19, 2004, FoodNavigator.com: Organic milk has
significantly higher quantities of vitamin E - a key component
in contributing to the shelf-life of milk - than its conventional
equivalent, say Danish researchers, suggesting the origins
of the difference are rooted in the feed.
Food scientists at the Danish research center for organic
farming studied the content of potential antioxidants
and vitamins in conventional and organic milk over several
months. They found that in seven out of 10 samples the
organic source contained significantly more vitamin
E - alpha-tocopherol - than conventional milk. “The
results indicate that less synthetic vitamin E is added
in the organic milk production, and in spite of this,
the content of vitamin E is higher in organic milk than
in conventional milk,” say the researchers.
“The most important reason for the observed differences
is presumably the large amounts of maize silage used
in the conventional production, whereas a considerable
amount of grass and leguminous plants are used in the
organic production,” they add.
Vitamin E, that acts as an antioxidant in prolonging
the shelf-life of the milk, is available partly in the
plants and the plant-based feed products eaten by the
cow, but a synthetic product is also available. In the
synthetic production process, eight different stereo-isomers
(varieties) of alpha-tocopherol are formed of which
only one is nature-identical.
“These stereo-isomers of a-tocopherol constitute
15.8-24.7 percent in the conventional milk, but only
6.2-13.5 per cent in the organic milk,” report
In addition to vitamin E, the researchers investigated
the level of carotenoids found in the two milks, finding
that the content was higher in organic milk, and that
levels of the poweful antioxidant beta-carotene were
two to three times higher in organic milk than in conventional
While these compounds act as health-promoting antioxidants,
a number of significant flavor components in the milk
are formed on the basis of the carotenoids, affecting
the taste because the substance contributes to the formation
of these aromatic components.
“If the organic farmers wish to produce milk
with a high level of vitamin E and carotenoids in the
future, the share of maize in the feed rations should
not be increased,” summarize the Danish food scientists
Jacob H. Nielsen, Tina Lund-Nielsen and Leif Skibsted.
The EU organic market reached around €10 billion
in 2002, according to data from UK market analysts Organic
Monitor, but growth has slowed in recent years: an increase
of 8 per cent between 2001 and 2002 shrunk to an estimated
5 per cent between 2002 and 2003.
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