There has been a recent surge of interest in A2A2 milk. You may have heard about it in commercials, in the media, on store shelves, in health and nutrition articles and advertisements. One thing I find so fascinating about much of the literature surrounding A2A2 milk is that nearly all of it is marketing-based. That is, the main purpose of much of the available information is to try to convince you one way or the other and so you really have to read closely when it comes to A2A2 milk (as is often the case for many trending food and health topics).
As a dairywoman and milk cow owner, I’ve done a lot of research, have tested my own milk cow’s genetics, and am here to offer clear info and a balanced real-life perspective.
What is A2A2 milk?
The labels A1 and A2 refer to the type of beta-casein protein in a cow’s milk. Those beta-casein proteins are labeled either A1A1, A1A2, or A2A2.
A2A2 milk is milk that comes from a cow with the genetic code for A2A2 beta-casein proteins. A cow with A1A1 or A1A2 will not produce A2A2 milk.
How is it different from “regular” milk?
A1 and A2 beta-casein proteins are genetic variants of the beta-casein milk protein and differ by only one amino acid.
Studies have found that the digestive enzymes that process proteins within the human digestive tract interact with beta-casein proteins exactly at the location where the amino acids differ, and so A1 and A2 beta-casein proteins are each processed differently within our digestive system.
Is it healthier/better for you than “regular” milk?
There is no medical evidence to suggest that A1 milk is in any way harmful. And conversely, no medical studies suggest that A2 milk is inherently better.
There is, however, anecdotal evidence that does suggest that A2 milk is easier to digest and thus can cause less discomfort for those who experience lactose sensitivities or intolerances.
Some studies suggest that around 25% of people are sensitive to the proteins released upon digestion of A1 milk. It may well be that a portion of those who believe they have a lactose intolerance may actually be sensitive to A1 beta-casein.
One human study did show that more gastrointestinal discomfort occurred following the consumption of A1 milk compared to A2 milk.*
How do you get A2A2 milk?
A2 beta-casein proteins are a genetic variant; whether the cow has A1 or A2 proteins depends entirely on her DNA.
There’s nothing you can do to change or affect that in any way. It doesn’t matter what or how much she eats, where she’s housed, where or how much she grazes.
It’s simply in her DNA.
What kind of cow has A2A2 milk?
Cows of every breed can potentially have the genetic variant for A2A2 milk. Holsteins have the lowest probability of the A2A2 gene at 35%; Jerseys and Guernseys have the highest probability at 57%-65%.
This table, published by Canadian Dairy Network Excellence in 2016 shows the percentage of cows by breed who were tested and shown to carry the A2A2 genotype.
How do I know if my cow is A2A2?
You’ll need to test her DNA.
This winter, I pulled a couple dozen hairs (roots intact) from Sandy’s tail switch and sent them to a lab for DNA testing. It had nothing to do with her health or well-being, I was just curious.
The results came back; Sandy does indeed have the A2A2 genotype.
Does it matter if my cow is A2A2?
The best way to answer this question is: it depends.
If you are already drinking raw milk, all of the natural enzymes, probiotics, and beneficial bacteria remain intact and are already working to make the milk easier for your digestive system to process, enabling better nutrient absorption and less discomfort. In that case, A2A2 may not make much difference.
If you experience lactose intolerances or sensitivities, you may very well find that A2A2 milk is easier to digest and allows you to enjoy dairy products you’d thought no longer available to you. (hellooooo, ice cream).
If you run a dairy or a herd share, A2A2 cows may be more valuable since A2A2 milk can bring higher prices as more consumers consider it a more desirable product.
Someone asked me recently if I was excited to get the results of Sandy’s A2 genetic test. I wasn’t quite sure how to answer.
Sandy is producing the same milk she always did. It’s just as creamy and delicious as it was before the test. It is neat to know and it may make her valuable for those looking specifically for A2 milk.
But for me, nothing has changed except to confirm that she does indeed produce nature’s most perfect food with its incredible combination of essential nutrients, proteins, and healthy fats.
It just also happens to be trending.
Have more questions about A2A2 milk? Let me know in the comments!
Canadian Network for Dairy Excellence, “Beta Casein, A2 Milk and Genetics” https://www.cdn.ca/document.php?id=461. Accessed 3 March 2022.