There are growth opportunities for pasture milk outside of Austria, as natural purity and authenticity “move into the spotlight” as key drivers in the milk product categories, according to the Austrian association (ARGE) Heumilch and beverage carton producer SIG Combibloc.
Around 8,000 pasture milk farmers and more than 60 dairies and cheese-makers are affiliated to ARGE Heumilch, and supply around 400m kilograms of pasture milk each year, accounting for 15 per cent of Austria's total milk production.
A spokesperson for SIG told DairyReporter.com: “Consumers are more and more aware of what they eat and drink – therefore we believe that the pasture milk concept has the potential to be successful outside Austria as well.”
According to SIG, it is these drivers that have led to the “very positive” development of product concepts that focus on naturalness, purity and the origin of food and ingredients.
Potential in Europe
In Austria, a large number of dedicated agricultural concerns and dairy enterprises have already returned to the traditional feed methods, and the production of pure pasture milk that follows from this, according to ARGE.
Austria is the EU's biggest producer of pasture milk.
Geisler said that Europe-wide, pasture milk makes up barely 3 per cent of total milk production.
“Pasture milk is starting to attract a greater share of attention. This is due on the one hand to the especially good quality of pasture milk, and on the other to the awareness that traditional grass-farming is very good for the environment,” said Geisler.
Pasture milk cows are fed in the traditional way with seasonal feed – eating grass and herbs straight from the pasture in summer, and sun-dried hay and mineral-rich coarse grain in winter.
In summer, the diet of the pasture milk cows includes an average of 30 to 50 different types of grasses and herbs.
ARGE co-ordinator Andreas Geisler said that compared to traditional milk, pasture milk has a higher content of polyunsaturated fatty acids such as Omega 3, which have a beneficial effect on cardiovascular health.
“The human organism is unable to produce these fatty acids itself, and has to absorb them from its food,” said ARGE.
No silage, including silage fodder made from grass or corn, is used to feed cows in pasteurised milk production which, according to SIG, means the product has a high content of fatty acids, a valuable nutritional substance.
Geisler claims that compared with milk from animals fed on silage, pasture milk also contains very few clostridia, butyric acid bacteria.
“In cheese production, for instance, this strain of bacteria can cause cracks in the cheese, and in the worst case it can make the product unusable,” said Geisler.
In addition, SIG claims that its cardboard packaging fits well with the natural emphasis of the milk product.