The Myth of 100% Grassfed Whey Protein Powder
100% Grass Fed Whey Protein -
Did you know, even the best of the best grass-fed diary farms around the world are not able to reach grassfed % levels (including only "dry" silage and natural pasturage) greater than 95%. There are several reasons for this and even more reasons as to why an industry saturated with brands making this claim would not want us to disclose the truth around this "100% grassfed whey protein" falsity.
Every day, new brands come to life with the intention of profiting off this unregulated loophole yet extremely powerful marketing term "Grassfed". Taking full advantage of the lack of regulation in this space. Here are a few examples of the various interpretations of this "100% grassfed whey" term commonly used by even the popular brands, with zero supporting details -
- 100% Grassfed = The only whey in this tub/pouch is what we (the brand) defines as "grassfed" whey, thus "100% grassfed Whey" inside.
- 100% Grassfed = The product name is literally, "100% Grass-fed Whey", might as well call it "The Best Whey Protein Ever", as they both contain equivalent levels of truth.
- 100% Grassfed = The Cows were 100% grass fed finished, meaning 14 -90 days prior to milking, the cows were fed 100% grass.
Greater than 95% Grassfed Promise -
AGN Roots Whey comes from cows that dine on a diet of at least 95% grass with natural clover for added nutrition and digestion. This 95% is made up of live grasses and also dry silage (cut grasses from our farms) used as feed during a few winter months and or sporadic inclement weather. The other 5% (or less) comes from concentrates (see below) to enhance specific nutrients to support our animals during key stages in their development, such as late gestation and early lactation. To deprive the animals of optimal nutrition during these critical developmental stages we consider as inhumane, thus we are extremely proud to claim "entire life on pasture - 95% grassfed".
The other 5% Explained - "Concentrates"
This 5% or less, is made up of what we call “concentrates”. This is still grass from our farms, HOWEVER, instead of "dry" grass, this is "high-moisture" high quality silage (Grass) that was packed for the purpose of fermentation (to make dense the nutrients in the wet middle). This essentially allows the animal to receive the nutrients it needs without having to eat a ton in the case her appetite hasn’t reached the levels required by her lactating body to stay healthy and without strain and stress.
"Entire Life on Pasture" Certified Grassfed -
The globes most reputable assurance programs responsible for Grassfed Certifications like the AGA (American Grassfed Association) & AGW (A Greener World) require “entire life on pasture” in order for the animal to be certified. Though many supposed "grass-fed" brands source from “100% grassfed finished” dairy outfits where any dairy cow from any farm that is fed silage for the last 30 days prior to milk production can essentially produce milk that is labeled “100% grassfed”, you are unlikely to ever see that claim on the label. Full disclosure is facts like grassfed finished whey simply doesnt all the same premiums as a plastic tub that screams in bold font - "100% grass-fed whey protein concentrate".
Entire Life on Pasture - Defined
Essentially this means that grains are never introduced to the animal as a source of energy or food for any reason, but rather, the animals thrive solely off of perennial and natural annual grasses outside.
The point is, no matter where the farm, being 100% grassfed does not provide a well rounded enough diet for the animal to flourish nor does it speak to anywhere on the planet known for grassfed dairy farms. Every quality grassfed dairy farm operation in existence has naturally cut grasses with other vegetation.
Although it’s a common marketing ploy to represent products as “100% Grassfed”, for those truly in the dairy industry, this claim is offensive. The reality is that when you read a protein product label that claims, “grassfed protein”, if the label / website doesn’t specify what percentage of their herd’s diet is grass/silage, OR if the label claims “100% grassfed”, you should simply walk away. At this point, it’s fair to question the brand's integrity. Of course we fully recognize the exceptions; if the brand clearly makes the distinction of what 100% grassfed whey protein means, then of course credibility increases. AGA for example offers a "100% grassfed diet" certification albeit doesn't justify a front principle display claim of "100% grass-fed whey protein" on any brand's packaging.
The reality is, 99% of brands are simply repackaging a product from a turn-key ingredient company (middleman) and have zero ties or visibility to the upstream supply chain (farms) that actually produces the milk and takes care of these "100% grassfed" animals.
Would you pay the same premium price for a protein that’s "80% Grassfed" vs. 100% ?
Not so common knowledge, but Fonterra is the 5th largest diary company in the world and consists of over 10,500 dairy farms in New Zealand. If you buy Grassfed Whey from New Zealand (the world’s largest exporter), there’s a good chance it comes from a Fonterra owned farm. This is essentially the dairy outfit that supplies China with milk.
Regardless of the ultra-high-temp-short-time (UHTST) processing temperatures which optimize exporting capabilities and shelf-life over quality, Fonterra’s definition of “grassfed” is defined by an 80% diet of grass silage, hay, and forage crops target. This detail will not however be on the package. Which begs the question; would you pay the same premium price for a protein that’s marketed as 80% grassfed vs. 100%?
Without the Right Location, 95% let alone 100% Grassfed Whey Protein isn't Realistic -
Now depending on the farm's location, the natural percentage of grasses to various other vegetation can vary. For example -
- Ireland - Grass & Clover may dominate the grassland like in the case of the south east coastal grasslands of Ireland where AGN Roots Grassfed Whey is sourced.
- North America - Pastures endemic to North America however may be dominated by, legumes, forbs, & brassicas, with annual grasses being very seasonal.
Geographical location of the farm can also give the consumer information as to how long the herds are supported by hay, haylage, silage, and ensilage during periods of inclement weather or low forage quality. In an area like northern California where droughts cause the vines to produce wide variants (vintages) of wine depending on the year’s climate, grassfed dairy operations also output a similar variance in quality year over year.
Sustainable Grassland -
Healthy and sustainable grasslands also require a specific climate. They require rainfall to support a truly grassfed livestock year-round. Examples of popular and very legitimate Grassfed dairy farms:
- Ireland ~1200 mm per year average precipitation
- New Zealand ~ 800 - 1600 mm per year average precipitation depending on coast
- Wisconsin ~ 875 mm per year average precipitation
- Northern California ~ 500 mm per average precipitation
As you can see, there are plenty of locations around the globe capable of supporting a lush grassland given the precipitation requirements.
Where Ireland becomes superior – The soil remains alkaline no matter how much rain has fallen, and thus is naturally beneficial for consistent grass-growth. When comparing to the other locations, whether it’s a drought in California, or 3,500 mm of rain in Auckland, the consistency of the grass is wildly impacted and requires massive intervention due to climate variants.
By "Intervention", we mean chemicals laid down and sprayed by the farmers in order to re-balance the soil. These basic chemicals are the reason why heavy metal testing has become so popular and a necessity.
Truly Grassfed Whey Protein versus a 100% Grassfed Whey Protein (fake) -
The "Grassfed" claim is not a regulated by the FDA or FTC. If there are no certifications or assurances around the 100% Grassfed Whey Protein Claim, you can rest assured, the claim is false.
Grassfed whey protein is susceptible to denaturing and spoiling via heat and Ultra Violet exposure. For the same reasons craft drinks are served in UV barrier( green or brown) glass bottles naturally resistant to sunlight, grassfed whey brands sold in non-thermally protective foil pouches or clear plastic tubs is a great indication that the supplier / brand does not have the expertise needed to source or handle such a product.
Please see our blog on grassfed whey and how color matters - "Why is my Grassfed Whey Slightly Yellow in Color?".
Source of Origin -
Truly 100% Grassfed whey operations would love to share the details around cultivation, environment, and farms in details. If the brand casually mentioned "grassfed" and then it's never supported, enough said.