Why Do Baby Calves Get Animal Fats in Their Formula, But Not Baby Humans?

We were in the local feed store recently and I happened to look at the ingredient list for milk replacer for calves. Imagine my surprise to find “animal fat” listed as the third ingredient!

Calf formula contains animal fate for good health

Ingredients:
Dried whey product, dried whey protein concentrate, animal fat (preserved with BHA, BHT, citric acid & ethoxyquin), dried whey, calcium carbonate, L-lysine, brewer’s dried yeast, hydrolyzed yeast, sodium silico aluminate, maltodextrin, vitamin E supplement, ascorbic acid, iron proteinate, dried skimmed milk, choline chloride, magnesium sulfate, artificial flavor, DL-methionine, zinc proteinate, niacin supplement, manganese proteinate, Vitamin A supplement, lecithin, ethoxylated mono-diglycerides, propylene glycol, selenium yeast, Vitamin B12 supplement, calcium pantothenate, copper proteinate, Vitamin D3 supplement, calcium iodate, cobalt proteinate, biotin, riboflavin supplement, thiamine mononitrate, menadione sodium bisulfate complex (source of vitamin K activity), silicon dioxide, pyroxidine, hydrochloride, folic acid.

Why would manufacturers put animal fat (which is more expensive than vegetable oil) in calf milk replacer? It might have something to do with a study—which was never published—that Mary Enig told me about years ago. Researchers compared calves fed saturated fat from tallow and lard with those fed unsaturated fat from soybean oil. The calves fed tallow and lard did indeed show higher plasma cholesterol levels than the soybean oil-fed calves, and fat streaking was found in their aortas. Atherosclerosis was also enhanced (probably revealed at autopsy).

But the calves fed soybean oil showed a decline in calcium and magnesium levels in the blood, possibly due to inefficient absorption. They utilized vitamins and minerals inefficiently, showed poor growth, poor bone development and had abnormal hearts. More cholesterol per unit of dry matter was found in the aorta, liver, muscle, fat and coronary arteries, a finding which led the investigators to the conclusion the lower blood cholesterol levels in the soybean-oil fed calves may have been the result of cholesterol being transferred from the blood to other tissues where it was needed. The calves in the soybean oil group also collapsed when they were forced to move around, and they were unaware of their surroundings for short periods. They also had rickets and diarrhea.

One probable reason that calves need animal fat in their formula is that, like all mammals, they need cholesterol to grow properly, and animal fats are our best source of cholesterol.

Human babies on formula are not so lucky. With their complex nervous system, human babies need cholesterol even more than calves, but their formula contains only cholesterol-free vegetable oils. See the recent analysis of baby formula by Sylvia Onusic:  The “fats” that our human babies get in formula are soy oil, high oleic safflower oil and sometimes coconut oil or palm oil. Soy oil and high oleic safflower oil are not only cholesterol-free, but invariably rancid; coconut oil and palm oil don’t have any cholesterol either.

Once an employee of a formula company said to Mary Enig: “We know we need to have cholesterol in the baby formula, but the industry won’t allow it.”

There are lots of other things babies need from animal fats that they don’t get from vegetable oils, including saturated fats (necessary for growth and so many processes in the body) and arachidonic acid (now added to most brands of baby formula, but it is a synthetic version made from algae.)


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We are a nation that pretends to love children. We also pride ourselves on making “science-based” decisions. Actually, most of the decisions we make today are based on economics, not science. It makes economic sense to give calves the fats they need to grow properly, because there is more money to be made in healthy cows than in sick cows.

But when it comes to humans, there is a lot more money to be made from sick unhappy children than from healthy, robust, happy, intelligent, normal children. Besides, animal fats cost more than vegetable oils, and corporate profits are far more important in today’s world than healthy people.


What to do if you can’t breastfeed? Give your baby our homemade, whole-food formula. It is rich in cholesterol and all the natural nutrients that baby needs, and because it is made with raw milk, it contains various enzymes that ensure that all the cholesterol and all the nutrients are absorbed.

Over the last twenty years, literally thousands of babies have gotten a healthy start in life with our homemade formula. It may be a little more trouble to make it than to buy cholesterol-deficient formula (although it costs no more), but I guarantee parents they will save themselves bushels of trouble as their child grows.

The Weston A. Price Foundation has led the way in educating parents on what children need to get a healthy start in life. Please become a member and support the work we do.

Author: Sally Fallon Morell

Sally Fallon Morell is best known as the author of Nourishing Traditions®: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats. This well-researched, though-provoking guide to traditional foods contains a startling message: animal fats and cholesterol are not villains but vital factors in the diet, necessary for normal growth, proper function of the brain and nervous system, protection from disease and optimum energy levels.

1 thought on “Why Do Baby Calves Get Animal Fats in Their Formula, But Not Baby Humans?”

  1. Sally, Great blog. I recently learned about baby calf formula but didn’t know that it contained the necessary animal fats which infant formula lacks. And we may correctly surmise that these fats, which are more expensive than vegetable oils, are put into the formula because of necessity. A calf will mature quickly and malnutrition- lack of essential fats- shows up in the profits, or lack thereof. Thanks for mentioning my article analyzing infant formula. I point out many substances found in breast milk that infant formula lacks, because of political correctness, nutritional fallacies, or just plain greed on the part of formula makers. Unfortunately this lack of vital nutrients at the most important time in life, insidiously comes back to haunt individuals later in life as the Dutch Hunger Winter studies and other studies have shown. Remember the karo syrup formulas ? those babies were severely deprived of nutrition in the formation of the brain, facial structure and immune system which is not complete at birth as many of us believe.

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