The Color of Milk

It seems that some folks are turned off by the rich, creamy color of the milk from grass fed cows. It's no secret that a lot of folks have a real aversion to drinking unpasteurized, non-homogenized milk. As a result, the only milk these folks are familiar with is a very "white" looking milk that they pick up in the grocery store.

So what makes some milk have that rich, cream color and the butter made from the cream a bright yellow? The answer is green grass.

Green grass contains beta carotene. Beta Carotene gives vegetables such as carrots, spinach, kale, and sweet potatoes their vibrant colors.

From the Mayo Clinic:

The name "carotene" was first coined in the early 19th Century by the scientist Wachenroder after he crystallized this compound from carrot roots. Beta-carotene is a member of the carotenoids, which are highly pigmented (red, orange, yellow), fat-soluble compounds naturally present in many fruits, grains, oils, and vegetables (green plants, carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, spinach, apricots, and green peppers). Alpha, beta, and gamma carotene are considered provitamins because they can be converted to active vitamin A.

The carotenes possess antioxidant properties. Vitamin A serves several biological functions including involvement in the synthesis of certain glycoproteins. Vitamin A deficiency leads to abnormal bone development, disorders of the reproductive system, xerophthalmia (a drying condition of the cornea of the eye), and ultimately death.

Commercially available beta-carotene is produced synthetically or from palm oil, algae, or fungi. Beta-carotene is converted to retinol, which is essential for vision and is subsequently converted to retinoic acid, which is used for processes involving growth and cell differentiation.

While beta carotene is a very important aspect of a healthy diet, beta carotene supplements are thought to possibly cause cancer. This is one of the reasons why it is so important to make sure to eat foods rich in beta carotene rather than take supplements.

Compared to industrial milk, milk from grass-fed cows contain more omega-3 fats, more vitamin A, and more beta-carotene and other antioxidants. When I look at the cream colored milk from my Jersey cows or the dark yellow color of the butter made from their cream, I know I am consuming food that is good for me.

Note: The commercial butter makers actually add food color to the butter to make it look yellow. I do not add color to any butter that I make. My butter is not as yellow in the winter when the Jerseys are on hay rather than grass. However, the green alfalfa hay helps to keep the butter from being completely white. Nothing compares to butter made in the spring when the grass is green and lush!


Deb said...

I can't wait till my butter gets back to the bright yellow it was when we first got Mabel!! LOL It's been yellow all winter, but not that bright yellow that the green grass gives it.

Love your butter dish, wish I could find a couple like that...my butter would fit better in that than what I'm putting it in now. LOL I have one kinda like that with my good dishes, but hate to use it everyday, in case I break it...so I need to go looking around for a couple of other ones. :)

Anonymous said...

Interesting Tammy, I didn't know that butter changed colour. I've only just started making it, so would've been a bit perplexed by a colour change with us heading into winter.
Bye for now,