Recently there have been talks and debates on the benefits of ghee. While desi ghee has been considered one of the purest foods one can consume, in modern times people have also faced adverse effects. The reason is that most of the ghee that is sold is not pure in terms of Ayurveda and secondly, people cannot identify pure desi ghee from the rest.
Pure desi ghee
Even fifty years ago when people spoke of ghee, they meant ghee made of cow’s milk. It is known as desi, shuddha or gaoa ghee. If the ghee was not of cow’s milk but made instead with the milk of a goat or buffalo, it was considered second grade and was less favoured.
Here is the problem with ghee that available is in the market presently:
# Every kind of clarified butter is called as ghee nowadays.
# The butter used to make ghee by the companies is derived from different animals. The milk can be from cows, buffaloes, camels or goats and all mixed together. Hence even if the bottle says ‘desi ghee’ they could mean any ghee made from milk. Read below to identify the desi cow milk one from the rest.
# Ghee is made from clarifying butter, which is heating butter to a certain stage. The ghee is formed when the milk solids separate. Most brands apply this process to make their ghee. However this method is different from the ancient Indian traditional one that has been followed for thousands of years.
# Actual desi ghee is not clarified butter but a little different and there are some rules that should be followed according to Ayurveda.
# Even if a brand claims of using cow’s milk for their desi ghee, still there is the question of the cow breed used. If it is a hybrid species of cow, your ghee may not be as healthy as one from the milk of a desi cow.
# Most ghees are highly adulterated with tallow.
How is ghee adulterated?
Adulteration of ghee is a major problem in India. India has the maximum number of ghee consumers in the world with annual sales of more than 10,000 crores. Naturally there are lots of brands trying to meet this demand. To produce 1,000 litre of pure ghee about 25,000 litres of milk is required. It means keeping lots of cows and to avoid this many brands look for an easier but dishonest way.
Ghee is added to vanaspati that is, hydrogenated fat derived from plants. This is called tallow adulteration. Another way of adding impurities in ghee is to mix refined oils. Any kind of deoxidized oil like coconut, almond etc. can be mixed with the ghee to increase its quantity. Additional essence may also be added to dupe consumers.
The third kind of adulteration is by adding animal fat. Animal fat can be animal milk fat or simply fat from the body. An example would be to add the adipose tissue of a buffalo or a pig to the ghee. It is not uncommon. Many times vegetarians have consumed animal fat in this way. In extreme cases it has been found adulterated with fat from dogs, monkeys and donkeys and police have busted these corrupt business men.
It is this tallow which is very harmful for consumption. This harmful fat increases bad cholesterol and triglycerides. It can also lead to various other health problems.
Detection of adulteration in ghee in the laboratory is not easy or cheap. There are some methods used to detect impurities in ghee like gas chromatography, mass spectrometry and ultraviolet fluorescence. Different impurities can be added in ghee and sometimes one method can be used to reveal only some contaminations but not all of those at one go.
Hence it is always safe to know how to get the right ghee for your family and your health. Ghee sold with contamination is the reason why ghee is getting a bad name.
Difference between milk of desi and hybrid cows
Even if we were able to buy desi ghee made without any adulteration and purely from cow’s milk – a problem still remained. Most of the cows bred for commercial reasons are hybrid cows like HF (Holstein Friesian), Brown Swiss, Red Dane and Jersey Cow imported from the West. Their popularity is due to the fact that hybrid cows produce way more milk than an indigenous or desi cow.
It has been proven scientifically that a desi cow’s milk is healthier than of a hybrid. In fact an Indian pure cow’s milk is the healthiest in the world. It also is better in quality and taste more delicious.
The milk of Jersey or HF cows is not considered very nutritious too. Their milk is found to contain Casomorphin, a kind of milk protein. The bovine casomorphin is not healthy and its prolonged use can cause various health problems. But how can cow’s milk be so harmful? It is because exotic breeds like Jersey are not exactly cows.
These are hybrid species from an animal known as the Urus or Aurochs. It was big sized wild cattle that lived in Europe years ago. You can compare a Urus with the gaur or the bison that is found in India’s forests but the Urus was more aggressive and primitive creature. This animal was hunted for its meat in Europe but later it was cross bred with cows and buffaloes. The original Urus has become extinct but their descendants are found today as hybrid cattle like the Jersey and HF cows.
Since these hybrid or exotic breeds produce way more milk than Indian cows, most milk available in the market is from these species. As a result, it is easy to find butter and dairy products from a hybrid cow but quite difficult to find desi cow’s dairy products. The indigenous bovines are becoming rarer to find in the present scenario.
Vechur, Sahiwal, Sindhi, Gir, Hallikar, Ongole, Bachaur and Rathee are some types of pure cow breeds found in India. In India 37 pure cattle breeds can be found. It is interesting that Indian cows of a particular region will give their best milk when they stay in their indigenous region in their natural style. Gir is a local cow breed from Gujarat. These graze in the fields and forests of Gujarat and the ghee made from their milk is prized as Gir Cow Ghee.
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Buying pure desi ghee may be a bit more expensive but it will save you a lot more money by keeping you healthy. Also it will make dairy farms to keep pure Indian cow breeds. That way we can also save their dwindling numbers.
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How to identify pure ghee
If you are willing to buy pure desi ghee, it is not that difficult at all. Here is an easy way to pick your desi ghee from the supermarket or from an online marketplace:
# Buy A2 ghee. If your bottle of ghee has A2 marked on it, it means the ghee is purely made from desi cow’s milk. A2 refers to milk from only an Indian indigenous cow. If you buy online, search for ‘A2 ghee’, it will show you many options.You can get good quality A2 ghee here.
# If you see A1, it means the ghee has been made from a cow that is hybrid or an exotic breed. Hence all products made from this milk will be marked as A1 as per government regulations.
# Buffalo ghee is also nutritious but less than the cow ghee. Buffalo ghee will look whiter than ghee made of cow’s milk. Cow ghee would be slightly yellowish in colour due to the presence of carotene. Having pure bred buffalo ghee is probably better than having A1 ghee or milk from hybrid cows.
Making the right ghee according to Ayurveda
Ayurveda is a holistic science. Therefore when it instructs in details for the perfect desi ghee, the whole process is vital. Here is how pure ghee should be:
# The milk should be from a desi cow, that is, it should be A2 milk.
# Cows should not be kept bound in goushalas or stalls. They should be left to graze freely during the day, primarily on grass. Their diet should also consist of hay. The right diet to the bovine affects the quality of the milk.
# Any food given to the cow should be grown or produced in the traditional methods. For example, cow dung should be used as fertilizer instead of chemical laden fertilizers or pesticides. Lately this is being marked as ‘Certified Organic’. This also means the cow has been reared in its natural way and is free from any harmful medicines and hormonal injections.
# The cow should be milked before the sun rises and before the sun sets. Of course, there should be enough milk left for the calf. On the contrary in most modern cow stalls, machines are used instead of humans to milk the cow as needed.
# The milk is made into butter and then to ghee in the common process. In some places, cream is simply removed from raw milk with the help of machines. But Ayurvedic practice shows a different method. The milk is first set to curd and then it is churned to butter. Buttermilk is extracted. After that butter is cooked in low heat to get the purest ghee. In Krishna’s childhood tales, we see this ideal way of making ghee. Krishna would be seen stealing butter as well as the curd which was also kept to churn into butter.
# The churning of the curd should always be done by hand and never by any modern equipment/machine and away from direct sunlight.
# Even the utensils in which it is made has pros and cons. Utensils made of clay are considered very healthy instead of ones like aluminum.
It is up to your discrimination if you would prefer to buy ghee from a brand that markets itself too well or go for a more humble and more honest ghee producer.
According to Ayurveda, shuddha ghee is sort of a super food. Although it is mainly made of fat, pure ghee will not harm but instead help your body to stay healthy. Unfortunately it is the other types and adulterated ghees sold in the market that are harming us. Shuddha desi ghee has numerous benefits and is excellent for sickly people. It has also been seen that cancer patients benefit by consuming pure A2 ghee.
Nowadays efforts are being made by cooperatives and health officials to make people aware on buying the right ghee. There are many goushalas that are opening up to visitors to show how they keep cows in the correct way to get high quality dairy products. If possible find a local one near you and pay a visit. Some of these small scale producers also have websites where you can buy ghee directly from them online. They do not go for aggressive marketing like some big brands. They keep a modest profit and are truly serving the society.
If you are looking for hand churned A2 desi ghee made in the traditional way, click here.
Here is an informational video on A1 and A2 milk and dairy products:
Credits: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4121906/, www.agriinfo.in/default.aspx?page=topic&superid=9&topicid=745 , www.quora.com/Which-is-the-best-desi-cow-ghee-brand-in-India, simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aurochs, http://holstein-uk.org