Free Range Dairy | Annie Bell | The Modern Dairy

By Annie Bell, author of The Modern Dairy (Kyle Books). She also works with dairy producers helping them promote the quality of their products through Annie Bell Nutrition

Getting your 3 A Day

Fearmongering over the years has all but eclipsed how we should go about including dairy in our daily lives, with the emphasis on zero fat products and richer gourmet delights such as butter all but banished. I find the most helpful way of including the right amount of dairy in my daily diet is to treat it as I do my 5-a-day fruit and veg, by aiming for 3-a-day of different types. In practice this changes from one day to the next, but bearing in mind that a portion can include a yoghurt of about 150 g, a 30 g hunk of cheese, or 200 ml of milk, this provides a good benchmark to aim for. In short, a little and often, and as varied as possible. Variation lies at the heart of good nutrition, a modest amount of everything will always be better than a large amount of just one food. Nothing is off limits in The Modern Dairy, a little bit of butter and plenty of yoghurt.

All the recipes in my book The Modern Dairy have been devised to keep saturated fat well within the lower limit of a woman’s recommended intake of 20 g a day, and the majority of dishes contain no more than half that amount, which leaves plenty of scope for whatever else you eat that day. You can find further information on this at the British Nutrition Foundation

Grass versus grain-fed

Dairy farming husbandry in industrialised countries, especially the US, have seen drastic changes since the Second World War. In 1940 ninety nine percent of cattle in the US were farmed within herds that were smaller than 30 milk cows. The focus today is on large-scale farming of high-yield cattle such as Holsteins, with the emphasis on high energy and protein fodders which will maximise output. They are farmed indoors, and fed largely on a cocktail of fodder containing grains, soy and added micronutrients. The aim is for milk that has the same nutritional quality throughout the year, and it is very different in profile to that produced by traditional dairy farmers, which is driven by the pasture and the seasons.

The most recent scientific research is seeing dairy enjoy something of a reprieve from its reputation of old that saw it linked to obesity. There is robust evidence to suggest that it is inversely associated with weight-gain, with no correlation to either diabetes or cardiovascular disease. It may be, given the many unusual fatty acids contained in dairy fat, that have been reduced by modern farming practices, as well as the de-creaming of milk, that we are consuming far fewer, when they are biologically active and possibly advantageous to weight control, insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance.

Free Range Dairy | Cows grazing Free Range Dairy | Cows in field

There is good reason to believe that it is the quality of dairy fat, rather than dairy fat per se that is at fault. Fatty acids contained in dairy fat are biologically active, and the content of these is steered by the feed of the cow, in particular fresh grass. The upshot of the science is that, while we can’t travel back in time, as consumers we can use our awareness to benefit nutritionally. So, when you find yourself standing at the chill counter gazing at the display of dairy products that seems to disappear into the distance, the Pasture Promise Label offers the best possible starting point.


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