Packaging cheats on consumers: the lie about the happy cow
"Cows grazing happily on the field and delivering fresh milk". This image sticks in the mind of most consumers. But the reality is completely different today: Most dairy cows are fattened in stalls with concentrated feed in order to increase milk production. Because critical consumers know about this, many prefer milk or milk products from so-called pasture cows. But many milk producers mislead consumers and deceive with the packaging. A test by the Öko-Test consumer initiative showed poor results, especially for the large milk companies.
Over four million cows are kept in Germany for the production of milk. While cows are kept in factory farms with hundreds and thousands of animals in the eastern German countries, there are also smaller farms with fewer than 30 cows in the south. "Most of the milk we drink comes from large companies," as the consumer protection magazine "Öko-Test" determined. The view of the supermarket shelf conveys an agricultural and often ecological idyll, but the reality is usually completely different.
Packaging misleads consumers On the milk packaging, but also on the packaging of yoghurt, cheese or butter, cows are shown that seem to happily eat juicy greenery on beautiful pastures. "But the milk does not come from the cows shown," reports the magazine in its current April issue. About two thirds of the milk products that have a “pasture cattle” or lure the buyer with lush meadows are, according to the eco testers, of cows that have never or rarely seen a green pasture in their lives. In addition, very few milk suppliers would prohibit the use of genetically modified soy in feed.
In many regions, the cows in the meadows have completely disappeared in the past ten years. Nowadays the animals are partly crowded in the stables. Instead, cereals or corn are now grown on the pastures. The corn then ends up as a durable silage in the trough, along with power food from rapeseed meal, beet pulp and genetically modified soy. The protein and energy-rich concentrate is given to the cows so that they can deliver even more milk. A good 15 years ago it was around 2000 liters per udder and year, today it is already over 7000 liters.
Animal husbandry reduces milk quality But the quality of milk suffers from this animal husbandry. Because a high dose of concentrate is not good for the cows, their digestion is based on raw grass food and not on artificial feed. This changes not only the health of animals, but also of humans. Milk from happy animals in pasture contains significantly more unsaturated fatty acids than milk from dairy cows from the stables. This not only has the advantage that the butter of the pasture cows is tender to the touch, but also has a nutritional significance. In this way, Omega III fatty acids protect the vessels, lower blood pressure and the risk of diabetes and thus reduce the risk of cardiovascular events such as a heart attack.
This difference can be detected very quickly in the laboratory. The experts at Ökotest adopted this specialty for their nutritional study. In the laboratory, it was possible to determine whether the cows lived and ate in the pasture or whether they were fattened with concentrate in the barn.
34 milk pasture products put to the test
A total of 34 milk products were analyzed in the laboratory, six of the products bore the organic label. All of the dairy products examined had green landscapes or cows in the pastures on their packaging. Some of the goods also bore names such as "pasture butter", "pasture happiness" or even "animal welfare". All these names did not mean that the animals really came out to pasture regularly, as the laboratory test showed.
The organic products scored well over conventional milk products. In the test, 20 of the 28 conventional products showed that the cows never or hardly saw any meadows. The testers also criticized that most companies do not prohibit their manufacturers from using genetically modified soy. According to Ökotest, the manufacturer “Almette” was particularly negative. This praises its "Alpine fresh cheese nature" with "100 percent natural ingredients". However, according to the Ökotest, genetically modified soy should not have been left out. After all, the milk fat composition was sufficient, so that this suggests an adequate green feed. The “Arlas Esrom cheese” was also noticed here, although here too, “only from natural ingredients” was advertised.
Branded products with negative results
The practices of the Friesland Campina dairy were also criticized. The group advertises its products “Frico Maasdamer” and “Landliebe UHT Milch” with the sales argument that the cows get a lot of green fodder. However, this statement could not be confirmed in the laboratory. The so-called willow butter from "Frau Antje" also attracted attention. Only a few typical fatty acids could be detected in this. Particularly annoying here: The name suggests that it is a product of pasture cows. The food experts were also disappointed with “Meggles Alpenbutter”, the fresh Alpine milk from Weihenstephan or even Muller's buttermilk. The values also did not indicate that the cows graze regularly in a pasture.
The majority of organic goods performed well
Pleasing: Some products also did what they promised. However, these products usually come from smaller manufacturers such as the Milchwerke Berchtesgadener Land or Bergader Privatkäserei. The eco-magazine had less criticism for the organic products. These dairy products may not use genetic engineering. With milk or milk products with the organic logo, there is no obligation to let the cows graze in the pasture, but most organic farmers do not feed concentrate, but grass, as the study showed. Only Aldi organic milk showed low values of the positive milk fat composition. There was too little grass in the feed here. (sb)
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