The Organic Debate – Understanding Organic vs. Desi vs. A1 vs. A2 Milk.

Today’s edition of National Daily ‘Mint’ carried an article on Organic Milk. Among other things, the article listed contact details of few suppliers from whom one can buy Organic milk in Delhi/NCR, Bangalore, and Mumbai. It looked like a good fit with our ongoing Organic Debate series, and I decided to explore the topic a bit. Before delving into the observations, let’s understand the differences between the words A1 / A2 / Desi / Organic when used in the context of milk quality.

A1 Milk vs. A2 Milk:
Leaving the science behind, in layman terms, the milk that comes from older breeds of cows (many of them native to India and Africa) like Gir, Jersey is A2 milk (also known as desi milk in colloquial usage in India). The milk that comes from high yielding hybrid varieties of cows (that originated in Australia, Northern Europe, and the US) like Holstein, British Shorthorn is A1 milk.

If you want to understand the science behind the terminology of A1/A2, read on, else, you can skip the following paragraph and jump to the next section.

Cow’s milk is a rich source of Protein. Up to 80% of the milk protein is made up of Caseins. Within Caseins, beta-casine is the 2nd most common type of casein in cow’s milk. The distinction between A1 and A2 Milk arises from the kind of beta-casein present in milk (A1 beta-casein or A2 beta-casein).

Which one is better, A1 Milk or A2 Milk?
The A1 casein is considered a genetic mutation in the older cow breeds. However, this mutation was for the good of dairy farmers as it led to up to two-fold increase in yield of milk produced by them. For human health, whether A2 milk is better than A1 or not is a question which is not yet settled decidedly. There are studies and scientific research supporting both sides of the debate. However, it has been established beyond doubt that A2 milk is healthier for infants and smaller mammals. Also, milk produced by most of the mammals like goat and sheep (and including humans) is similar to A2 grade. Thus to err on the safer side, we can assume that A2 milk may have more health benefits than A1.

A1/A2 vs. Organic Milk:
Whether the milk is organic or not has nothing to do with if it is A1 or A2. Assuming A2 milk to be organic is a common mistake committed by many (including the article published in the national daily that we covered above). For milk to be certified Organic, the two most important aspects are:

  1. the feed given to the cows should be grown in an organic farm (ideally own farm or else on a farm in the local area)
  2. growth hormones, or antibiotics or other such chemicals should not be injected to cows to increase the yield.

Apart from above two, there are other factors also specified under NPOP for Organic Milk. An interested reader can go through section 3.1 through 3.3 of NPOP to understand all requirements for producing certified Organic Milk.

Where to get Organic Milk in India:
Coming back to the ‘Mint’ article, it listed 11 farms across Delhi/NCR, Bangalore, and Mumbai that provide Organic milk. I visited the website of each one of them and here is what I found.

Of the 11 farms listed in Mint article, the total number of farms that sell certified [by a 3rd party as per NPOP standards] Organic Milk is an astonishing zero.

This may be because of the additional cost a farm will have to incur in getting certified. The extra expense will further increase the end price of milk which is already costlier due to higher input costs (to maintain organic standards) and lower yields (in case of A2 cows). So all we have to rely upon in this case is self-certificate. Let us examine the claims made by these 11 suppliers. Of the 11

  • 3 claim Organic A2 Milk
  • 4 Claim Organic Milk
  • 1 Claim Desi (A2) Milk
  • 3 neither claim Organic nor A2 Milk

This is the most surprising part. A national daily tells you that you can buy Organic milk form 11 sources, 4 of which (6 if you include the farms who use organic only in brand or tagline but do not claim the milk to be organic separately) themselves do not claim to be selling Organic milk. We began ‘The Organic Debate’ series by mentioning that “Organic is one of the most misused marketing buzzwords.” We validated that point once again today. Hope our articles will help you get better informed and choose wisely.

Stay Safe!


Gaurav is an entrepreneur whose first Start-up was focused on providing services to patients suffering from Chronic Diseases. While researching about the causes of lifestyle diseases and the ways to reduce their incidence, he chanced upon the idea of growing healthy and nutritious food using advanced farming techniques.

He founded CityGreens with a mission to enable City Dwellers to access Safe, Healthy and Fresh food.

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