In 2008, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) received a U.S.D.A. North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) grant to explore pasture-based systems as a source of “specialty milk” for value-added dairy processing.
Preliminary research by Dr. Scott Rankin in 2005 showed that pasture milk produces cheddar cheese that has a creamier texture and a natural golden color that was preferred over cheese from confinement-fed cows in consumer taste testing (Rankin 2006). This project seeks to build on these initial results. To explore this opportunity, we took a value chain approach, bringing together pasture-based dairy farmers, processors, chefs, and researchers. Guided by this team, we have conducted a comprehensive investigation of the chemical and physical properties of this unique milk when made into cheese, butter, or other products. In addition, we explored the marketing and positioning of such products, conducting focus group discussions and consumer taste testing to assess consumer interest.
The overall goals of the project were to develop 1) a definitive understanding of the unique physical, chemical, and flavor qualities of grass-fed milk and 2) an ability to manage seasonal changes in pasture milk flavor and physical properties to improve processing quality. Over the long term, we seek to create 1) an increased awareness among dairy processors of the opportunities and appropriate uses for pasture milk and 2) a strategy for establishment of a premium market for pasture milk products.
Final Report and Available Fact Sheets