The trans 10, cis 12-conjugated linoleic acid (10,12-CLA) isomer reduces adiposity in several animal models. In the mouse, however, this effect is associated with adipose tissue inflammation, hyperinsulinemia and hepatic lipid accumulation. Moreover, 10,12-CLA was recently shown to promote mammary ductal hyperplasia and ErbB2/Her2-driven mammary cancer in the mouse. Reasons for detrimental effects of 10,12-CLA on the mouse mammary gland could relate to its effect on the mammary fat pad (MFP), which is essential for normal development. Accordingly, we hypothesized that mammary effects of 10,12-CLA were mediated through the MFP in a dose-dependent manner. Female FVB mice were fed 10,12-CLA at doses of 0%, 0.1%, 0.2%, or 0.5% of the diet from day 24 of age, and effects on mammary development and metabolism were measured on day 49. The 0.5% dose reduced ductal elongation and caused premature alveolar budding. These effects were associated with increased expression of inflammatory markers and genes shown to alter epithelial growth (IGF binding protein-5) and alveolar budding (TNF-α and receptor of activated NF-κB ligand). The 0.5% dose also caused hyperinsulinemia and hepatic lipid accumulation. In contrast, the 0.1% 10,12-CLA dose had no adverse effects on mammary development, metabolic events, and inflammatory responses, but remained effective in decreasing adipose weights and lipogenic gene expression. These results show that a low dose of 10,12-CLA reduces adiposity in the mouse without negative effects on mammary development, inflammation, and metabolism, and suggest that previously reported detrimental effects relate to the use of excessive doses.