Dairy farmer John Van Dyk advocates for A2 milk
STRATFORD — Almost 25 years ago, Canada opted against bovine growth hormones in the national dairy herd. Today, that ban remains the accepted standard that milk produced here is free of the output-enhancing juice, otherwise known as recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST).
Likewise, Canada would do well to make it the national standard to make all milk free of A1 protein in favour of A2 protein, according to longtime A2 milk advocate and Stratford-area dairy farmer John Van Dyk.
More digestible A2 milk is produced by cattle with the A2 genetic trait. It’s typically marketed as a premium niche product. Van Dyk used to be in that business at his own farm, but he now believes that all milk should be A2 milk, sold at the regular price, in the same way all milk free of rBST is the expected norm in Canada.
Research has shown that people with lactose intolerance experience substantially fewer negative symptoms from consuming milk that contains the A2 beta casein protein over regular milk that contains the A1 protein. The A1 and A2 proteins differ by one amino acid.
Van Dyk says his autistic son benefitted markedly from A2 milk after dropping conventional milk from his diet, and he argues that a wholesale switch to A2 milk production on Canada’s dairy farms would offer immense benefits across the industry. He estimates it would take about 10 years of selective breeding to bring the entire national herd up to the new A2 trait standard. In return, he says Canadian fluid milk would find improved favour with both domestic consumers and export markets, where lactose intolerance rates are even higher. Canada would effectively establish itself as a national brand of more digestible milk, on the world stage.
“Our whole industry needs to change to A2 … then we could have a market abroad, in China, or Japan, because those countries can’t handle the A1,” he says, suggesting excess Canadian milk could be collected and powdered to meet higher demand from those overseas customers. That should also lessen the chances of another viral video showing an Ontario dairy farmer dumping over-quota milk, an issue that rose to public consciousness earlier this year.
Domestically, the move to A2 milk would help restore flagging fluid milk sales that are projected to drop every year going forward, he says, even despite Canada’s rising population. “The only thing we can do to make those fluid milk sales go up is if we stop people having (digestive) issues with dairy.”
Australia and New Zealand, where A2 milk is more common, currently enjoy 20 % higher per capita fluid milk sales than Canada, according to Van Dyk, who says those countries have also done a better job of building consumer confidence by keeping the consumer better informed.