In today’s interview I get to speak with Anú Dairy CEO, Kevin Kennedy, about the benefits of grass fed butter and Vitamin K2.
Kevin is very passionate about organic farming, improving soil health and making the world’s first vitamin K2 butter.
He is apart of an Irish startup company called Anú Dairy, that is not only making organic grassfed butter, but also pioneering how to raise the levels of vitamin K2 in the produce of their dairy herd.
In the interview you’ll hear the backstory behind why Kevin followed the paleo diet movement and looking at food quality, plus, the truth of what are 100% grassfed butters and how to tell if butter came from cows that eat a lot of grass.
Kevin shares some great information about the different types of Vitamin K, it’s benefits and other foods that you can find it in.
If you know someone who is interested in only buying organic butter or prefers knowing their butter is form grass fed cows , make them listen to this episode!
I enjoyed this interview as I love real butter and especially knowing where to buy grassfed butter and how it is made so I am an informed consumer.
Special thanks to Kevin for joining me on the show. Enjoy the episode!
Highlights of what we talk about during the interview.
Click on one of the timestamp links in the brackets to jump to that point in the interview audio.
[00:20] – Introducing Kevin Kennedy, founder of Anú Dairy; a start-up organic dairy company based in Cork, Ireland, producing the world’s first K2 Vitamin butter.
[00:48] – Story behind how Kevin started Anú Dairy. Kevin talks about starting a gym and teaching crossfit, the paleo movement, the dietary misinformation about saturated fat causing heart problems and feeling that the best way to communicate this message globally is by having a food brand.
[02:48] – Anú Dairy was established in 2016 with the help of RebelBio accelerator programme, which was founded by Sean O’Sullivan. Kevin talks about how they started with probiotics first to raise vitamin K2 levels before switching focus to grassland, he also tells us more about RebelBio and the funding and support they provide.
[04:26] – What does Anú mean? Anú is an Irish goddess, mother goddess who stands for nourishment and fertility.
[05:03] – Kevin explains that good grass-fed butter has some degree of K2 in it, but that they have developed a system to give them really high levels. What do we mean when we talk about MKs? Kevin gives us a quick chemistry recap explaining the two types of vitamin K; plant based phylloquinone, which works on coagulation, is one and the other is the animal and bacteria produced vitamin K which has a number of related subtypes all with different lengths of carbon side chains going from 4 to 12. MK4 is the one we normally have in our own tissue and the one Kevin is mostly concerned with.
[08:11] – The measurements we are talking about when measuring levels of MK4 is the μg(microgram). In Anú Dairy butter there is 54μg per 100g of butter; other high quality Irish butters are around half that at 25μg but it can go as low as 7μg or 11μg for conventional indoor feed cattle. Kevin explains that in Europe having a claim of “uniquely rich food”means it needs to be at 30% or above.
[09:57] – Talking about the benefits of vitamin K2; it activates enzymes and proteins which picks up Calcium and deposit it in the bones. It’s also interesting to note that only the menaquinone (vitamin K2) will work on this pathway, the phylloquinone has no action there.
[11:01] – Kevin explains how the vitamin K2 molecule does a post-translational modification of an enzyme, which is quite rare. Currently there no commercial test available to test for vitamin K levels in the blood, but you can test for levels of the protein and whether it has been carboxylated by these enzymes after they have been modified. He explains that they will be working with VitaK lab in Netherlands as they have a big vitamin K research facility, conducting a small intervention study to test how eating butter affects this.
[14:18] – How much butter should people consume? Kevin does not think there is an upper limit – typically, he eats somewhere between 50-70 g of butter a day. Unilever, who make Flora and Stork etc…, are putting their margarine spreads division up for sale as their sales are slipping, so the message that that saturated fats are not the cause of heart disease seems to be spreading.
[16:18] – Research done with seed oils, has been linking these products with numerous associated health implications. Kevin talks about the challenge of telling people to eat real food; natural, local and real. Dr Gary Fettke also talked about this. Small producers are competing with big brand names to spread the message across but is it simply a matter of ‘Who can shout loudest’?
[18:47] – Butter is a huge industry in Ireland, there are 9 butter plants in Ireland each producing 10,000kg/hr and 140,000 tonnes/year in exports. In terms of scale Anú Dairy is very small and not really in that space, they are a small artisan producer.
[20:25] – Irish butter is sought after due to the quality, there is a lot of grass land. Kevin explains how the grass does an amazing job and talks about their approach at Anú Dairy. While probiotics had a lot of benefits, a healthy soil with a lot of mineral density and mixed diversity of different types of grasses goes a long way.There are a few other considerations which help such as once-a-day milking and genetics but the focus for them is on the soil.
[22:22] – Working with mother nature can result in a superb product. Kevin explains how little understanding we have when it comes to soil and how they almost took the approach of supplementing before realising this was not a solution. The top down approach of feeding the grass results in degradation of the soil. How a health and fitness background helped Kevin approach farming in the same way – by addressing the basic problem with the soil quality.
[24:52] – Making a simple process sound sexy! Looking after what is happening under the surface and rehabilitating the soil is paramount. Because they registered as an organic company Anú Dairy doesn’t use chemicals. It takes conventional farmers at least two years to come off chemicals as grassland root systems start to dig down to look for nutrients as opposed to being feed on the top, this can be quite costly in terms of the resulting fall in milk production.
[25:56] – Kevin believes there is a large amount of education needed within the system. There are no industry standards and a lot of organic farmers are each doing their own thing with largely different attitudes between them. At Anú Dairy, the focus is on improving the soil quality, they also use a large amount of grass species – up to 30 different species.
[27:20] – Even though A2 milk is quite popular it is not yet a consideration for Kevin, as there are too many things to change. Currently they are mainly concerned with what’s happening with the soil and the three main factors they focus on are: a once-per-day milking process, having the farmer increase the herbal lay of the farm and using a multi-paddock grazing system. In terms of genetics a half Jersey-half Holstein cross gives them the best output for what they look at and changing the herd for A2 would not make sense for them at this stage.
[28:42] – What is robotic milking, which a lot of the farmers in Ireland are moving towards, and how is it different to the once-a-day approach favoured by Anú Dairy? Kevin explains that the same machine is used but the robotic approach allows the cow to come in to get milked as she pleases, which tends to be 2.7 times a day on average, however research has shown that once-a-day milking gives a higher nutrient density.
[30:19] – Kevin explains why the majority of commercial grass-fed butters are not a 100% grass fed. There is a small amount of concentrates used in practically all dairy especially come winter period. There’s more work to be done around finding efficient ways of maintaining grass over the winter to supply enough nutrients. Also, meal adds volume for most conventional producers, there is a cost-benefit analysis done around this.
[32:08] – In Ireland the use of concentrate supplementation is less because there is a lot of grass in the summer. Kevin explains that concentrates in conventional dairy are typically soybean, wheat, barley, oats; a grain based product called TMR is used. Kevin doesn’t think it’s a huge issue because in Ireland only about 3% of feed is concentrate in conventional dairy. However, he does add that although at Anú Dairy they are striving towards 100% grass-fed, there is a small amount of concentrate in their feed as well.
[33:24] – Because the cow will be eating more feed towards winter does buying butter at different times of the year make a difference to the butter quality? Kevin explains that’s where you are going to see the colour change. As levels of concentrate feed go up and grass decreases the levels of beta carotene, which gives the butter a yellow colour go down. In some parts of the world you get butter that is very white, Kevin recommends getting the darkest yellow you can. Go for the yellow! Also, talking about food fraud; in Ireland, colour isn’t used but can’t be sure about this internationally.
[36:20] – There are so many different brands of butter, Président butter is white, so there is no grass there, but Kerrygold butter is much better. Even Irelands conventional butter is very good quality compared to international butters and the reputation is very strong overseas. Kevin also mentions there are good small farmers in America such as Maple Hill Creamery, for example.
[38:38] – Anú Dairy butter is currently available in a very small radius. Kevin talks about the high cost of manufacturing butter and especially, the huge costs associated when producing at such a small scale. To illustrate, for every 1000L of milk produced, 10% of it is cream which produces 50 kg of butter and the leftover 900L is the skim milk.
[39:58] – Kevin teaches us how we can make butter. The process is simple, take a jar), put some cream inside, and shake (or u can use a mixer) the process of agitation breaks the membrane around the fat globules causing it to granulate. You will end up with some butter and buttermilk.
[41:38] – Most butters have some degree of salt, between 1.8-2% salt. Anú Dairy also uses this industry standard and they also do a small amount of unsalted. Talking about Dr. James DiNicolantonio and the importance of getting enough salt in the diet, especially if you drink a lot of coffee. Kevin mentions it made a big difference to his own cramping issues.
[43:12] – Kevin talks about the three USPs (unique selling points) they try to communicate on their butter box: organic, vitamin K2 and grass-fed. Down the line they might also consider finding some interesting salts to work with.
[44:25] – Ghee is another product they are currently working on. Does heat have a degrading effect on the vitamin K? As far as Kevin is aware this isn’t a problem as vitamin K is heat stable.
[45:13] – If someone lived outside of Ireland how does someone get a hold of this product? They ship to UK, and probably into Europe, but outside of that it might be too expensive to be worth it. The target market is Germany – looking to export there by 2018 as they are the largest importer of Irish butter and organic butter. After Germany, California will be the second target market.
[47:31] – Kevin shares some other points about butter including: conjugated nonadecadienoic acid (CAN), which is something he hopes we will be talking about more in the future; vitamin A and vitamin E levels, which are quite high in his product (levels vary between brands though);and vitamin D, which will come up only when cows are out in the sunshine. Gary mentions Dr Jack Kruse who will hopefully be coming on the show in the future.
[49:27] – Going back to the soil, Kevin reiterates that we are only just starting to understand the effects of the healthy top layer of soil with a high mineral content on the health of the cow and the food it is producing.
[49:53] – Kevin will continue spreading the message and telling the story about the magic of grass being the answer to multitude issues we face today.
Thanks for Listening!
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