The company pioneering a switch to purely A2 milk herds has had a sudden change of mind.
Westland Milk Products, the country's second-biggest dairy co-operative behind Fonterra, has stopped its conversion programme to alternative milk, citing a lack of economic certainty and a European health review.
Chief executive Rod Quin, who has been in the Westland job for three months, said the A2 milk conversion plan had been "a bit of an insurance policy".
"A1 milk might have been bad for your health," he said. However, the recent European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) review had shown there was no definite link between regular milk and certain diseases.
The review, which has been criticised by the A2 milk lobby as being flawed, concluded this year that research showed no "cause and effect" relationship existed between a protein fragment from beta casein in A1 milk and diseases such as type 1 diabetes, heart disease, autism, schizophrenia and Crohn's disease.
Quin said the decision had been made after six district meetings with Westland's 400 dairy farmers, who had been "generally supportive" of the co-operative not completing the conversion.
"It has been put on hold, but we'll maintain a watching brief."
He had read the EFSA review and understood "some of it".
"I had to say to our farmers, `I can't justify the entire cost of having to test herds on all farms when you can't quantify the commercial benefit'," Quin said.
It was a "big ask" of farmers in tough economic times to modify herds when marketing opportunities were uncertain.
Between 60 per cent and 65 oer cent of the Westland herds produced A2 milk, he said.
"If someone were able to state some scientific proof, then we could move sooner.
"I think there's a willingness to take it to a conclusion if there's something to hang our hats on," Quin said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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