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The Interconnected Benefits of Grass-Fed Dairy

As the world becomes more and more interconnected, our actions have increasingly unintended consequences. So it’s more important than ever that we be mindful of the ways that we farm our food. Why? Because farming is right at the nexus of so much essential human activity, tying together our environment, animal welfare, human health, business, transportation, and more. One bad practice can ripple right across that entire ecosystem.

That’s what makes grass-fed dairy so important. In addition to producing the most delicious dairy products, it offers a win-win approach to the way we make many of the foods we love. In particular, it benefits animal welfare, the environment, our nutrition, and our communities. 

Here’s how we see it:

Animal welfare. For animals, grass-fed dairy cuts a sharp contrast with the world of conventional farming. Because of the more intimate relationship between the farmer and animals in a grass-fed operation, the grass farmer is acutely aware of the condition of his land and cows, and works in a holistic manner to keep both healthy. 

  • Care and respect—Grass-fed dairy operates from a core philosophy of care and respect for the land and animals alike. At Maple Hill, our animals are part of the farm family—they’re not subject to the same anxieties that afflict cows living inside industrial dairy operations, rife with crowding, frequent location changes, and unnatural rearing practices.

  • Natural growth—Because grass-fed dairy operations don’t use hormones or antibiotics on their cows, the cows are able to grow at a more natural pace, which is much easier on their bodies and contributes to longer lifespans.

  • Overall health—Grass-fed dairy doesn’t employ the highly intensive use of feedlots, meaning the cows are much less prone to develop such problems as ulcers, bloating, and weakened immune systems.

  • Room to roam—Grass-fed cows have lots of room to wander, fresh plants to eat, and a comfy grass meadow to rest in. All in all? A much happier existence.

Environment. In addition to being better for the animals, grass-fed dairy is better for the land they’re raised on. It trumps conventional dairy as the more environmentally sustainable practice in a number of ways:

  • Land protection—Grass-fed farms require, well…large grass pastures. And large grass pastures are crucial for the prevention of soil erosion and runoff. So that’s number one.

  • Carbon sequestration—But these large grass pastures also capture carbon from the atmosphere and store it back in the soil, where it belongs. Not only does this help improve air pollution and reduce the greenhouse gas effect, but it in turn improves the health of the plant life on the pasture, which means the grass that grows is abundant and healthy.

  • Natural food—Because grass-fed cows harvest their own food right out of the ground, the process significantly reduces the need for transportation, fossil fuels, and other interventions common to conventional feeding.

  • Natural fertilization—On top of that, grass-fed pastures are fertilized by the cows they support. It’s a much more natural and restorative experience for the land, yielding no excess and no chemical contamination.

  • Clean process—Pesticides and other chemicals are also absent from the grass-fed process, which means significantly less pollution of the air, ground, and waterways.

  • Enhancing biodiversity. All these benefits taken together means that grass-fed dairy farms are much better-preserved natural habitats and wildlife-friendly spaces. It’s not just farming—it’s a broader practice of nurturing entire ecosystems, where every plant and creature has a place.

Nutrition. What’s better for the animals and better the environment is also better for us. Grass-fed milk has significant nutritional benefits when compared to conventional milk. For instance, grass-fed is:

  • Better for you—A 2018 study in The Lancet followed over 130,000 people in 21 countries, tracking their food choices for nine years. Those who had two servings of full-fat dairy per day were less likely to have a heart attack or stroke and lived longer than people who didn’t. When you eat or drink full-fat dairy you’re nourishing your bodies with essential nutrients—amino acids, vitamin K, magnesium and calcium of course. And grass-fed is the best of the best when it comes to full-fat dairy. Read more about it here.

  • Better for your kids—In addition to providing ample natural nutrients for a healthy diet, a 2016 study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that regular dairy consumption is inversely associated with childhood obesity.

  • Rife with omega-3 fatty acids—These have substantial health benefits for your brain and heart, contain anti-inflammatory properties, and help prevent chronic illnesses like heart disease and diabetes.

  • And more antioxidants like vitamins A and E, K2, and beta-carotene—Among other things, these help protect your cells, and support your vision, bones, immune system, and reproductive health.

Community. And finally, grass-fed dairy bolsters local family farms and communities. 

  • Local economic health—To begin with, smaller farms engender stronger local economies. They prevent profits from leaving town, and ensure there is more shared “skin in the game” among the farmers and the broader community—consumers, neighbors, grocers, banks, and beyond. 

  • Healthier and more transparent—A community with a grass-fed farm is also a healthier community. It has access to fresh, high-quality, transparently produced dairy from sources the community knows and trusts, and whose environment is better cared for. 

  • Mutuality—Above all, though, the food we eat is an important touchpoint for our relationship with our planet, our fellow animals, and each other. Grass-fed is the best opportunity we have today to restore the connections among these important constituencies. It helps us better appreciate our mutual dependencies and mutual health. And in doing so, it makes for much tighter and more considerate communities.

As with so many things, what you put in is what you get out. So, if you want to eat nutritious food, live in a humane and healthy world, and build a vibrant culture, you could do a lot worse than starting with grass-fed dairy. Due to the regenerative and caring philosophy of grass-fed farming, its outputs are uniquely advantageous for animals, for the environment, for human nutrition, and for our communities. Grass-fed helps create a virtuous circle of life, where the benefits are shared, not rationed.

At Maple Hill, we’ve been committed to regenerative practices since 2009 because we know the highest quality dairy begins with the health of soil, grass, and cows. We believe that 100% grass-fed organic dairy farming done right is the pinnacle of organic, nourishes families with the best nutrition, and leaves the earth better than we found it. We are proud to be selected as a USDA Climate Smart Partner — supporting the production of climate smart commodities throughout the United States. 

Our 100% Grass-fed Organic dairy products include: 100% grass-fed whole milk, 100% grass-fed 2% reduced fat milk, 100% grass-fed butter (salted and unsalted), 100% grass-fed kefir (plain, vanilla, and strawberry), 100% grass-fed greek yogurt (plain and vanilla bean), and 100% grass-fed cream-on-top yogurt (plain and vanilla).


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