A2 Milk From A2 Cows

What Is It and Is It Really Better?
Getting milk from Kazoo at My Sisters’ Farm in Shingle Springs
Kazoo gets milked at My Sisters’ Farm in Shingle Springs. Photo by Charm Photography / Charlene Lane.

In spite of its name, A2 milk was actually here first.

A2, which is a name copyrighted by the a2 Milk Company out of New Zealand, is a beta casein protein that was discovered in the 1990s, leading to the pronouncement that not all milk is the same. Nearly all milk from sheep, goats, yaks, camels, buffalo and even humans contains mostly the A2 protein, and the belief is that throughout most of human history, cow’s milk was also predominantly A2. As a result of genetic mutation 10,000 years ago as cows were moved into Europe, one single protein in the amino acid chain was replaced, creating the A1 milk, which represents about 90 percent of the cow’s milk sold in the United States today.

What makes this important is that about one-third of all Americans have problems digesting dairy. This is commonly attributed to lactose intolerance. Lactose is basically a kind of sugar in milk, and if you’re lactose intolerant, you don’t have enough of the lactase enzyme to break the lactose down into glucose so you can digest it, leading to cramping and indigestion. However, proponents of A2 milk argue that it’s the presence of the A1 protein that causes people discomfort with dairy products. There’s also been speculation (mostly from A2 advocates) that the A1 protein could be linked to a variety of diseases.

That has given rise to an entire cottage industry devoted to producing, selling and using A2 milk. The global A2 milk market was valued at $8.5 bill

ion in 2020 (slightly more than a 10 percent share of the global milk market), and it is expected to top $25 billion by 2027 according to ResearchCFME. Whole dairy farms, including two in Placerville and Shingle Springs, are devoted to raising only A2 cows, and the milk’s use in products from ice cream and baked goods to infant formula and powdered milk has been growing steadily.

So, the question is, is A2 milk really better and healthier for us? It depends on who you ask.

The European Food Safety Authority issued a report in 2009 based on a review of the science available at the time and found no relationship between any disease and drinking milk with the A1 protein. A pair of research papers published in 2020 by Purdue University and the University of Auckland “suggested” that people with lactose

intolerance experienced fewer symptoms when consuming A2 milk instead of regular cow’s milk. Even as far back as 2003, the New Zealand Commerce Commission tested milk produced by the a2 Milk Company—which invented the genetic testing system to identify A2 cows—and found it had some A1 protein in it. It its ruling, the Commission wrote that the company “acknowledged that it could not be certain there was no A1 in A2 milk.”

Some in the industry have even gone as far as to attribute the health benefits of A2 to a placebo effect, but don’t tell that to George Haymaker.

Kazoo, the A2 Jersey/Normandy cow milk
Kazoo, the A2 Jersey/Normandy cow. Photo by Charm Photography / Charlene Lane.

The Serrano resident is the founder of ReThink Ice Cream. In his words, the company was born out of a previous addiction to alcohol and pain pills that gave way to an ice cream addiction when he stopped drinking alcohol and needed to replace the sugars. Of course, too much sugar and fat from the ice cream wasn’t doing his health any favors, but the so-called “healthier” ice creams on the market were simply unacceptable in terms of taste and texture. He set out to create an alternative that was also “tummy-friendly,” and subsequently launched ReThink Ice Cream in 2018. He uses A2 dairy exclusively in all his products.

“I talk to thousands of consumers, and those who drink A2 milk all swear by it. I haven’t met one who said it did not resolve their intolerance issue,” Haymaker says. “A2 is the same protein human mothers carry in their breast milk, which shows just how in tune it is with our systems.”

There seems to be universal agreement that there are no negative health concerns associated with A2 milk, and it tastes the same as regular milk. If you want to try it for yourself, you can find it and ReThink Ice Cream on grocery store shelves throughout El Dorado Hills.