At AGN Roots we love to share information, especially when the principles can relate to our passions around grassfed whey.
This topic is fascinating and really sheds light on how the diary industry has been pushed to lose it's focus on quality over production quantity over the years. It's our goal to share as much information as possible around all the potential there is in sustainable grassfed farming in hopes of creating more demand; enough to drive real changes to our health, wellness, and the environment.
Mother Nature Had it Right the First Time
It’s tough to remember that the evolutionary diet for cows is and has always been lush green grass. It was actually us, humanity that turned to beef and cow milk for our consumption that drove the demand to alter livestock diets in cattle such they can digest & ferment faster, i.e. produce more milk to meet this desire to consume.
Be that as it may, it’s critical we don’t lose the understanding over time that mother nature had optimized milk production in diary cows long ago through their intended grass-fed diets. This optimization however, was of the nutrient properties in the milk designed to healthily grow a baby calf from 45 kg to a 580 kg full grown adult via high concentration of muscle building properties in the milk (amino acids – BCAAs). The optimization that evolved over time and intervention was all about quantity which is essentially what conventional farming is about today.
It is a common fact that a cow whose diet is made up of 30% - 90% grain will facilitate growth cycles much faster and more aggressively than nature had ever intended. These types of diets essentially force the animals into a state of constant overgrowth. The horrible truth is that this overgrowth practice massively increases the stress exerted on the animal’s body and without a doubt serves as the largest source of health issues within the Diary & Beef industries. By optimizing production quantity and actively working against mother nature’s well intended plan, the quality of milk has been negatively impacted over time.
Vegetable Analogy - GMOs (Optimized for Size Only)
This principle is very similar to genetically modified vegetables. Vegetables are sold by weight, thus the demand to make vegetables retain more water has been around for some time. If you’ve ever compared the satisfaction obtained from biting into a small juicy apple versus a massive giant apple, you now understand fundamentally what’s happening.
- Have you ever seen a plastic tub of whey protein that didn’t claim things like “ultra-premium, grass-fed, free roaming, un-denatured, cold processed, 100% pure, the list literally goes on and on, all whey is sold as “the best”?
- Unless the brand (like for example "AGN Roots") self regulates by working with the global powerhouses in assurance such as LGC (Informed Choice, Informed Sport) or outfits such as A Greener World to certify sourcing, how can a consumer quickly gauge a product objectively?
Here’s a little trick – If you pay attention to the BCAAs (grams) concentration per 25 grams protein this can actually serve as an objective measure that bares inherent checks & balances. Brands love to claim the Protein (Example 25 grams) and the BCAAs per serving concentrations in terms of grams as these are eye catching properties when in the whey protein market.
The reality is, many factors impact the naturally occurring BCAA concentrations, factors such as:
- Animal's Diet
- Animal's Environment
- Animal's Welfare & Stresses
- Animal's Health & Physiological Well being
So to help you gauge the quality of your Whey and gain some idea where it’s actually sourced regardless of the claims, here’s some info:
< 4.3 grams of BCAAs per 25 grams protein –
Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) produced milk will generally yield very low concentrations of BCAAs. These animals are force fed grain, struggle daily to find comforts, and this abuse should not be supported by any consumers. It’s our goal for the world to reject products produced at the sacrifice of any animals’ well-being. These brands tend to round up on label claims to compete and often produce whey with less than 60% protein by volume to be used used as animal feed.
< 4.9 grams < BCAAs per 25 grams protein –
Whey Processing Plants or Turn Key Suppliers. Brands that buy bulk whey from processing plants or directly from cheese manufactures who accept conventionally produced milk will be rounding up to claim their BCAA concentrations to 4.5 grams or slightly higher. Turn key suppliers will purchase their whey from these operations; thus, if a product doesn't share sourcing details, it's our responsibility to ask questions so we can avoid unintentionally supporting some for these operations.
< 5.0 grams of BCAAs per 25 grams protein –
USDA Organic Farming. When we start getting into the USDA Certified Organic farms, remember, this simply requires organic-grain feed be used and no later than the last 3rd of gestation (not the entire life of the animal). Although the term “USDA Organic” is powerful in marketing, when it comes to milk quality, there is no grass-fed foliage requirement dictated by the USDA regulatory body. The low BCAA concentration can also be due to the USDA regulations not dictating higher standards of humane treatment for the livestock and therefore the happiness of the herd and this impact on quality of milk being realized in this number.
< 5.5 grams BCAAs per 25 grams protein –
Grassfed Finished or Partially Grassfed. Even with the best intentions, California suffers from drought along with other impacts of climate change therefore relying on the inconsistent use of nutrient-rich grain feed as the solution. Due to the unpredictable weather and non-routine treatment of the herds to cope, the quality of the milk and therefore the whey is often impacted.
< 5.9 grams of BCAAs per 25 grams of protein) –
Predominantly Grassfed, If the environment allows, the potential exists for higher concentrations of BCAAs up to 5.9 grams. We can think about Northern California similarly to how we think about wine vintages and all the impacting factors. CA although weather dependent has the potential to occasionally reach these high BCAA levels. Wisconsin and countries like New Zealand also has some family farms that produce very high quality small batch milk.
< 6.5 grams of BCAAs per 25 grams of protein –
Certified Year-Round Grassfed with entire life on pasture. AGN Roots Grass-Fed Whey (6.5 grams of BCAAs per 25 grams protein) leads the industry in providing whey with the most dense concentration of naturally occurring branched chain amino acids available. We wear this stat with pride as Happy Cows Make the Best Whey and there's nothing more important than feeling great about how you choose to source your and your family's nutrition. When all the factors line up and create the perfect balance of sustainable farming, animal welfare, an Irish climate that supports a 95+% grass fed-diet without intervention, well, Mother Nature does the rest.
So many factors go into the end product, however it all starts with the animals and their diets, environment, and physiological well being. So next time you are shopping around for Grassfed Whey, consider using the BCAA concentration as a metric of quality. Remember, the concentration is for 25 grams protein, so bust out your calculator app and attack the problem if the protein serving isn't quite 25 grams or if it's higher.
Lastly, Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions about sourcing, our products or thoughts about others. Fortunately the subset of truly grassfed whey providers is a very tight knit group with similar values, we are here to help!
~AGN Roots Grassfed Whey Team