When we speak about A1 and A2 milk we are not only speaking about genetic variants. The ramifications of the milk we choose to grow, buy, and consume are health related.
While some academics argue there is no difference between the two on human health, in our own home the difference between A1 and A2 milk is the difference between itchy rashes and no itchy rashes. Learn more about what A2 milk is and how to find it.
A1 and A2 refer to the beta casein protein type. The protein in the curd part of the milk differs by one amino acid. Human breast milk, goat and sheep’s milk, and certain varieties of cow’s milk contain the A2 beta casein. However, the vast majority of cows raised in the United States are the A1 variety.
Where did A1 milk come from? It is said to have mutated several thousands of years ago among dairy herds in Europe.
How does this affect you? Most of the dairy products Americans consume come from A1 milk. Over time we are arguably undermining our health with a pro-inflammatory food. While the A2 debate has many advocates, others conjecture, from their reading, that A1 milk is benign.
My firsthand experience with A1 versus A2 milk has convinced me that there is a difference.
Although for decades Americans have understood that lactose intolerance can complicate their digestion or tolerance of pasteurized milk, research about A1 and A2 milks starting in the early 1990’s has added new insight to this common food allergy, even among those who adhere to raw milk products.
I personally thought I was no longer able to eat dairy. I had various rashes on my body that went away when I stopped eating butter, raw cheese and raw milk. Some good friends who eat a traditional diet and raise animals for their own milk and meat consumption asked me if the raw milk we were buying was A2. Honestly, I had just assumed it was. But when I asked our local raw milk farm, they said it wasn’t. My friends kindly offered a half gallon of their raw A2A2 (A2 from both of the dairy cow’s parents- the cow and the bull) milk for me to try for a full week. No rashes. And, I must add, my body flourishes on milk. I have more energy and feel more vibrant when I consume raw dairy. I crave it.
Our local raw milk farmer became passionate about acquiring an A2A2 cow, understanding with my inquiry the increasing need and demand.
What health complications are attributed to the consumption of A1 milk? Allergies, arthritis, asthma, autism, diabetes, eczema, GI distress and IBS symptoms, heart disease, autoimmune conditions, and schizophrenia. It’s been observed that those with leaky gut are more susceptible to potential harm from A1 milk.
BREEDS OF CATTLE AND A2 MILK
While it would be convenient to attach A2 milk to certain breeds of cattle, the truth is even the Jersey cow, commonly linked with A2 milk, is often A1. Only a genetic test can tell the cow’s breeding; and some sources say there are currently fewer than 2000 pure A2A2 cows in the U.S. Despite the fact that Guernsey cows produce A2 and many Dutch Belted, 75% of cows in the world are A1. Most in Asia and Africa are A2.
Cows can also, of course, be cross-breeds, producing both of the beta casein proteins: A1A2.
THE A2 MILK INDUSTRY
Over 10 years ago a company out of New Zealand introduced pure A2 milk to the grocery stores: the A2 Corporation. With some complications along the way, they now have their product in the States and its distribution is quickly growing.
In a potential conflict of interests, the A2 Corp. holds the patent for the only genetic test that can distinguish between A1 and A2 cows. The A2 Corp. uses this patent system to license producers as officially A2.
While A2 milk in stores is good news for folks who wish to replace their pasteurized A1 milk with something superior, the A2 milk company is not selling a raw milk product. Of course, they can’t. It’s illegal in the U.S. for retailers to sell raw cow’s milk and not a priority for the A2 company.
Would I buy their milk? Personally, I would only buy whole, pasteurized, A2 milk if I planned to culture it and had no source for raw A2 milk.
Pasteurized milk has been heated to high temperatures and is literally a dead food, with no living enzymes or beneficial organisms. But if it’s inoculated, if it is used to make yogurt, kefir or another fermented product, it has good potential and becomes a worthy purchase. Yet raw A2 milk is far superior. (See: Healthy Milk – What to Buy)
Looking for raw A2 milk? Ask your local grass-feeding dairy farmers. When I asked my local farmer they drove halfway across the country to acquire a new A2A2 cow who had just calved! They saw the potential and truth in my question, turned my query into a request, and started to transform their farm. They now have two A2A2 cows and plan to continue growing their herd.
I have raw A2 milk in my fridge right now and just had raw A2 ice cream with my lunch! I hope that you, too, can find local A2 milk. If I didn’t have a personal health story related to this topic I would have to speculate based on the evidence. But based on the fact that A1 milk gives me a rash and A2 milk does not, I must conclude that A2 milk is more allergy-friendly and, when purchased raw, is a true health food.
What’s the future of the A1/A2 debate? Bull breeders are taking a heavy interest. As A2 milk comes into greater demand, the shift will affect not only grass-fed raw milk farmers and large international companies like the A2 Corporation, but convention dairy farmers who must supply what consumers want. Even the mainstream industry is expected to change greatly over the next decade.
To read similar health and food-related articles, also see my Facebook page and blog, Eat Beautiful.
Single Man's Kitchen via Facebook says
I prefer goat milk, and that varies widely from breed to breed.
Stephani Lancaster via Facebook says
Wow very interesting had no idea! Not a big dairy consumer for all the normal reasons but hmmmm??
Keri Hessel via Facebook says
Thank you for sharing this!! I do know this and plan on writing about this too!!!!! The farm I get my milk from is converting their herd to A2 milk. I read the book, “The Devil in Milk”, and his theory makes a lot of sense!!! I only drink
A2 milk now!
Valerie Garcia via Facebook says
Interesting. Never heard of A1/A2 before. I need to do some research!
Libby Elizabeth via Facebook says
Terri Louise Wright info on A2 milk
Paul Moriarty via Facebook says
I like Jersey milk, full fat and unhomegnized. My local supermarket sells the A2 milk but only as skimmed milk. Milk fat is the best part of the milk
Suzanne Steel says
IT is not true that it is illegal to sell raw milk in the US, as you state in your article. It is legal in Washington State, where i live, at least and I know it is so in some other states as well. I buy it all the time…there are now at least three dairies supplying raw milk to stores in northwest Washington. Thank Goodness!
It’s illegal in most states with very few exceptions.
Laetitia Won says
It is completely illegal in only 8 states.
Well that’s a relief. We paid premium to buy an a2 milk cow that is now currently grazing in my back yard. MistyMorningFarmsVA is where we got our cow from. It’s nice to know that someone I trust agrees with all the research I did on a2 milk 🙂 And that my money was well invested! Goats milk can be good too…but goats are TROUBLE to keep…clever little buggers.
Megan Stevens says
Happy for you! That’s great!
I have hope because many small farms or family cow owners are breeding towards a2/a2 milk protein. I have three a2/a2 cows and one a1/a2, and will only breed to A2/A2 bulls.
It is good to know that the A! protein does not go into butter, as it is only in the milk not the fat, so buying a good Kerrygold grassfed butter is still ok.
Rhonda Bond says
Since I live about 2 miles from you and get my milk from the same dairy as you once did, can I assume that our beloved Dairy is the one converting? I do so hope so! I’ve been getting milk there for over 4 years!!
Megan Stevens says
The main dairy we get milk from is outside of Eugene, OR. They are relatively new to Eugene, only selling raw milk for the past year. So the farms must be different. You can ask your milk farmers, though.
Very Informative, we live in Eugene and Can we know the farm name where you get the A2 milk ? Thanks.
Very insightful article. You mentioned raw milk was illegal to sell in retailers nationwide – but they sell it at my local health food store “Sprouts” (I’m in California). I think it varies state by state and not nationally.
We are fortunate to be able to buy raw goats milk straight from the farm. How do I know if it is A2?
Megan Stevens says
All goats’ milk is A2. You’re in good company. 🙂
Tiffany A says
This was so interesting! I had no idea there was A2 milk. Thanks for sharing!
Megan Stevens says
James M Tighe DC says
I just received a copy of your email that was forwarded to me from a friend who is an bovine expert. She’s been a Weston A Price Foundation member and an original founder of “Keeping The Family Cow”. She explained the benefits of A2/A2 milk as she has raised many with this genetic variant. Just last week I referred to my WAPF 2026 Shopping Guide and travelled to Miller’s Organic Dairy Farm joined their co-op and purchased 8 gallons of fresh A2/A2 milk. A week later it’s gone!! I live in NJ where everything I wanna do is illegal including purchasing raw milk! I grew up on a small farm and became a Chiropractic Physician in 1980 and retired in 1999 after suffering a career ending knee injury at work. I’ve always been an avid organic gardener and grow and preserve most of my produce. Currently I’m about to launch a “cellular healing” practice after many years of study and clinical preparation. At 62 I’m convinced that my best years are ahead of me now that I’ve learned what true health means! Looking forward to learning from your knowledge & experience. Jim. (856-371-3680) cell
Megan Stevens says
Thanks for sharing, Jim. I’m with you. I’m 42 and feeling the best I’ve felt in years, all because of what I know now about nutrition. Blessings!
was wondering if goats milk is a1 or a2. i have 2 kids with intolerance to dairy caseine but seem to do ok with goats milk.
Megan Stevens says
It’s A2! 🙂
Jen | Green Baby Deals says
I just learned a ton. And thanks for the great link to find the local milk farmers!
Megan Stevens says
I’m so glad. You’re welcome. 🙂
ARUN KHERA says
I, Arun Khera living in Ahmedabad city , India had been procuring A2 type mile from a local producer and since the time I have started consuming it , now almost one year, I found Beterment in my energy level and overall healt condition. Now I can consume any quantity of A2 milk and milk products depending on the need without any side effect, that was not possible earlier. The whole purpose of this post is that I fully agree based on my personal experience that yes the A2 type milk is definetely superior.
Thank you for this article. Please change your language though, as you state: “Although for decades Americans have understood that lactose intolerance can complicate their digestion or tolerance of pasteurized milk, research about A1 and A2 milks starting in the early 1990’s has added new insight to this common food allergy, even among those who adhere to raw milk products.” Lactose Intolerance is not an allergy. Food allergies can be deadly (as opposed to LI) and your reference discredits you. It is a common mistake; I do enjoy this renegade journey and hope to learn more! Best regards!
Evidence based nutritionist says
There’s a saying : the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Your sources of nutrition information are flawed. Milk is associated with breast and prostate cancer and autoimmune diseases such as diabetes type 1. Meat (regardless of it coming from CAFOs or from grass fed operation) causes colon cancer. It is the heme iron that causes colon cancer…. I stumbled with your site looking for kombucha recipe. I hope you check what I am telling you from reputable, peer-reviewed sources.
Even if you want to discuss the nutritional /health implications of eating animal products, doing so from a sustainable, ecological stand point is not arguable : continuing feeding off of animals will not be possible for more than 50 years…. That’s as long as drinkable water will last.
Andrea Page says
No mention of homogenisation?? Organic non homogenised is all I’ll consume. Obs raw is but most important factor is homogenisation process and consumers need to be aware of the damage done at molecular level by the unnessary process
This might seem silly to ask but is the butter you buy at the store homogenized? Would Kerry gold give someone a rash? Thanks for your time!
Megan Stevens says
Hi Bobby, homogenization isn’t really an issue with butter, because butter is made with cream. Homogenization refers to the processing of milk so that it can not separate. Any brand of butter could potentially give someone a rash, if, for example, they have a food sensitivity to dairy.
Ron Metz says
It really irks me when people make claims about A1 vs A2 milk proteins based on a couple of small, questionable and obscure studies as if the claims were proven fact. To date, there have been no comprehensive studies to prove A1 milk proteins are responsible for any adverse affects on humans. That is a fact you should be making your readers aware of. You say….” What health complications are attributed to the consumption of A1 milk? Allergies, arthritis, asthma, autism, diabetes, eczema, GI distress and IBS symptoms, heart disease, autoimmune conditions, and schizophrenia.” I say show me the scientific research that proves that. Until you can, all the hype about the benefits of A2 milk are just a marketing gimmick.