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Alternatives to cow's milk have been on the rise for several years as digestion issues with dairy climbs among consumers.
But many of those who experience digestive issues don't have to jump on oat, almond or soy milk as an alternative just yet.
A majority of dairy intolerance can be attributed to the A1A1 protein found in over 99 per cent of cow's milk on the market.
“Often you hear of people who say I can't drink cow's milk but I can drink buffalo, sheep or goats milk and that's because buffalo, sheep, goat, human – we all produce an A2A2 protein," explained Marianne Edward, co-owner of Sheldon Creek Farms in Lorreto, one of the only A2 milk producers in Canada.
There was a mutation within the dairy industry roughly 150 years ago which made most cattle produce a much harder to digest A1A1 protein in their milk instead of the traditional A2A2 protein.
Individuals who can eat goat cheese or other dairy products aren't allergic to the sugars in dairy like someone who is lactose intolerant, but instead their body struggles to digest A1A1 proteins found in almost all cattle today.
The good news is those people can safely drink A2 milk or cook with it while enjoying the same great taste of regular milk, which has been “life changing” for many, Edward noted.
"There's a lot of things in our diets we use milk in, so when you can't drink that or eat that dairy product then you really have to try to figure out how to get your protein, how to get those nutrients and make it taste good so that you want to eat it,” she said.
"It's an exciting product because it's getting people back to real food and that's always been a big push for us as a family business is to showcase real food that's grown right here in Ontario, by farmers who are right in our local community."
Sheldon Creek was first to launch the product in Canada during February of last year and is currently the only A2 milk producer in Ontario. Their milk is also non-homogenized.
“It actually took five years in the making to bring the product to market, so we had to genetically test all of our cows, just like Ancestry.ca to see if they were the heritage breed that produces the A2A2 protein,” she said.
"We were the first to launch in Canada…now there's one in Alberta, one in B.C, and one in Quebec that have opened up since then, which is pretty exciting.”
“For us, it's more or less creating another innovative product on the shelf that will help people to drink milk again and come back to real food,” Edward added.
She said there's a growing trend with customers who are choosing A2 milk over almond, oat or soy, as more people become aware of the product.
“We are a small family farm, so the greatest marketing is by word of mouth and we find a lot of these customers that switch to A2 milk tell a lot of people about it because they're able to drink milk again and that's shocking to a lot of people,” she explained.
Meanwhile, Sheldon Creek Farms, like almost every other business in Ontario, was heavily impacted by the pandemic, but has adapted well.
As sales of A2 milk to restaurants and coffee shop plummeted due to the COVID-19 lockdown, the demand among retailers who keep it stocked at the grocery stores skyrocketed.
To ensure locals still had access to A2 milk during the pandemic, Sheldon Creek also started up an online store and curbside pickup, which has been really well received.
“That took off on us which is wonderful, we had such an amazing response and we are so thankful to have the customers,” said Edward.
"I think often, people had always thought of Sheldon Creek Dairy as just milk, yogurt, and cheeses, but we actually have about 320 products from all over Ontario, so any of the products we carry here at our farm store has to be made in Ontario by artisan producers or local farmers,” she noted.
Edward said since COVID-19 hit there has been an emphasis on supporting local businesses and becoming more sustainable, which has been great for Sheldon Creek. Creating connections between the community and their food source is crucial, she noted.
“That's really what our dairy and our farm store is pushing towards, educating the consumers about the great local food that's made right here in our community,” Edward said.
Going forward, Sheldon Creek is working on expanding its milking plant, with hopes of completion in November of this year.
Edward said they are also hoping to expand their farmers' market, if it can run indoors in October.
“I can't say thank you enough to this community right now for supporting us, for believing in us and for pushing us to do more. We're very proud to live in Adjala on the edge of New Tecumseth and we're very proud to be able to support the community by providing some great products and I know the farmers that we work with are ecstatic about the support that they've received,” she said.
“If anything, with COVID-19, it's a very big thank you to those who have came out and found us and have tried us out and have learned more about the local farming that's happening here in our communities, because its really important to know where our food comes from – more than ever before."
By Sam Odrowski
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Post date: 2020-07-30 21:52:37
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