For the cows, living and grazing on the pasture all day and night is better than living in confinement facilities or dry lots. As a veterinarian, I would commonly recommend that sick cows be placed out into a grassy meadow to help them recover from their ills. Eating the grass is the best way to reestablish rumen health and to increase intakes when a cow gets a digestive disorder. Cows that graze on pastures are cleaner, and they develop fewer foot and lameness issues than cows that live on concrete. When cows eat grass on pasture, they are also more likely to have good reproductive health, udder health and cleaner milk. I happen to think that the milk tastes better when the cows are pasture fed.
For the environment, grass fed has a much lighter carbon footprint. Since the cows “harvest” as they eat, less diesel is needed to bring in and process their feed compared to harvested forage and concentrate based diets. The cows also self fertilize the soil with their waste, which eliminates the need for energy intensive synthetic fertilizers. We use perennial grasses and legumes in pour pastures, so we do not have to replant every year, which also saves on energy. We use no herbicides or insecticides on our pastures, which is another energy savings.
For your health, it is hard to overestimate the value of eating grass fed dairy products. When cows eat a grass based diet, it changes the fat profile in the milk. The fat profile is the sum of all of the total fats and the proportion of the different types of fats. Grass fed cows have higher proportions of omega-3 fats in their milk. Grass fed dairy products have higher proportions of Conjugated Linoleic Acids, which are proven to be intensely anti-cancer, in that they have shown to prevent cancer and reduce the size of tumors in laboratory studies. Other laboratory findings about Conjugated Linoleic Acid demonstrate protection against Type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis, and inflammation. If that were not good enough, Conjugated Linoleic Acid has also been shown to convert fat tissue to lean tissue. Don’t you want more Conjugated Linoleic Acids in your diet?