Is the milk
of indigenous Indian cows better than that of exotic cows? The answer is yes, especially in terms of the quality and composition of proteins in the milk.
The emerging global trend is to classify milk
into A1 and A2 categories depending on the nature of its beta-casein which constitutes 30 to 35 per cent of the total milk protein. A2 milk is generally preferred over A1 because of its similarity with the mother’s milk. The milk of the Indian native cattle belongs to this class.
To elaborate it further, it is worth pointing out that Beta-casein consists of a series of 209 amino acids most of which are the same in both A1 and A2 milks. But the amino acid positioned at the 67th spot is different in the two cases. While A2 beta-casein has the useful Proline at this position, as does the human milk, A1 has Histidine which tends to break down during digestion to an unhealthy peptide called BCM-7 (beta-casomorphin-7). This peptide, dubbed generally as “milk devil”, is similar to Morphine which is harmful for the brain.
The milk secreted by the cattle breeds evolved in most Asian and African countries, including India, is predominantly of A2 type. In contrast, the cattle breeds of Europe (excluding France), Australia, New Zealand and the US usually yield A1 milk. In some cases, their milk contains a mixture of A1 and A2 beta-caseins but it remains in the broad category of A1 milk.
Some studies have indicated that the intake of A1 milk in childhood may be linked to ailments like diabetes (type-1), heart diseases, digestive disorders and autism (a mental condition marked by poor social interaction and repetitive behaviour). But that is not so in A2 milk. It can be consumed even by many of those suffering from intolerance to regular milk.
Actually, cows are not the only source of A2 milk. It is produced also by several other milch animals, such as buffalo, goat, sheep, yak and camels. That is why the milk of these bovines enjoys an exclusive market niche. Some types of A2 milk secreted by animals with prominent humps, notably camel, are deemed good for managing and even reversing autism. This belief has led to the spurt in the demand and prices of camel milk in many countries, including India. But most of these claims need to be validated through more studies.
However, the fact that desi cattle produces A2 milk has been authenticated scientifically and acknowledged by the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS) in a recent strategy paper (No. 12) titled “Harnessing full potential of A1 and A2 milk in India: an update”. The paper points out that the crossbred cattle developed in India by crossing local cows with exotic bulls also normally carry pure A2 beta-casein. The presence of A1 protein is rare and in traces.
The NAAS paper cites the results of a comprehensive analysis of 1,500 animals, including crossbred cows, carried out by the Karnal-based National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources (NBAGR), in support of this contention. The study revealed that the milk of over 91 per cent of Indian native cattle had A2 beta-casein only. Barely 0.09 per cent samples showed negligible traces of A1 protein. None of the Indian herds produced the unwelcomed A1 milk.
The awareness about the merits and demerits of A1 and A2 milks is growing in major dairying countries like New Zealand, Australia and the US. In fact, New Zealand has started marking breeding bulls as A1 and A2 to promote A2 type cattle. A business house, called A2 Corporation Ltd, has come up there to undertake testing and marketing of A2 type cows and their milk. It has registered “A2” and “A2 MILK” as its trade marks.
However, the NAAS strategy paper maintains that India has an edge over the European milk trading countries in producing A2 milk. It can easily cater to the growing demand for A2 milk in the global market.