The Color of Milk: The Beautiful Variety of Nature's Food

Jersey and Normande milk from my farm.

Jersey and Normande milk from my farm.

The hallmark of industrial food is consistency.  Each individual food item should always look, smell, and taste exactly the same as the next.

The hallmark of nature's food is variety and change.  The food changes with the seasons and with available nutrients.  It also contains the uniqueness of the individual plant or animal.  This is what makes natural food interesting and continually enjoyable instead of boring.

Having a dairy farm, I love when the spring grass finally comes in and suddenly the color of milk is different.  Each cow has their own hue!  The hue is due to two things:

1.  each cow's individual ability to convert the beta-carotene from the grass into vitamin A

2.  the particular qualities of each cow's milk casein (protein) particles and fat globules, both of which scatter light

Some breeds of cow fully convert beta-carotene and their milk is almost pure white with very subtle differences from cow-to-cow.  Dandy, my Normande has this pure white milk.

Some breeds do not convert beta-carotene very well at all.  Jersey's are one of them, so Chocolate's milk is very yellow.  In these breeds, you often see a large color variation from cow -to-cow based on the individual light-scattering qualities of the components of their milk.

So is one color of milk better than the other?  Well that depends.  Just like with the cows, some people are better at converting beta-carotene than others.  If you have no trouble, it doesn't matter.  If you do the white milk might be better, but milk is still a wonderfully nutrient-rich food even without much vitamin A.