The Great A2A2 Debate! (sort of)

One question we frequently get asked is, “Are you doing A2A2 milk?” Our answer? Nope! Why’s that, you ask? Well, here are my (Liz’s) thoughts:

I have a ton of reasons for not doing A2A2, but it all boils down to me not believing that it’s much more than marketing hype. For those unfamiliar with A1 vs A2 milk, it’s about the 67th amino acid in the second most abundant protein in cow’s milk, beta-casein. For A1 milk, this is histidine. For A2 milk, it’s proline. I believe that some people can certainly be sensitive to BCM-7, a digestive byproduct from the A1 version of beta-casein, however, I don’t believe that this is as widespread a phenomenon as the a2 Milk Company would suggest. Lactose intolerance is usually the cause of milk digestion difficulty, in which case the type of beta-casein protein isn’t the issue, it’s lactose. When someone who switches from pasteurized milk to raw A2A2 milk sees an improvement, how can you know what really improved their condition? That the milk was raw, or the fact it was A2A2? I think the milk being raw is the most important factor in the majority of cases. I believe this in part because the A2A2 milk tested in studies is pasteurized at ultra-high temperatures (UHT for short). So, I really don’t know if it would even make a difference in milk that’s raw since I consider pasteurized milk to be an entirely separate product. When the milk is left as a whole, would the beta-casein protein difference have any effect? It hasn’t ever been studied, so who's to say? Humans have been drinking milk (even A1A1 and A1A2 milk which, supposedly, has been around for nearly 8,000 years) for a long time yet only recently are we seeing these widespread milk digestion issues. Pasteurization, especially, is a relatively recent phenomenon in the world of milk, having started in the United States in the late 1800s with the newest UHT pasteurization coming into use more in the 1970s. The rise in milk’s digestive difficulty certainly correlates (which I know isn’t a cause, but geez, no one’s exactly studying this stuff as in depth as I'd like) more with the newer pasteurization methods than any thousands of years old protein differences. But, if A1A2 milk bothers you and A2A2 doesn't, that's just fine too. You could be allergic to the A1 protein just like someone could be allergic to the A2 protein (heck, it's even possible to be allergic to sunlight and water).  I just don't think it's as important in raw milk. There's a lot more I could say, but I prefer to say it in person since this is getting pretty long, and really stream-of-consciousness. But, if you’re willing to do some reading for a counterpoint to the A2A2 hype, this article is a great place to start, and puts it better than I ever could, even if it is a bit snarky:  

That’s not to say I agree with everything it says (A2A2 isn’t a scam, per se, although it’s definitely overblown), but I think it’s a great article that goes in depth to reference the studies done and offers its own rebuttals. 

One last note, I won’t breed for A2A2 because I am concerned with the genetic state of US dairy cows, especially holsteins. Look up anything about dairy cow genetic diversity and you’ll find articles from NPR, Scientific American, the USDA, etc. about how 99% of current holsteins can track their lineage back to two sires. Almost 9 million cows traced back to two fathers from the mid-1900s. That’s nuts! A country's worth of cows from two fathers?! A June 2022 article by dairy management professor Brad Heins titled “Genetic diversity of the jersey breed” shows an increase in the inbreeding coefficient for jersey cattle too, so the inbreeding problem isn’t limited to only holsteins. And it also noted that all US jersey bulls have come from two jersey bulls from the 1950s. Sound familiar? Cattle have been bred very selectively, and the addition of breeding for only A2A2 is, in my opinion, going to narrow the genetic pool of cattle in the US even further. It’s not healthy to inbreed to such extents and its ill effects are seen in dog breeds all the time (Pugs, I love ya, but you’ve got some real breathing problems). Anyone love their mutt dog? How about a mutt bull?

Come by sometime and I’ll talk your ear off about this.