Yogurt. Blueberries. Now’s the moment. I’m a cheerleader for plain whole-milk yogurt because it’s so easy to add fresh fruit myself. The challenge, in some markets, is finding yogurt that meets my specs: plain, whole milk, stabilizer-free (no pectin, no gelatin) and not Greek. Straus Family Creamery is my go-to, but a new California yogurt checks all those boxes as well. What’s more, it’s made with A2 milk.
I had to punt when a guest in a cheese class asked me recently about A2 milk. Time to learn something.
Beta-casein, one of the main proteins in milk, has two variants, known as A1 and A2. Scientists surmise that, in distant times, cows produced only A2 milk and that the A1 protein is a genetic mutation. Although a few breeds, like India’s Desi, still produce milk with only A2 beta-casein, most dairy cows in the Western world produce milk with both types.
About 20 years ago, a New Zealand company figured out how to test for these two proteins using a DNA sample. Why bother? Because some researchers were persuaded that the A1 protein contributed to many modern human ailments, from type 1 diabetes to autism. The New Zealand company patented the test and began breeding cows that produced only A2 milk. Other dairy farmers have followed suit, but they have to pay New Zealand’s a2 Milk Company for the genetic testing that confirms their claims.
Alexandre Family Farm, a fifth-generation grass-based organic dairy in Humboldt County, California, has transitioned its herd to A2 genetics. And the family is now bottling non-homogenized milk and making yogurt with their A2 milk. Curiously, they are supplementing the milk with cream to bring the fat content to 6 percent. Conventional whole milk is typically around 3-1/2 percent fat.
The Alexandre yogurt is mellow, rich and smooth after you whisk in the cream layer on top. I prefer the flavor of the Straus, but some people who have trouble digesting dairy products may find they can handle the Alexandre A2 yogurt better. Several Northern Californian markets are now carrying it.
The scientific research on A2 milk is ongoing and unsettled, but at least one review of the literature, by the European Food Safety Authority, found little support for the notion that the A1 protein is deleterious. A more recent peer-reviewed study funded by the a2 Milk Company, suggested that the A1 protein may cause gut inflammation, producing the sort of symptoms—like bloating and gas—that people associate with lactose intolerance. In that double-blind study, several people who thought they were lactose intolerant experienced no distress from A2 milk, which has just as much lactose as conventional milk.
For an overview of the research that even a layperson can follow, I recommend this article.
Enough science. Time to eat. Yogurt with Blueberries, Hazelnuts and Maple Syrup makes a wholesome breakfast and luscious dessert, made with whichever plain yogurt you prefer. You’ll find many more yogurt recipes, plus foolproof instructions for making yogurt at home, in my book, Yogurt: Sweet and Savory Recipes for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner.
Boost Your Wine IQ
Wine, like cheese, can be easy to love but hard to describe. If you’d like to be a more astute wine taster, I can’t imagine a more productive use of 90 minutes than Karen MacNeil’s new class at CIA at Copia in Napa. The acclaimed author of The Wine Bible is also an engaging and enlightening teacher. I had the pleasure of sitting in on her debut session of “Become an Expert Wine Taster in 90 Minutes” and recommend it unreservedly. The 10 glasses you taste won’t make you as expert as she is, alas, but you’ll have many “aha” moments. Classes are monthly, on Friday evenings, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Dates and tickets: