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The scientific evidence for “Origin Green”

by Tom O’Callaghan, PhD student,  Prof Catherine Stanton and Prof Paul Ross


The vast majority of cows in the world are fed indoors and see little of the lush pastures that we are so used to here in Ireland. Ireland’s dairy and meat herds are almost entirely pasture-based – an advantage clearly articulated in the “Origin Green” campaign marketed so effectively by Bord Bia.  As a result, consumers generally perceive that milk and dairy products produced from cows maintained on outdoors grazing pastures are “healthier” than from cows fed typical indoor rations based on  concentrated feeds.

APC scientists are now providing the scientific evidence to show the benefits of milk and butter from pasture-fed cattle in terms of superior nutritional properties, appearance, flavour and colour. This research, led by Teagasc and UCC researchers and including APC Microbiome Institute’s Prof Catherine Stanton at Teagasc Moorepark Food Research Centre and Prof Paul Ross in UCC, is published in two papers in the Journal of Dairy Science, where the paper on butter has been selected as the Editor’s Choice. This study is part of a large collaborative programme across Teagasc Moorepark Research Centre and the APC Microbiome Institute, entitled “Profiling Milk From Grass” which is funded by Teagasc, Science Foundation Ireland and the Dairy Research Trust (Ireland) .

“Results so far are very exciting and indicate that milk and dairy produce from grass and clover-fed cows have significantly higher concentrations of fat, protein and casein”, said Tom O’Callaghan, PhD student at Teagasc and first author on both papers. “In particular, milk from pasture-fed cows (grass or clover) has significantly higher concentrations of healthy fatty acids. These differences are reflected in butter produced from pasture-fed cows being superior in appearance, flavour and colour as confirmed by sensory panel data. Pasture-derived butter is also nutritionally superior for heart health with lower thrombogenicity scores and containing significantly higher concentrations of CLA (c9t11), a healthy fatty acid, and β-carotene which gives the butter a lovely golden colour.”

Tom F. O’Callaghan, Deirdre Hennessy, Stephen McAuliffe, Kieran N. Kilkawley, Michael O’Donovan, Pat Dillon, R. Paul Ross and Catherine Stanton(2016) Effect of pasture versus indoor feeding systems on raw milk composition and quality over an entire lactation.  J. Dairy Science Vol. 99, Issue 12, p9424–9440; doi:

Tom F. O’Callaghan, Hope Faulkner, Stephen McAuliffe, Maurice G. O’Sullivan, Deirdre Hennessy, Pat Dillon, Kieran N. Kilcawley, Catherine Stanton and  R. Paul Ross (2016) Quality characteristics, chemical composition, and sensory properties of butter from cows on pasture versus indoor feeding systems.   J. Dairy Science Vol. 99, Issue 12, p9441–9460; doi:

Photo: Professor Catherine Stanton, Tom O’Callaghan and Professor Paul Ross, APC Microbiome Institute, Teagasc and University College Cork.