Extensive Ruminant Production Systems and Milk Quality with Emphasis on Unsaturated Fatty Acids, Volatile Compounds, Antioxidant Protection Degree and Phenol Content
Agris—Servizio Ricerca per la Zootecnia, Loc. Bonassai, 07040 Olmedo, Sassari, Italy
Departamento de Nutrición Animal, Instituto Nacional de Ciencias Médicas y Nutrición Salvador Zubirán (INCMNSZ), CDMX 14080, Mexico
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2019, 9(10), 771; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9100771
Received: 11 September 2019 / Revised: 1 October 2019 / Accepted: 2 October 2019 / Published: 8 October 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Selected Papers of the Italian Society of Sheep and Goat Pathology and Production (SIPAOC) Meetings)
This paper updates the knowledge on the effects of grazing ruminants on milk quality and cheese with emphasis on unsaturated fatty acids, volatile compounds antioxidant protection degree and phenols. It focuses on the effects of the forage species and its phenological phase on the fatty acid (FA) profile of the forage and the milk/cheese fatty acid profile. In addition, this paper highlights that milk and cheese sourced from grazed herbage is characterized by a higher content of volatile compounds compared to cheese made from sheep fed at stall. The volatile compounds, besides giving a characteristic flavor to the cheese, can also be used as biomarkers because they can be transferred from herbage to the milk. Recent results show that some endogenous plants factors are capable, when properly included into ruminant’s diet, to modulate feed digestion and nutrient uptake, making livestock systems more efficient and environmentally sustainable. Finally, of particular interest is the role of grazing ruminants in land management and landscape re-evaluation for tourism purpose, a key element to prevent the depopulation and degradation of rural areas.
Dairy products from grazing ruminant have numerous positive effects on human health thanks to their higher content essential fatty acids, vitamins, and polyphenols. Compared to livestock fed a conventional maize silage- and/or grain-based diet, grass-fed livestock produce milk with higher levels of n-3 fatty acids, vitamins A, E, carotenoids, and phenols. The effect is even more pronounced if animals are grazing on legume/forbs-rich grasslands. This review argues, based on the available literature, about the effect of grazing ruminant on milk and cheese quality, including the hedonistic aspects, pointing out the link between territory and dairy products quality (Protected Designation Origin; Protected Geografic Origin; namely PDO and PGI labels). Moreover, it points out the main plant biomarkers which can be used to discriminate grazing sourced from stall-fed sourced milk and dairy products. Overall milk and cheese sourced from grazing animals (cows, sheep and goat) showed higher levels (compared to stall system) of FA, vitamins, phenols, putatively beneficial for consumers’ health. FA and plant secondary metabolites can also affect flavor and some nutritional and technological features of dairy products such as their antioxidant protection degree. This would favour a fair pricing of dairy products sourced from grazing systems and the persistence of viable and sustainable extensive production systems.