The 2017 meeting was held March 2-3, Hagerstown, MD, in partnership with the Maryland Cattlemen’s Association.

The full meeting report may be downloaded in two large chunks (day 1, day 2), or by individual presentation below. Session overviews are linked from the session titles.

Poster abstracts) are also available.


Most of us have heard the expression “You are what you eat”. It holds true when feeding livestock raised for meat or milk. Research over the past few years is telling us that pasture-fed livestock produce meat and milk that have a healthier fatty acid composition than the same animals conventionally-fed stored forages and other feedstuffs in confinement. Therefore, the Northeast Pasture Consortium Executive Committee decided to dedicate our 2017 annual conference to explore what causes pasture-fed livestock to have higher amounts of omega-3 and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and a low omega-6 to omega-3 ratio in their meat and milk than those fed in confinement with conventional feed rations. Then, what is the fate of these two fatty acids when the meat and milk is prepared for human consumption? Finally, what is the current state of the art and science about ruminant derived fatty acids, such as omega-3, CLA, and a host of other fatty acids and their impact on human health for good or bad?

Hence, the theme of the Conference is From Pasture to Table - Grass Fed Livestock Production of Meat and Milk and Its Preparation - Their Effects on Fatty Acid Composition and Human Health. This far-ranging theme requires a broad swath of scientific disciplines be assembled to adequately explore and clarify what we know today and where we need to go with further research, education, and technical assistance. We assembled agronomists, animal scientists, dietitians, farmers, food chemists, grassland ecologists, meat scientists, nutritionists, physiologists, and a soil health specialist to do a comprehensive review of how animal diet affects fatty acid composition of the meat and milk they produce. What happens to these fatty acids when meat is cooked or milk is processed for human consumption? And, what effect do these various fatty acids have on human health when consumed?

Controversy abounds with this subject matter in different ways from pasture to table and beyond to fat intake and its relevance to human health. It begins with big agriculture versus little as it relates to pasture-raised livestock. Small farms are more inclined to pasture livestock while big livestock farms usually are confinement operations. They are in direct competition with each other. Profit margins are slim on either side of the fence so any-thing that reduces market size is bad. If pasture can produce a healthier product for less cost, this hurts confinement operations. On the other hand, if pasture just produces a similar product at a higher cost to the consumer, then the small pasture-based farmer is at a disadvantage. This health aspect can be subjective or real. Often there are naysayer attempts to persuade consumers that all meat and milk are the same regardless of production technique, or that even if different in fatty acid composition, one would have to consume gigantic amounts of meat and milk to get a meaningful daily dosage. Yet, there are places in the world where people do get requisite amounts of say, CLA, by consuming dairy products primarily (although they do not mind eating steak regularly either).

Then, we come to food preparation for human consumption. Cooking meat was said to deplete the levels of omega-3 and other beneficial fats because of the fat drippings carried them away with the other fats. Yet, current research is showing that there is more loss of water than fat when meat is cooked so fat levels increase rather than decrease. It is also known now that intramuscular (marbled) fat is absorbed by the meat tissue during cooking rather than dripping off into the grill or pan. The untrimmed fat at the edge of a meat cut is the one contributing most of the drippings. The same goes for milk, but here the controversy begins with so much emphasis on getting rid of the fat, that we throw out the baby (CLA and omega-3) with the bath water. Reduced fat or skim milk is often recommended. If those products are consumed, the good fats have been stripped out. So yes, no matter how much milk or reduced fat milk products you consume, you get no benefit from them (unless you use half and half in your coffee or like butter instead of margarine).

There is also research now that calls into question whether saturated fats and ruminant-derived trans fats in meat or milk really are detrimental to cardiovascular health. So now, we enter the controversy of the role of different specific fats have on human health. We also have a case where regardless of what specific saturated fat’s effect is on cardio-vascular health, it is lumped with all the other saturated fats as being something to avoid (no more than 10% of total intake). Saturated fats are bad, end of story. However, this may not be true. Not being a nutritionist, I cannot judge the merits of one nutritionist’s opinion versus another’s. However, as much as many would like to say there is unanimity of opinion; even as a lay-person I know this not to be the case. However, this leads to problems when trying to produce a wholesome pasture-raised meat or milk product. If we proceed to produce a product that more closely meets today’s guidelines on fat intake, we may find some day that we were misled. Our efforts to produce a more perfect food is for naught, especially if we buy-in to skimming whole milk of its fat content. This negates the whole purpose of raising milk cows on grass. Therefore, we need to get our facts straight on ruminant-derived fatty acids healthfulness. Then, we can with more assurance feed our livestock to produce the best combination of fatty acids in their meat and milk as is possible, thus improving the human diet and their health.

James B. Cropper Executive Director Northeast Pasture Consortium

Table of Contents

Session 1

Ruminant Fatty Acid Production with Pastured Livestock Session

Improving Milk and Forage Fatty Acids in Pasture-Based Dairies

Ms. Melissa Bainbridge and Mr. Caleb P. Goossen*

Tradeoffs and Interactions between Pasture and Concentrate on Milk Fatty Acid Profile

Andre Brito*, Ph.D.

Factors which Impact the Fatty Acid Profile of Ruminant Meat

James P. S. Neel*, Ph.D.

Session 2

Forage Allocation during the Pasture Season to keep Yourself, your Forage Plants, and your Livestock Happy - Avoiding Train Wrecks in an Uncertain World Session

goGraze: an innovative web and mobile based tool for grazing planning and recordkeeping

Heather Darby, Ph.D. and Ms. Lindsey Ruhl*

The Grazing Chart: A practical management tool to improve decision making

Mr. Troy Bishopp*

Session 3

Evening Session - Producer Showcase

Genetics for Producing Grass-Fed Beef

Scott M. Barao*, Ph.D.

Fact vs Fiction: Niche Marketing of Value-Added Beef in a Profitable and Sustainable Way. Is it possible?

Scott M. Barao*, Ph.D.

How to do Everything Wrong and get it Right

Mr. Mark Seibert*

Session 4

Cooking Meat effects on Fatty Acid Profiles in Consumed Grass-Finished Meat Products Session

Forage-Finishing Beef: Impact on Consumer Appeal and Meat Quality

Carol L. Lorenzen*. Ph.D.

Exploring Nutrient Content of Meats Using Research Protocols at the Nutrient Data Laboratory

Janet Roseland*, Quynhanh Nguyen, Kristine Patterson, Pamela Pehrsson, Dale Woerner, Cody Gifford, Jennifer Leheska

Session 5

Processing Milk effects on Fatty Acid Profiles in Consumed Grass-Fed Milk Products Session

Variations in milk lipids]

Michael H. Tunick*, Ph.D., Diane L. Van Hekken, Ph.D., Peggy M. Tomasula, D.Sc.

Impact of processing on the healthy fatty acids in milk and other dairy products

Diane L. Van Hekken*, Ph.D., Michael H. Tunick, Ph.D., Peggy M. Tomasula, D.Sc.

A New Way to Look at the Impact of Dairy Foods on Health

Peggy Tomasula*, D.Sc., Jenni Firrman, LinShu Liu

Session 6

Human Health Implications of Consuming Grass-fed Meat and Milk Products Session

Dairy and Meat: Implications for Human Health

Naomi K. Fukagawa*, MD Ph.D.

Does dietary source of trans fatty acids affect risk for cardiovascular disease in humans?

David J. Baer*, Ph.D.

Rumen-derived Fatty Acids - What Makes Them Special

Jana Kraft*, Ph.D.

Session 7

Mob grazing (Ultra-High Stocking) Session

Summary of Mob Grazing in Virginia

Benjamin Tracy*, Ph.D.

Healing the Land with High Stock Density

Mr. Doug Peterson*