Getting to know the farmer – Jersey / A2 milk6 min read

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We have been buying very yummy
`Over the Moon’ Jersey milk from the local farmer’s markets for some time, so yesterday we decided that it was time we went out to see the farm that it comes from and perhaps get to know the farmer. A quick look on the internet led us to Johnson’s Farmgate, about an hour’s drive from us, up the Hunter Valley. The drive through rich river land with cattle grazing in lush green pasture was refreshing in itself.

It was nice to meet Cathie Johnson and hear some of their story, and some of the current struggles in competing with the big supermarkets. It seems sad that they have had to close down their roadside stall which sold a range of fruit and vegetables fresh from the farm. The only thing they still sell in their quaint little shed is the Over the Moon milk, cream, yogurt, and cheeses, which of course we stocked up on.

Why Jersey milk?

The bottom line is because of the health implications of the more common A1 variant milks. (Please note, when we talk of A2 milk in this post we are referring to a milk of the A2 variant NOT the brand name.)

The Origins of A2 milk

Professor Keith Woodford, author of “Devil in the Milk” says:

`There are two main forms of the important cow’s milk protein beta-casein found in the cow’s milk that you drink. These two forms are known as A1 and A2 beta-casein.

The A2 form of beta-casein has been identified by scientific research to be the original form of beta-casein that would have been produced by cows thousands of years ago.

At some point in history, owing to natural genetic mutation, the A1 form appeared in dairy cattle and was spread throughout dairy herds across Europe, becoming the common form of beta-casein in many breeds of cows.

Traditional cattle breeds such as the zebu, the native Asian cattle and closely related animals such as the water buffalo and yak all still only produce the A2 type of beta-casein.

Some dairy cows still only produce the A2 type of beta-casein and these can be identified and milked to produce a2 Milk™.’

 What is A2 milk?

The Food Intolerance Network describe A2 milk this way:

`A2 is the name of a milk protein that was in all dairy herds until a natural mutation occurred in the European herd thousands of years ago.

Milk from Jersey cows, Guernsey cows, camels, sheep, buffalo, yaks, donkeys, goats, and Asian cows naturally contain mostly these A2 beta casein proteins, whereas milk from cows such as Holsteins usually contains mostly the protein variant called A1 beta casein. In the 1970s, Australian dairy herds switched from using Jersey cows to Holsteins and at that time some dairy farmers’ families noticed effects on their health, keeping a Jersey cow for their own use.
A2 is also the brand name of milk containing predominantly A2 beta casein protein.’

What are the health benefits of A2 milk?

Again, from the Food Intolerance Network: `Milks containing mostly A2 proteins are often said to be better for ‘allergies’ (such as gut, skin rashes, hayfever, cough). There is also research to suggest that A1 beta casein may be associated with serious health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes type 1 and autism.

From the Food Intolerance Network point of view, we are interested in the reports from our members who have noticed improvements by switching to A2 milk – and I am one of them (for allergic rhinitis).
For long term heart health, a number of men who have read the book Devil in the Milk – including my husband – won’t touch A1 milk again.’

A personal story

Our Miss Mac (age 5) has always struggled with a `sore tummy’, not sleeping well, and being grouchy and grumpy. Not a pleasant child to have around at times. For a couple of years we thought that she may have had some kind of colic associated with drinking milk. So, we took her off cow’s milk and gave her soy milk (HORROR!!). Yes, we know the evils of soy now.

Earlier this year we discovered A2 milk and thought it was worth a try. I remember the first time we asked her to try it, she was quick to refuse. `It will make me sick’ was her comment. But it wasn’t long before she tried it and liked the smooth feel of it in her mouth. A couple of hours later she came asking for more and was excited to tell us that it didn’t make her sick. This was a turning point for Miss Mac and we have seen her general health improve since.

Another big question: Is it raw?

The answer is no, it’s not raw milk.

Yes, we know the benefits of raw milk. However, the sale of raw milk for human consumption is illegal in all of Australia, just as it is in most states of USA. Whilst the milk we are buying is actually pasteurised, it is homogenised and organic. Sometimes we have make the best choices from what is available, and this is one of those times.

My take on this is, that even if milk with the A1 variant is raw, it should still be avoided.

Where to find jersey milk or milk with the A2 variant

In Australia it is relatively easy to find Jersey milk (i.e.. with the  A2 variant) even though they make up less than 30% of the dairy herd. It is readily available in our supermarkets (Coles, Woolworths, Aldi, IGA) as a regular item. Note, these are usually both pasteurised and homogenised. There are a number of brands, some national, and some more regional.

Here in the Newcastle/Hunter region it is relatively easy to get a couple of brands of non-homogenised A2 milk in a number of shops, and at the Farmer’s Markets.

New Zealand has the highest number of jersey cattle in the world. Even though they are still not the majority of the national herd, it is relatively easy to get A2 milk.

The dairy herd in USA is over 90% Holstein (ie. producing A1 milk) with Jersey around 7%. However, it would seem that  milk that is purely Jersey (i.e.. A2) is not commonly produced. Please if you know of brands or sources, leave us a comment to let us know.

Now, back to the farm…..

The guys at Over the Moon tell us, `our milk is non-homogenised. You drink our milk as nature intended – as a whole food with the cream on top. In this way, the physical structure of the milk remains intact. It tastes great and it’s better for you. The herd of Jersey cows are grass fed on the lush pastures of the Hastings Valley (near Wauchope). No pesticides or man-made fertilisers are used in their pasture production.’

What about you?

Do you use Jersey milk? Where do you get it? What’s the brand? We’d love to build up a bank of this information for our readers. Leave us a comment with your local info.

8 comments

  1. We use jersey milk. When my son was 1 and transitioning to cows milk from breast, his personality changed so much I searched for different answers and came up with the milk issue. To this day (he is 5), he gets a skin rash from drinking ‘a1’ milk.
    In the Fraser Coast region and Northern Suburbs of Brisbane you can get Cooloola Coast Milk from some IGA supermarkets (which is much creamier than the big chain A2 brand). It comes from the Maleney region on the Sunshine Coast.

    1. Lisa, the personal stories always amaze me. They’re not really a surprise. It’s just amazing that something so simple can make suck a change. Thanks for letting everyone know of another brand available in supermarkets. I imagine that the ilk you get from Maleney region is probably non-homogenised (like the one we get from the Farmers Market) so the cream is very obvious. I know the A2 brand is homogenised so you don’t see or feel the cream the same. I’m wondering, is your son able to have A2 yogurt, or cheese or butter?
      Judith

  2. There is an ancient breed of celtic cattle that have remained pure due to their isolated island location. They are Irish Kerry cows and their milk is 98% A2 with smaller fat globules that are easier to digest. The breed is critically endangered with only a couple hundred animals in North America. The American Kerry Cattle Society and the Livestock Conservancy are working to save these cattle as they were the original grass fed dairy breed and are very important to current breeding programs and healthier A2 dairy production. Please help us by spreading the word about these little black cows! Thank you!!

    1. Hi jeet,

      Since the new laws came in I don’t think you can buy it raw anymore. It has been pretty confusing as to what the laws meant and ways people were trying to get around it. I believe there is a farm down in Mornington that maybe able to help you. – Sharon

  3. Our family recently purchased two Jersey cows two years ago as babies. We had our first year of lactation this spring. Love their milk and products from it! Have read that Guernseys are even more likely to have this A2 milk. I find all this very interesting.

  4. I am so annoyed hearing the farmers are being shafted yet again to the point that its not viable to produce.
    I live in kilsyth outet eastern surburbs of melbourne.
    What product can u buy to help these poor trodden farmers.
    Tks paul

    1. Hi Paul,

      The best thing to do is check out some of your local markets and talk to some of the stall holders. They all know each other and tend to do the rounds. Mulgrave have their market every weekend. There are a few more that are closer such as Park Orchards and Croydon. Im not to sure what the Eastland one is like yet. Another thing to do is check out your local IGA. They usually have the lesser known brands and more local brands too. I know there was a Raw milk place somewhere on the Peninsula however we have not been able to buy raw milk legally here in Victoria for a while now. I would love to hear about what you find. – Sharon

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