Grass-Fed Whey Protein - Explained
What is Grass-Fed Whey Protein?
There is nothing more "organic" than Ireland's grass-fed dairy farms. Before the word, "organic", became associated with food labels or U.S. regulatory bodies it was synonymous with "Irish Grass-Fed Dairy". We have a short article the explores the vast reasons why the natural state of Ireland's environment is the home of the planet's greatest grass-fed dairy farms and milk production.
Learn More: Ireland's Grass-Fed Dairy Explained
We believe our planet’s architect got it right the first time; cows are ruminants by design. Ruminant digestive systems, purposefully, are built to ferment plant-based foods for nutrition extraction. Dairy cattle are extraordinary animals; their bodies possess the unique ability to convert organic plant life into milk, rich in fat, and loaded with proteins and macro-nutrients.
Learn More: Whey Protein Macro Nutrients
It may not be the most popular point of view. Still, history shows that humanity, with our insatiable desire for abundance, is the force that has pushed alternative diets onto one of our planet’s most precious resources, cows.
As the progression away from grass-fed natural diets continues for our dairy cattle, macronutrient concentrations within available milk supplies continue to decline.
Grassfed Whey Vs. Standard Whey
As you may know, whey protein originates from bovine milk. To fully appreciate why there is such a huge difference in the nutrient content of a standard mass-produced plastic tub of whey today compared to an authentic grass-fed whey, let's run through a brief history.
Sadly, most production decisions that impact animal welfare are rooted in supply and demand economic theory. In this case, since dairy became a commodity for trading post World War II, farmers in the USA became incentivized to produce a milk supply to feed the United States and many countries worldwide.
During the last half of the 1940s, the United States was sitting on a massive surplus of nitrogen in dire need of repurposing. The war was no longer driving demand for the continued production of weapons & ammunition.
With a landfill mentality, the initial thought was to bury the chemicals. At this time, however, an agricultural solution presented itself in the form of a crop that consumes vast quantities of nitrogen well above and beyond green grasslands' demand. This nitrogen-consuming crop is corn.
From Grass-Fed to Corn & Grain-Fed
From bombs to fertilizers, nitrogen found a new use in agriculture. At this point, with corn and grain in utter abundance, therefore wildly cheap, the pastureland-grass diet suddenly became the less feasible cattle feed option.
Coming off the long and stagnant Great Depression and entering massive population growth fueled by the economic boom of wartime created the perfect storm.
As the relationship between supply & demand dictates, as populations grow, the need for milk consumption also grows.
High-Quality Grass-Fed Whey Vs. High Quantity Grain-Fed Whey
Along with this population growth pattern, there exists at some level of demand, an inelastic point at which supply is hard-pressed to balance the equation.
In any event, when commodity demand grows faster than a natural stock-pile can satisfy, there are only two possible outcomes to re-balance -
- Commodity QUALITY DECLINES as SUPPLY INCREASES to meet demand
- Commodity PRICE INCREASES as DEMAND INCREASES while supply remains constant
Serving the market at a low price point during a period of high demand comes at a cost. Unfortunately, the product quality absorbs the burden of that cost, and the consumers' nutrition is sacrificed. The industry will always choose the option that pays the most; thus, option 1 plays out.
As a result, nature gets altered, and in this case, the advent of nutrient-rich grain feed is traced back.
Grass-Fed Dairy Farming Factors Left Out
The impacting factors that are left out of the rudimentary economics behind the decision making of this era include:
- Consumer Health & Nutrition
- Carbon Emission
- Heavy Metal Contamination
- Inhumane Animal Factory Farming Methods
- Animal Welfare
When the industry decided on quantity over quality it was not out of hatred for the environment or the animals, but rather a lack of quantifying these factors monetarily such that decision quality could benefit.
Non-GMO Grassfed Whey Protein Isolate
Just like the GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) created to make the flesh of fruits fuller at the sacrifice of taste, nutrient-rich grain unnaturally pushes the limits of a dairy cow’s physical well-being to produce more milk, thus greatly forfeiting quality. Nutrient-rich grain feed pushes the animal's milk production to a state that is no longer natural.
Farmers also quickly learned that by housing cows inside temperature-controlled facilities, milk production was less susceptible to slowing down in the colder weather months. The practice of climate-control, however, further exacerbates the quality decline of milk. Although the volume of milk production increases, the animals lose their seasonal break, otherwise naturally gifted to them by mother nature via the four seasons.
In general, conventional dairy practices milk cows up to 4 times per day which in contrast is twice as often as a genuinely grass-fed herd being milked on average twice per day.
Although the carbon footprint attributed directly to the cattle is lower now than it was in the 1940s, it is at the cost of the humane treatment of the animals, their milk quality, and also the planet due to the additional carbon emissions from indoor concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).
Learn More: What is a CAFO?
Highest QUANTITY Grass-Fed Whey Producer
The truth is, despite the 70% fewer dairy cattle in the United Stated today versus the 1940s, the US produces over 200% more milk today than it did in 1940. You might be thinking, how the heck is that even possible? In two words, It was made possible by the “grain-fed Holstein.”
In the 1940s, only 40% of the dairy industry comprised of Holsteins. Today, nearly 95% of US dairy cattle are Holsteins. Holsteins became popular when natural solutions where still being considered to increase milk production globally.
Holsteins are very adaptive to adverse environments and inclement weather conditions as well as the naturally most efficient milk producers among their class of dairy cattle.
Chances are if the brand of whey protein you are using is made in the United States, it comes from Holstein milk.
Highest QUALITY Grass-Fed Whey Producer
The Jersey cow is by far the most efficient at extracting nutrition from grasslands. Compared to the Holstein, Jersey breeds are the best at converting grass to milk and have proved to produce the most abundant protein concentration of all dairy cattle breeds.
The Friesian breed also produces milk with high concentrations of fat and protein compared to the Holstein. Friesians are known for there fecundity, lifespans, and ability to make milk over their lifetimes.
The milk used to produce AGN Roots Grass-Fed Whey comes 100% from Fresian-Jersey crosses. The milk produced from these animals is rich in nutrients and made from happy & healthy cows who can live as long as 20+ years of age.
Is Grass-Fed Whey Protein Good for You?
Yes, Grassfed Whey is optimized for nutrient quality, not production quantity, thus very good for you. Grassfed Whey is better than regular or conventional whey protein in terms of nutrient content.
The majority of protein on the market originates from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) built specifically to optimize milk quantity while reducing the land ownership typically required to produce such a yield.
The latest U.S. statistics show 9.2 million dairy cows, producing 22 billion gallons of milk per year (approx. 2391 gallons per cow per year). In 1944, 26 million dairy cows were making a 14 billion gallons (total) of milk per year (approx. 538 gallons per cow per year).
These staggering numbers accurately show that farmers have been driven by production totals for some time and continue to evolve their operations accordingly. Unfortunately, this progression has almost always been at the expense of the environment, animal health, and consumer nutrition.
Mother nature had already optimized a cow’s milk supply for nutrients and quality. We at AGN Roots Grassfed Whey are working to bring this quality expectation back. We produce the potentially highest quality grass-fed whey protein available today.
What Whey Protein Contains the Most BCAAs?
AGN Roots Grass-Fed Whey contains an unrivaled amino acid profile, delivering the highest concentration of naturally occurring branch-chained amino acids on the market, serving as a testament to this quality.
Whey Protein Isolate with the Most Leucine -
Although many brands, especially "Native" whey brands, claim to have a market advantage on Leucine concentration, AGN Roots currently holds the industry record of a verified 3,050 mg of Leucine per 25 grams serving of grass-fed whey protein.
Learn More Here: Grass-Fed Whey And Branched Chained Amino Acids
Is Grass-Fed Whey Worth it?
Yes, grass-fed milk along with other dairy products sourced organically from Ireland are without a doubt worth it. Milk produced from truly grassfed cows serves a benefit to our communities, animals, or our environment.
We whole-heartedly believe there’s an opportunity today to reverse the notion that replacing Grassfed cow milk with grain-fed cow milk is extraordinarily beneficial.
The Dangers of Typical Whey Protein
The real estate footprint needed to support a single grain-fed cow happens to be commensurate with the dimensions of their shadow at high noon. As a result, CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations), or industrialized-sized livestock abuse feeding centers are now a scary reality for nearly 8 million head of dairy cattle in the United States alone, where agricultural laws are slowly improving.
To put this fact into perspective if you own a plastic tub of whey protein. 96% of the dairy cattle within the United States are born, milked, and put to slaughter before they reach the age of 4 as part of the CAFO system.
In general, 800,000 cows per day are slaughtered in the United States!
CAFOs, in general, are the epitome of breeding and feeding, the reality of which would make you throw up if you found out your plastic tub of so-called “Grassfed” whey protein originated from such a place. We’ll spare you the YouTube link of CAFO videos, but challenge you to ask more from companies making the “Grassfed Whey” claim with little or no evidence provided to substantiate such a statement.
While the overall carbon footprint of modern-day CAFO farming is improving, this is solely due to the lowering of dairy cow headcount domestically, not due decisions made to impact livelihood quality for the animals. Also, it's important to remember, although carbon emissions may be improving domestically due to several reasons, heavy metal contamination and water & soil contamination continue to worsen.
All this said, do you trust your whey protein provider knowing that there no federally regulated grass-fed dairy enforcement bodies monitoring supplement claims? There is a 99% chance, the whey you have been using, regardless of its claims, is of very low grade, low quality, and used to support CAFOs.
Does Grassfed Whey Contain Less Heavy Metals?
Not only is the CAFO system wildly abusive and inhumane, but the reality is also, CAFOs produce massive quantities of animal waste along with other pollutants, including all the waste byproducts (Ammonia, Hydrogen Sulfide, Methane, and Heavy Metals).
Learn More: Heavy Metals in Whey Protein
Even the most modest concentrated feeding operation can produce 2 Billion, with a capital “B,” pounds of manure in a single year. Because there is not enough land needed to break down this waste on each CAFO naturally, related diseases due to contaminated groundwater and are enormously common within several miles of these facilities. The waste is not the only concern; just the water used to dilute the urine and excrement for general cleaning is an unearthly volume.
AGN Roots Grassfed Whey contains a metal concentration aligned with our claims and sourcing. Our Heavy Metal COA (certificate of analysis) yields concentration levels 100 times lower than California’s Proposition 65, which is already 1000 times lower than the latest studies suggest may be considered harmful.
An often-overlooked angle is the emissions and the power needed to run these horror houses. CAFOs require massive amounts of electricity, often supplemented by diesel generators, to power pumps, agitators, irrigators, motors, and heavy transport equipment, none of which are sustainable or environmentally friendly by any means.
Is Grass-Fed Dairy Better for the Planet?
AGN Roots Grassfed Whey comes from exclusively Sustainable Sources (members of Origin Green - Irelands Partnership with Nature) and Animal Welfare Approved farms, emitting the lowest amounts of carbon possible. The lush grasslands and limited herd density (1 cow for every 2 acres) ultimately offer a net positive for the environment, a far cry from the likes of CAFOs.
Sustainable Grassfed Farms Allow Generations to Grow Old on the Pastures
Unlike the average 4-5 year lifespan of a CAFO dairy cow, grassfed cows, our cows, live up to 4 times as long and are not sent to slaughter. AGN Roots Grassfed whey is the best because happy cows make the best whey, there is nothing comfortable or happy about the tortures that exist in CAFOs.
Ensuring our farms are in compliance with the Sustainable Dairy Assurance Schemes which is the equivalent of saying regulated by Bord Bia (Ireland's national Food Board) such that consumers are granted the utmost assurances that the highest standards of welfare are met, the slaughter of healthy dairy cows is prohibited. This practice allows animals to grow old and enjoy their families for several generations.
Is Organic Whey Better than Grass-fed Whey?
No, "organic" whey is not better than genuinely grass-fed whey, not even close. In the United States, the "USDA Organic" label is a regulated certification so the consumer is given peace of mind to some degree. This is in stark contrast to their being no national regulatory body governing the "grass-fed" term on protein supplements.
The USDA Organic label only ensures the grain feed along with concentrates used, are certified organic. Cows are ruminant animals, the quality of their production, and nutrient content plummet when they are not able to eat what nature intended, grass!
The “USDA Organic” standards for milk are part of the problem. It assuages the public’s demand for high-quality dairy products with marketing and branding without the sizable improvements to animal welfare and product quality it intones.
Without it, we believe we’d be much closer to calling out CAFOs and grain-fed dairy factory-farming in the United States and the systematic reduction and ultimate criminalization of these practices.
We encourage activists to boycott any standard that supports minimal access to both pasture and plant-based food as acceptable for ruminants. When a cow eats energy-rich corn, soy, or grain, the pH (a measure of acidity) in their multi-chambered stomach falls, yielding an unnaturally acidic and thus harsh environment that’s extremely harmful.
This increase in acidity is the cause of various stomach issues, including life-threatening and painful ulcers. Ruminants don’t care whether the grain feed was labeled “USDA organic” or “Non-Gmo” all they experience is digestive upset and pain. For produce, however, we support the practices of most Organic certification regulatory bodies.
What about Grade “A” versus Grade “B” milk?
Fluid grade milk (sold to drink), considered “Grade A” in most States, meets the standards that allow its use in fluid (beverage) milk products and, by default, in all other dairy products. “Grade B” milk, however, which doesn’t meet grade A standards, is notorious for making its way into dairy powders.
AGN Roots Grass-fed Whey comes from truly grassfed farms that ONLY produce milk far exceeding even 100% Organic standards. If an AAA+ Grading existed, AGN Roots would fit the bill.
What are the Benefits of Grass-fed Whey?
There are significant differences between milk produced by cows raised on Grass-fed fed farms versus a grain-fed AFO (Animal Feeding Operation). It is essential to understand that being grass-fed can mean different things depending on the claim, and products bearing this claim should support it with specific evidence.
Regardless, being grass-fed is a single factor attributing to high-quality milk. Other essential elements include stress, general welfare, sleep, quality of life, water and grass quality, climate, etc.
Does Grass-Fed Whey Contain More Fatty Acids?
Studies have shown that there is a significant difference in the biochemical composition of a cow’s milk-based on its diet. Research showed that grass-fed dairy consists of higher levels of Omega 3 fatty acids and lower Omega-6: Omega-3 Fatty acids resulting in a more favorable ratio.
While omega-6 is pro-inflammatory, omega-3 is known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Grass-fed dairy is therefore known to be superior to its grain-fed competition as it pertains to its fatty acid profile. Omega-3 is also known for its heart-protective function.
Learn More: Anti-Inflammatory Benefits of Whey?
Does Grass-Fed Whey Contain More Conjugated Linoleic Acid?
CLA is a potent healthy fatty acid not produced within the body. The benefits of CLA are obtained only from the consumption of foods that contain it. Since a grass-fed diet leads to a natural pH level in the cows’ stomachs, it gives them a chance to produce high levels of CLA.
CLA might be famous for its body fat reducing, and muscle growth activities, but it's benefits do not end there. It also boosts the immune system, reduces the risks of cancer development, lowers the risk of heart diseases, and lowers high blood pressure. Grass-fed milk contains CLA levels as high as 500% more than what is considered typical by mainstream milk producers.
What are the Health Benefits of Grass-Fed Whey?
Grass-fed milk has higher concentrations of fat-soluble vitamins, including vitamins A and E, than milk from grain-fed livestock. Vitamin E is famous for its anti-inflammatory effect. Furthermore, grass-fed milk contains superior levels of Glutathione (GSH), Cysteine, and Phytochemicals, which are all well-recognized for their anti-aging activity.
How To Check if My “Grass-fed” Whey is Real?
Any protein product tub can claim “grass-fed” due to current regulations, so ask questions; otherwise, you may be paying a premium for false claims.
With the deluge of sites and information celebrating in detail the benefits of supporting a Truly Grassfed Organization, predatory marketing has muddied the integrity of the “grassfed” Whey Protein claim.
We estimate that 99% of “grassfed” Whey Protein labels do not source from grassfed dairy operations. The exact opposite is true. If 96% of milk in the United States comes from CAFOs, where force-feeding grain concentrates is the general practice, it’s reasonable to assume that a similar percentage of the whey comes from this milk.
A good way to check is to ensure they are accredited. Here are some of the more common accreditations a truly grass-fed whey protein will carry in the United States. Grass-Fed Whey Accreditations List
What Makes “Grass-fed” Whey the BEST?
We believe our planet’s architect got it right the first time; A ruminant digestive system runs on organic vegetation. The optimal diet for cows to both produce the most nutrient-dense milk for their offspring and to achieve optimal health is fresh green grass.
Feeding Dairy Cattle for Quantity NOT Quality
TMR feeding is a solution to make up time when milk production needs to increase, or the pastures are not keeping up or are non-existent, like with CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations). The composition of TMR includes grain, corn silage, soy, crude protein, vitamins, byproduct, minerals, among other things. It’s dense concentrates designed to accelerate growth and production.
As previously discussed, our creator made ruminant digestive systems to convert organic plant life into milk that’s rich in fat and protein. Ruminant stomach chambers represent one of Mother Nature’s greatest engineering feats and are worthy of preservation at all costs.
The advent of grain-fed dairy cattle begins and ends with the single objective of optimizing the QUANTITY of milk produced. The truth is, when cows have access to their natural food source as the majority makeup of their diet, the QUALITY of their production, not the quantity becomes optimal.
This quality distinction is incredibly easy to taste and feel if you’ve ever compared cold-processed grassfed whey milk with a mass-produced ultra-pasteurized competitor.
Learn More Here: What is Cold-Processed Whey
All the benefits of grain & concentrate feedlots (CAFOs) along with TMR equipment go to every piece of the pie except two; the animals and the milk quality. To understand why these animals are suffering and why most dairy products made from these “farms” lack nutrition density here are the advantages & beneficiaries -
- Uniformity - By mixing all the feed components into a uniform solution, the freedoms of the animal to listen to its body for direction as to the correct proportions of each food element no longer exists. All cows look the same; therefore, they need the same nutrition is a logic-fallacy.
- Reduced Labor Costs - All animals eat when told, on a schedule, not when they are hungry. The operation and the laborers are the only beneficiaries of a fixed program, no matter the season or critical stages of the animals” development.
- Inventory Management - The ability to exhaust a variety of different feeds that may be economical over the others at any given time. Feeds that a cow might never have an affinity towards if not grouped into a one size fits all mix—the “Sloppy Joe” of the farm world.
- Milk Production Increase - Similar to concentrates, these feed mixtures are nutrient-rich and designed to overstimulate the animals” reproductive glands. The cows need to eat a lot less and for a shorter time to spend up to 4 times daily at the milking parlor. Compared to spending all day on pasture and being milked at most twice each day, the stresses on the animal bare a heavy burden on their health.
- Reproductive efficiency - Everything is predictable and cheaper when the diet is standardized, and all animals receive machine-like treatment.
What are the Benefits of Grass-fed Whey
Are There Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) in Grassfed Whey?
Grass-fed milk from humanely treated livestock will contain a higher concentration of BCAAs compared to any other dairy farming practices/diets. The difference can be as much as 3 grams per serving.
Are There Conjugated Linoleic Acids (CLAS) in Grassfed Whey?
CLA naturally occurs in milk; however, milk derived from grassfed cows has twice the level compared to grain-fed.
Are There Omega Fatty Acids in Grassfed Whey?
Grass-fed milk has a more optimal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. Dairy produced from grass-fed systems will have a higher proportion of omega-3 fatty acids along with a lower percentage of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, which is favorable when compared with milk from grain-fed systems.
Beta Carotene in Grassfed Whey?
You can thank beta carotene for the rich golden hue often associated with products derived from grass-fed milk. For much more information on why Grassfed whey is typically more of an off-white versus pearly white, please visit our Blog - Why is my Grassfed Whey Slightly Yellow in Color?
You can find more information on here on the micro-nutrients endemic to Truly Grassfed Whey here:
Does all Grass-fed Whey Protein Contain Higher BCAAs?
The short answer is no. The BCAA concentration we have been able to produce is the result of an entire system composed of animals, environment, and processing.
For any animal to produce it’s best nutrients, stress levels have to be low while happiness levels high. The environment should be appropriate and foster natural behaviors without farmer/chemical interventions like soil re-balancing after a hard rain. Even if happy animals in a beautiful climate produce incredible milk, the steps downstream of the farm need to work in unison with one single goal - To protect the fragile protein structures from denaturing.
Very few grassfed dairy farms can meet the heartwarmingly high standards of A Greener World’s “entire life on pasture” based certifications. Despite the trendy marketing phrase “100% grassfed” that you may be exposed to when browsing some of the biggest labels/brands out there, none of these brands hold non-profit certifications or are qualified to make such claims.
Why is AGN Roots Grassfed Whey Best?
AGN Roots Grass-Fed Whey represents the only brand of whey that is sourced from truly grass-fed farms certified by the national food regulator of Ireland - Bord Bia. The work behind the scenes in Ireland to preserve the planet and promote regenerative farming and grass-fed sustainable dairy operations is unprecedented and the rest of the world should be taking notes!
While the popular and trending “grass-fed” claim has no clear definition by food regulatory agencies, several organizations such as A Greener World are working to raise the bar. These efforts will help consumers separate the truly grass-fed whey products from the bottom-line-motivated-powder-pushers.
If the term “Grass-fed” comes to mean the whey comes from AGW Grass-fed Certified farms, then the following will be accurate: consuming grass-fed whey protein has incredible health benefits compared to conventional whey.
By supporting truly grassfed whey operations such as AGN Roots Grassfed Whey, you can rest assured that your investment supports sustainable farming practices and every effort to elevate global animal welfare standards.
Where to Buy Grass-Fed Whey Protein?
Amazon.com - AGN Roots Grass-Fed Whey