Thursday, May 24, 2007

Mad fish oil cow research

I am not a vegan. I eat fish and I drink milk. Yet I see myself writing a rant that could be posted on any hardcore veggie activist blog - with some omissions, of course. It was yesterday when I stumbled upon this study about fish oil, cows, and milk. At first I put it aside as a piece of curiosity. But something hooked into my brain. I began to ask questions. Have you ever seen a cow ploughing the oceans, diving for fish? No, mad cows don't behave like that. They stand on the ground with three and a half hooves, shivering and staggering like drunk. The conclusion is inevitable: It is not the cows that are mad when they eat fish. - (Picture by *athena @ Flickr)

But let's come to the facts. At the Department of Animal Science, Food and Nutrition of Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, fourteen Holstein cows, partially grazing pasture, have been fed with oil supplements. Seven cows received a grain mix with 400 grams of animal fat and served as control. The remaining seven cows received the same grain mix and 100 grams of fish oil, diluted with 300 grams of sunflower oil. After a week, the content of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) in the milk of both groups has been measured: its amount was 1 percent of fatty acids in the controls and 1.64 percent of fatty acids in the fish oil group. CLA is considered as beneficial to human health, in contrast to other milk fats.

Greek reminiscence

Some weeks ago, on holiday in Greece, we have seen the marine side of this beautiful country, a lot of beach, coast lines, bays, harbours, ports and havens, and ships everywhere. But no fishermen. In earlier days, they must have been there. But now, no fish, no job. According to Greenpeace, 70 percent of the oceans are overfished to the limit or beyond.

With this in mind, I once again take a look at the results of the fish oil cow study. A hundred grams of fish oil each day, and only a meak percent fraction increase of good fatties in the milk. I can hardly believe that it makes a difference for your health if you drink this or that milk. But a hundred grams of fish oil with all its high quality omega-3 fatties can do a lot more if we and not the cows take it.

Some more thoughts

The horror vision that marine ecosystems are being destroyed just to use tons of fish oil for tiny shifts in fatty content of cow's milk is not reality. But the idea makes me sick and angry. I only hope that economy will settle this. Fish oil is expensive, why else did they dilute it with sunflower oil? If the study tells farmers that fish oil supplements for cows do not pay, then at least it has served its purpose.

This post has been featured by Grand Rounds, Volume 3, Number 36.

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