D, E, and F). Once I finished filling out the form I saved the document to my computer.
I then returned to the Neogen webpage and clicked the red “Upload” button. I uploaded the .xlsx form that I filled out and saved to my computer. Neogen automatically took the information from my uploaded document and I was able to add two Milk Protein Tests to my cart.
Next you need to determine the way that you are going to take a sample from your cow. You can either draw blood or take a hair sample. I chose to take a hair sample. Whichever way you choose, make sure you purchase the appropriate test cards for submitting the samples (found at the links above).
You have to purchase a minimum of 10 test cards. I tucked the extra test cards into a safe spot for the next time I will need to do a milk protein test (for any future calves that are born on our place or new cows that we purchase).
After I placed the hair sample cards in my cart I completed the transaction. When you complete the transaction you will want to print the confirmation page as you will need to mail it in with your sample to Neogen.
I waited a few days and then received the hair sample cards that I ordered. Then it was time to take a sample from the girls!
Neogen included a helpful information sheet that gave detailed instructions on how to take the sample.
Here is Marigold all ready to give a sample.
The hair sample comes from the switch (the long hairs at the end of the tail). Put the switch in one hand, then use the other hand to pull the hair out (do not cut the hair out). When you pull the hair, pull it in the opposite direction of the direction it grows.
You need about 30 hairs that include the hair roots to get a good sample. So take a small handful and give it a good tug. I promise this does not hurt the cow in the least! Neither one even flinched when I pulled the hairs out.
Once you have removed the hairs from the cow, check to make sure you got a good amount of hair roots. Do you see those little round pieces at the end of the hairs? Those are what you need in order to get a good sample.
When you know you have a good sample, it is time to put it on the sample card. Pull the cardboard cover back, then peel the plastic cover back. Place the root ends of the hairs onto the sticky area and then place the plastic cover on top and use your finger to seal it around the edges.
The next step is to trim the excess hair that is hanging over the edge of the collection card. Use scissors to cut the hairs to the same size as the card.
Write the animal’s identification on the card to make sure you know who the sample belongs to.
Once you have the completed the sample it is time to send it to the lab. I placed the two samples and my order confirmation that I printed in an envelope and sent it to the address that was listed on the order confirmation.
It can take 3-4 weeks to receive the results back. I had to wait about a month and then I received an email with the results in it.
Do you have a guess as to what the results were?
Both Buttercup and Marigold are A1/A2. That means they make A1 milk, but are carriers for the A2 milk protein.
We bred Buttercup to an A2/A2 bull and will do the same for Marigold. That means their offspring have the potential to be either A1/A2 or A2/A2.
The results that we received from Neogen also gave insight into other aspects of the milk composition of Buttercup and Marigold. I will go into further detail about that in a future post!
As I mentioned above, I do believe there are benefits to A2/A2 milk, but I do not think it is the upmost important consideration in planning the genetics of our milk herd. I believe that grass fed and minimal processing are more important for producing healthy and wholesome milk
That being said, when given the opportunity, we will continue to work our little herd towards stronger A2/A2 genetics by using an A2/A2 bull.
What is your experience with A2/A2 milk? Have you personally experienced health benefits from it? What are the decisions you are making for your family milk cow? Share your thoughts in the comments below!