Adrian Bota had his Finger on the pulse of the organic frozen treats wave when he launched Piccadilly Artisan Yogurt in 2013 and followed it the next year with Piccadilly Artisan Creamery. Since the shops' inception, Bota has been looking for a way to bottle the all-natural Guernsey cows' milk he uses. Now, with interest peaking in Guernsey milk, Bota once again finds himself ahead of the curve.
Last fall, Bota debuted Origin (originmilk.com), a line of milk sourced exclusively from Guernsey cows. The company's whole milk, 2-percent, chocolate milk and heavy cream hit the shelves of local grocery stores this January and soon will be sold at Whole Foods and Giant Eagle's Market District. Later this year, Origin will add butter, half and half, goats' milk and goats' cheese.
Sourced exclusively from Guernsey herds in Holmes County, Origin contains purely A2 beta casein protein, a protein that was once present in all cows' milk before genetic mutations and breeding practices pushed it out. A2 milk is characterized by its rich golden hue and increased health benefits.
"We can make people healthier by giving them less processed, real, down-to-earth products," insists Bota.
The exact health benefits are debated, which required Bota to push hard to create a regulatory pathway to sell his products. But A2 milk has been shown to have a higher vitamin content and more Omega-3, in part due to grass grazing. Low-heat pasteurization and higher percentage of milk fat add to the benefits.
"Consumer education is probably the number one thing we have to do," says Bota. "Between the background on the milk and its genetics, there's a science to it."
While many breeds have at least some traces of A2, the Guernsey factor makes all the difference, he explains. It can be appreciated in the golden color and rich flavor and is often compared to goats' milk because its genetic makeup is closest to mother's milk. The lack of homogenization allows a layer of cream to float to the top while providing a thicker consistency.
Since Guernseys are relatively light producers, farmers hoping to harvest as much milk as possible historically have turned their backs on the breed. "That's great for us," says Bota, because the cows remain largely unmodified.
"When we started caring more about the quantity of milk and not the quality of milk, we moved away from this, cheapened this," he says. "We're bringing back something that we once did really well."
Even the name "Origin" speaks to modern awareness about where our food comes from and how it's made. But it also looks to the past, when A2 milk was the status quo.
"Younger generations hear the story of A2 Guernsey milk and theoretically it sounds good, but they don't have a point of reference," Bota says. "But when we demo it in stores, people of a certain age say, 'It takes me back. It reminds me of how milk used to be when we had it delivered to our home.'"
Bota hopes to expand the Guernsey A2 milk market to other states.
"I don't want this to be an Ohio milk sent to other places; that undoes the Origin ethos," he says. "I'd like to partner up with local farmers under the Origin label, since demand and marketing is already there. That way the milk sourced is always local."
A recipe book might also be down the line.
"I think that anything we can do to go back in time and do things the way we used to will benefit the cows, the farmers, the environment and then us," Bota says.
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