Tilak R. Dhiman and Amy Ure. Utah State Univ, Animal, Dairy & Veterinary Sciences Dept, 4815 Old Main Hill, Logan, UT 84322-4815
There has been an expanding interest among the population in organic and functional foods that promise additional human health and environmental benefits compared to their conventional counterparts. The idea of allowing animals to graze on open pasture versus feeding conserved forages and high grain diets in a confinement operation sits well with many health- and environmentally-conscious people. Dairy and meat products from grass-fed cattle have been reported to contain significantly higher concentrations of β-carotene, vitamin E, ω-3 fatty acids, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and vaccenic acid (VA) compared to products from cattle fed conventional diets consisting of preserved forage and high grain diets. Ground beef has been, and continues to be a common source of E. coli infection. Recent studies has demonstrated that as the amount of grain in the diet increased, colon pH dramatically decreased, and this led to an increase in the number of acid-resistant E. coli bacteria in colonic digesta. Beef cattle fed 90% grain had very large numbers of acid-resistant E. coli compared to high forage diets. These all lend to significant potential health benefits for humans. There is a potential niche market for these types of dairy and meat products. A functional food survey found that respondents were willing to pay an average of $0.41 more per gallon for CLA-enriched milk if health claims that it would reduce the incidence of cancer were true. In addition, they found that households with children and health-conscious consumers were the most willing to pay premium prices for such products. Clearly, the health claims made about dairy and meat products from grass-fed cattle should be further explored and substantiated.