What is A2-A2 milk?
A2-A2 milk is a reference to milk that contains only one type of protein, named the A2 beta-casein. A1 and A2 beta-casein are genetic variants of the beta-casein milk protein that differ by one amino acid (at position 67 in the protein chain). Think of regular, run-of-the-mill milk you normally get from the grocery store as being from the A1-A1 or A1-A2 variant, whereas A2-A2 milk would come from a cow with the A2-A2 gene in their DNA.
Going back hundreds of years, early cows had two copies of the A2 gene in their DNA, and produced only A2-A2 milk. Over a long period of time, a mutation, known as the A1 gene, gradually worked its way into the dairy herd. Those cows, and a substantial portion of today’s dairy herd, produce A1-A1 or A1-A2 milk.
Has there been definitive research done on the topic of A2-A2?
There is a considerable and growing body of research showing A1-A2 beta casein may be at the root of milk or dairy product allergies, as well as the surprisingly common lactose intolerance experienced by so many. Our digestive systems will react differently to the A1 protein compared to the A2, but it is the mixing of both that appears to be the issue. A2-A2 milk presents as a far more natural fit to our digestive systems, and its wholesome goodness is more readily absorbed without the conflict from the mixed proteins.
Most of the studies currently available show that people whom experienced discomfort or a lactose intolerance while consuming milk and dairy products of the A1-A2 mix, did not have any issues when consuming A2-A2 milk or dairy products. Although it’s a “work-in-progress”, the continuing research is very encouraging, and we are convinced an all A2-A2 herd as the source of milk for all our dairy products is the only way to go. That being said, there is no definitive scientific validation of the statement that A2-A2 products are a better quality product for those who are lactose intolerant.
Which breeds of cows produce A2-A2 milk?
Guernsey’s and Jerseys are excellent examples of breeds of cow, the majority of which still retain the A2-A2 gene in their DNA. They used to be exclusively A2-A2, but over the years the integrity of their thoroughbred status has been lost through man’s intervention. Nevertheless, the majority of Jersey’s and Guernsey’s remain A2-A2. The Guernsey breed is about 90% A2-A2, while the Jerseys have suffered a bit, and are closer to the 60-65 percentile range. ⅔ of our herd are A2-A2, the remaining 1⁄3 are A1-A2.
How do you breed and test your herd to be A2-A2?
We breed our cows using a selective artificial insemination program. We get the genetic make-up of the semen before we acquire it. The manufacturer provides a catalog in which we are able to see the background and history of the bull donor. From there, if we breed one of our Jersey’s who is A1-A2 with a bull donor that is A2-A2, there is a 80% chance that the resulting calf will be A2-A2. While there are many different ways to breed a cow, we have always exclusively bred to achieve an all A2-A2 herd.
There are two different methods of testing to determine herd A2-A2 status. The first involves extracting hair from the animal’s tail off for DNA analysis. This method is difficult due to the high prospect of error in the analysis. The second is getting a very small flesh sample from the animal’s ear. It is the same process as tagging her ear, only in this case we would keep the sample to send for DNA analysis. We have the equipment on the farm to practice this method, and it is now standard practice for all our herd to be checked for A2-A2.
This process is completely painless for the animal. The clipping of their ear would happen on the farm due to the tagging process anyways, but in this case we simply use the sample gleaned from the ear during tagging to send for DNA analyzation of the animal’s genetic makeup.
We do not discriminate against or cull any animals from our herd that are not A2-A2. Many of our A1-A2 animals are good milkers and have given birth to great calves in the past. We want to continue this positive behavior, treating them as we would any other animal in our herd. If we wish, we also have the option to sell them to other great farms that are not pursuing an A2-A2 strategy. Great Jerseys are hard to find, and with their high butterfat content milk and gentle nature, they are highly sought after aside from any A2-A2 considerations, so if we choose to go that route, they will go on to live long and happy lives.
Can you taste the difference between A2-A2 and A1-A2 products?
Nobody will be able to taste the difference between those two products. If anything, it is the high butterfat content from the Jersey’s that are changing the taste profile of their dairy products, not the A2 protein. This will also change depending on the season, as the butterfat content of the milk changes with the season. But you will not be able to spot the difference between an A1-A2 and an A2-A2 product.
Why did you decide to focus on A2-A2 products?
We want everybody to be able to enjoy our products! Everybody can enjoy A2-A2, but obviously this isn’t so with products that are made with A1-A2 proteins. We also believe that overall, A2-A2 is just a better product for the consumer, even for folks that don’t suffer from lactose intolerance reactions. From what has been published, we see that those who consume A2-A2 products are able to better absorb the full nutritional value it provides, and we certainly want that for all our customers!