[Image Credit: Benjamin Horn] My husband and I were at the milk section of the super-market. I reached for “conventional” milk. He told me to put it back and that we were buying organic. The truth is we have always been buying organic. We met 5 years ago and I doubt we’ve ever bought non-organic milk. But since I started this research about what we should really be eating, I came to realize that organic is hype and hence – I had to ditch it.
Organic Milk Vs. Regular Milk I was always buying organic milk because I thought that regular milk: Had antibiotics (I was wrong.) Had dangerous growth hormone (I was wrong.) Was coming from cows who were treated less humanely than the ones in organic farms (see below for details.) May have higher nutritional value (I was wrong.) Let’s address these common concerns one by one. Organic Milk Vs.
Regular Milk: Which one has the highest antibiotics residue? Organic Milk is produced without antibiotics. Regular Milk is safe from antibiotics as well! Every tank of raw milk is checked for antibiotics residue before the milk gets processed. If a tanker is found positive then the milk is rejected for human consumption. In particular, here’s what the FDA states about the process of testing for drug residues: The PMO requires a milk sample to be collected every time raw milk is picked up at the farm (also known as a “universal sample”).
A milk sample is also taken when a truckload or bulk tank of milk arrives at a Grade “A” dairy plant for processing. Each arriving truckload of milk at the plant must be tested for the presence of at least four of six specific Beta-lactam drugs (penicillin, ampicillin, amoxicillin, cloxacillin, cephapirin, and ceftiofur). If this bulk milk sample shows concerning results, each farm that supplied milk for that truckload will undergo mandatory testing.
Universal samples collected at the farm level are typically only tested if the bulk tank of milk that arrives at the processing plant tests positive for drug residues. Now every year the FDA produces a report with its finding on drug residues in milk. The most recent one is the one for the year 2014. Want to guess the percentage of drug residue in pasteurized milk and milk products? 0.000% That’s right.
Zero milk products were found with residues above the tolerance level. But here’s the differentiation between organic and regular milk. Organic milk is produced from cows not treated with antibiotics. If a cow is treated with antibiotics, then her milk is not labeled as organic. Regular milk may contain residue from antibiotics, it’s just that this residue is below the tolerance level. So let’s get back to the article about natural vs.
synthetic food. In this article we covered that it’s all about the dose! Any substance can be good in some doses, bad in some others. Even vitamin C is bad if taken in big quantities. Same is true for antibiotics, and that’s exactly why there’s a tolerance level. And the news is superb – all 100% of pasteurized milk is safe! Where can I learn more about drug testing of milk? Organic Milk Vs.
Regular Milk Antibiotics Verdict Both milks are equally safe. It’s a tie! Organic Milk Vs. Regular Milk: Which one contains growth hormones? If you’ve ever watched TV, then you might have learned about the “evil” growth hormones. These are hormones injected in cows in order to make them grow faster and produce more milk. I say “evil” not because they’re evil, but because they are presented as evil.
First, what is a growth hormone? According to the FDA “Growth hormone is a protein hormone produced in the pituitary gland of animals, including humans, and is essential for normal growth, development, and health maintenance.” We’re talking about estrogenic growth hormones that have the potential to increase milk supply usually 10-15%. First, let’s start with how “dangerous” these hormones really are.
I’ll take it directly from Dr. Jude Capper, an animal scientist: An 8-oz steak from a steer given a hormone implant contains more estrogen than a steak from a non-implanted animal. 42% more estrogen in fact. That’s undeniable. Yet the amount of estrogen in the steak from the implanted animal is minuscule: 5.1 nanograms. One nanogram (one-billionth of a gram or one-25-billionth of an ounce) is roughly equivalent to one blade of grass on a football field.
By contrast, one birth-control pill, taken daily by over 100 million women worldwide, contains 35,000 nanograms of estrogen. That’s equivalent of eating 3,431 lbs of beef from a hormone-implanted animal, every single day. To put it another way, it’s the annual beef consumption of 59 adults. Doesn’t that put it into perspective? If birth-control is a sensitive subject, let’s compare it to vegetables: one 8-oz serving of cabbage = 5,411 nanograms of estrogen, over 1,000 times more estrogen than the same serving size of steak from a steer given a hormone implant.
Apparently, cabbage has more hormones than beef! BAD cabbage! (just kidding, these quantities are extremely small, and yes, safe.) Second, not every cow in every “regular milk” farm is treated with hormones. In 2007, only 17.2% of cows were treated with bST (recombinant bovine growth hormone.) So yes, most cows producing conventional milk have never been treated with growth hormones anyway.
Third, pasteurization destroys most of the bST contained in milk. Fourth, after ingestion, growth hormone as any other protein in milk “is digested into its constituent amino acids and di- and tripeptides. There is no data to suggest that BST present in milk can survive digestion or produce unique peptide fragments that might have biological effects.” So yes, even if there are traces left, they are destroyed.
So you see, growth hormone poses literally no risk. Finally, here’s the major reason growth hormone has become controversial: it is insulin growth factor-1 (IGF-1), as milk from rBGH-treated cows has higher levels of this hormone. This serum has been linked to cancer. So naturally, I researched cancer.org for their take: “Some studies have shown that adults who drink milk have about 10% higher levels of IGF-1 in their blood than those who drink little or no milk.
But this same finding has also been reported in people who drink soy milk. This suggests that the increase in IGF-1 may not be specific to cow’s milk, and may be caused by protein, minerals, or some other factors in milk unrelated to rBGH. There have been no direct comparisons of IGF-1 levels in people who drink ordinary cow’s milk vs. milk stimulated by rBGH. At this time, it is not clear that drinking milk, produced with or without rBGH treatment, increases blood IGF-1 levels into a range that might be of concern regarding cancer risk or other health effects.
” The FDA has been asking these questions about IGF-1 since the 1990s and has concluded that there is no appreciable risk for consumers. Where can I learn more about growth hormones in milk? Organic Milk Vs. Regular Milk Growth Hormones Verdict I didn’t find any real risks from growth hormone in milk. Plus, most regular milk doesn’t have any traces anyway since cows are not treated with it.
So I have to call it a tie. Organic Milk Vs. Regular Milk: Which one comes from “happier” cows? Originally I was under the impression that organic milk comes from really happy cows, you know the ones that roam freely in the fields, eating grass and sleeping under the sun. However, organic certification doesn’t require either full-time pasture access, more space for the animals, or better animal practices.
The only requirement is that farmers allow cows and other ruminants to graze for at least 120 days a year. That’s it. A simple Google search on “organic milk animal cruelty” and PETA’s site comes first calling out the organic myth: “Cattle have their horns cut off and their testicles cut out of their scrotums, and many are branded with sizzling-hot irons, resulting in third-degree burns.
” Apparently, both organic and non-organic cattle farms could do better. As for conventional milk I couldn’t find any welfare-specific guidelines. I did read that especially in good climates they get a lot of pasture time, however I didn’t find any strict rules. If you do know of any, then please leave a comment below and let me know. If you want to make sure the products you buy come from well-cared animals, look for labels like the Animal Welfare Approved.
Such labels can be applied to both organic and non-organic milk: As long as the animals are treated according to their specifications and then they can get the label. Organic Milk Vs. Regular Milk Animal Welfare Verdict The only relevant guideline for organic milk was grazing for a minimum of 120 days a year. I’m not sure what the length is for cows producing regular milk. Hence, I’ll have to give this win to organic milk.
UPDATE (Oct 2015): After talking with a number of farmers, following them on Facebook, and watching quite a few videos of cows, I realized that the impression I had about happy cows feeding outside was not exactly correct: There are several cows who actually prefer to stay inside and that farmers need to PUSH to get them out of their nice air-conditioned barn. There is no difference in animal welfare between organic and conventional farms.
Hence, I have to change my previous verdict to a tie. More about animal welfare: There are many lies perpetuated by animal activists. This particular PETA example I mentioned above about cattle horns is analyzed on my animal welfare article. The Animal Welfare Approved label (and many such other labels) are not necessarily science-based. Learn more about cattle welfare here. Organic Milk Vs. Regular Milk: Which one has highest nutritional value? Apparently they are the same.
You’ll get equally nutritious milk regardless of whether you pick organic or conventional. What you should know though is that the quality of the milk depends heavily on multiple factors, irrelevant to the organic vs. regular farming practices. According to a 2015 review study in the Journal of Dairy Science: “A main complication is that farming practices and their effects differ depending on country, region, year, and season between and within organic and conventional systems.
Factors influencing milk composition (e.g., diet, breed, and stage of lactation) have been studied individually, whereas interactions between multiple factors have been largely ignored.” Now let’s discuss a 2013 PLoS ONE Journal study that found a difference in Fatty Acid profiles. According to the study, “organic milk contained 25% less omega-6 fatty acids and 62% more omega-3 fatty acids than conventional milk.
” Now we like omega 3 fats because they help protect against heart disease and may decrease the risk of depression, stroke, cancer and other diseases. So based on this knowledge we should conclude that organic milk is superior, right? Wrong. First, we used to think that omega 3 fatty acids are better than omega 6 fats, but that’s no longer supported. “While there is a theory that omega-3 fatty acids are better for our health than omega-6 fatty acids, this is not supported by the latest evidence,” says Dr Frank Sacks, a professor in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard.
Second, these quantities are not meaningful. Just to put things in perspective: You’d have to drink 5.5 gallons of full-fat organic milk to equal the omega-3 content of one eight-ounce piece of salmon. Organic Milk Vs. Regular Milk Nutritional Value Verdict It’s a tie. There’s no evidence that one type of milk is better than the other. Why After 5 Years of Religiously Buying Organic Milk, I’m Ditching it for Conventional I honestly thought that organic was better.
However, after doing my research I realized that organic may be better when it comes animal welfare, yet even that is highly questionable (UPDATE: it’s a actually a tie). Everything else is hype. I used to be afraid of antibiotics, and hormones, I even thought that organic was more nutritious – all wrong. I’m actually surprised at how wrong I was. So back to the super-market, when my husband and I disagreed about what milk to buy.
“Why organic?” I asked. “I told you there’s no risk with antibiotics, or growth hormone and nutritional value is the same.” He implied we could afford it, so why not. Then we looked at the price again. At Trader Joe’s half a gallon of organic milk costs $3.99 while regular milk costs $1.99. So organic milk is $2 or 100% more expensive than regular milk. Still we can afford it. But is this a good reason to buy something that offers no value? Just because you can? We’re buying about 1 bottle per week, which would give us 52 bottles in a year.
That’s $2×52 = $104 invested annually to organic milk. With those $104, we could: Buy an annual Netflix subscription (and also save $8). Yay for movie nights and House of Cards! Donate to the United Nations Refugee Agency and buy 14 thermal blankets, or else 6 tarps for the families in Nepal. Let’s do some good. Pay a one- or two-month exercise class pack – and exercising for one or two months will definitely bring benefits (unlike organic milk!) So that’s why I’m ditching organic milk for good.
Now let me turn this back to you. What milk are you buying? Why? Leave a comment and let me know. This article is part of the What Should We Really Be Eating? series.See Also: First Time Milking A Cow Poem
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By Dr. Mercola So, you're familiar with the problems associated with conventional pasteurized milk and you've started buying (and paying more for) organic milk instead. If you think you're doing your health a great favor, you may be shocked to find out some organic milk brands contain omega-3-rich oil made from corn syrup-fed algae. As noted by The Washington Post:1 "'DHA Omega-3 Supports Brain Health,' according to the Horizon cartons sold in supermarkets around the United States.
What the Horizon milk carton doesn't advertise is that some of its contents were brewed in closed stainless steel vats of Schizochytrium. This omission avoids any ick reaction from shoppers, but consumer advocates say it also dodges a key question: Is milk supplemented with an oil brewed in a factory really 'organic?' 'We do not think that [the oil] belongs in organic foods,' said Charlotte Vallaeys, a senior policy analyst, at Consumer Reports.
'When an organic milk carton says it has higher levels of beneficial nutrients, like omega-3 fats, consumers want that to be the result of good farming practices … not from additives made in a factory.'" Low-Fat Milk Does Not Belong in a Healthy Diet Even more ironic, in an effort to appease two divergent health notions — the low-fat myth and omega-3 for brain health ideology — some "organic" milk manufacturers will remove the healthy, naturally occurring fats and replace them with algae-generated DHA oil, creating a high-DHA fat, low-dairy fat product.
2 This same DHA has been previously removed from infant formulas or baby foods certified as organic, due to health concerns. While I do not recommend whole organic milk for the fact that it's been pasteurized, low-fat versions are even worse since you're now forgoing some of the best parts of the milk — the milk fat. Recent research has actually linked low-fat dairy consumption to an increased risk of Parkinson's disease.
3 Compared to people who drank less than one serving of low-fat dairy per day, those who drank three servings or more increased their chances of developing Parkinson's by more than one-third. Worst of all is reduced fat chocolate milk — with or without added DHA and vitamins — as the second ingredient is added sugar!4 If you want to drink milk, I recommend getting raw grass fed milk — milk from cows raised on pasture under organic conditions that is not pasteurized.
The good news is, the American Grassfed Association (AGA) recently introduced much-needed grass fed standards and certification5 for American-grown grass fed dairy, which allows for greater transparency and conformity. Prior to this certification, dairy could be sold as "grass fed" whether the cows ate solely grass or received silage, hay or even grains during certain times. Considering how important a cow's diet is when it comes to the quality of its milk, especially when we're talking about raw milk, I would strongly advise you to ensure your raw dairy is AGA certified as grass fed once the certification becomes officially available.
However, please understand that if you have not trained your body to burn fat as your primary fuel, you will want to avoid or severely limit your intake of even this healthy milk as it is relatively high in sugar and will contribute to your inability to burn fat. Once you make the shift to burning fat as your primary fuel, drinking raw milk in moderation should be fine. What Is Organic? Organic foods have been shown to improve immune system status and sleep, lower your risk for obesity and cancer, and often have higher antioxidant and mineral contents than conventionally grown foods.
6 There are several different organic labels out there, but only one relates directly to foods: the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Organic seal. To qualify as USDA organic,7 a product must be grown and processed using organic farming methods that recycle resources and promote biodiversity. Crops must be grown without synthetic pesticides, bioengineered genes, petroleum-based or sewage sludge-based fertilizers.
Organic livestock must have access to the outdoors and cannot be given antibiotics or growth hormones. Products labeled "100 percent organic" must contain only organically produced materials Products labeled simply "organic" must contain at least 95 percent organic ingredients The label "made with organic ingredients" can contain anywhere between 70 and 95 percent organic ingredients Organic products cannot be irradiated, are not allowed to contain preservatives or flavor enhancing chemicals, nor can they contain traces of heavy metals or other contaminants in excess of tolerances set by the U.
S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).8 Additionally, the pesticide residue level cannot be higher than 5 percent of the maximum pesticide tolerance set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).9 Is Corn Syrup-Fed, Algae-Based DHA Really Organic? Despite all of that, regulatory loopholes and good old-fashioned human error sometimes allow less than organic products to bear the USDA organic label, as appears to be the case with DHA-fortified organic milk.
As noted in the featured article:10 "A closer look at how the oil winds up in organic milk offers insight into how the [USDA] determines what foods may be sold with its coveted 'USDA Organic' seal … At least in part, it's a lobbying tug-of-war: On one side, many companies, seeking to maximize sales, push the USDA for an expansive definition of 'organic.' On the other, consumer groups advocate for a narrower, 'purer,' definition.
In deciding to allow the use of the oil and similar additives, USDA officials, at least initially, misread federal regulations. In 2012, five years after the algal oil was introduced into milk, it quietly acknowledged that some federal regulations had been 'incorrectly interpreted.' The USDA then maintained the status quo — allowing the use of algal oil, among other things — in order not to 'disrupt' the market.
" 10 Years of Violation Is Long Enough The manufacturer of the DHA oil, a company called DSM,11 defends its product saying it's vegetarian, sustainable and "does not contribute to overfishing."12 But while DSM believes its life's DHA™ oil is "consistent with the important values of the organic industry," the additive does appear to violate organic regulations. In 2012, several months after the USDA had realized its interpretation mistake, an interim rule was issued that temporarily allowed algal oil to continue being used.
At the time, the USDA stated that "This action enables the industry to continue with the status quo until additional public comments are received and a final rule is published." Five years have gone by and no final rule was ever issued, which means organic dairy brands have now been selling certified USDA organic DHA-fortified milk in violation of organic standards for an entire decade — five years before the mistake was caught and five years after.
Granted, the wheels of the regulatory wagon can be slow in turning, but enough is enough. Could it be that the USDA has silently swept the issue under the rug, hoping it will simply be forgotten? As noted by policy analyst Vallaeys:13 "Algal oil is one of several nutrient additives that have not gone through this proper review and approval process. It's very disappointing that we have yet to see proper enforcement action from the National Organic Program on this issue.
" It's worth noting that while Martek, a harvester of DHA algae that has since been acquired by DSM, clarified that the microalgae are not genetically modified (GM)14 — a claim made by some — the algae IS fed corn syrup, and Martek did concede that "some" of its corn is GM, "given the prevalence of GM corn in the U.S. market." This is a loophole that allows questionable additives and ingredients into organic products.
Just like a cow cannot be raised on GM feed and be considered organic, algae fed GM corn syrup should not be deemed organic either. Some Organic Dairies Are CAFOs in Disguise Aside from the DHA issue, there are other reasons to be wary of commercial organic milk. True organic grass fed milk has been repeatedly shown to be higher in many nutrients, including vitamin E, beta-carotene and beneficial conjugated linoleic acid, but some organic dairies are nothing more than concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in disguise, selling milk for higher prices while not actually giving you anything that is substantially different from non-organic milk.
For example, Aurora Organic Dairy in Colorado has 15,000 cows — about 100 times larger than your typical organic herd — and on any given day, 90 percent of them are kept in feedlots rather than being allowed to roam on pasture. Theoretically, choosing organic milk makes sense, but this holds true only if the farmers are allowing the cows to graze freely on pasture. A May 1 article in The Washington Post15 revealed Aurora was stretching, if not breaking, the limits of the organic grazing rules, noting: " … [D]uring visits by The Washington Post to Aurora's High Plains complex across eight days last year, signs of grazing were sparse, at best.
Aurora said its animals were out on pasture day and night, but during most Post visits the number of cows seen on pasture numbered only in the hundreds. At no point was any more than 10 percent of the herd out. A high-resolution satellite photo taken in mid-July by DigitalGlobe, a space imagery vendor, shows a typical situation — only a few hundred on pasture." The Post even had samples of Aurora's organic milk tested for "a key indicator of grass-feeding" (its fatty acid profile), which revealed the milk matched conventional, not organic milk.
Adding to the problem, farmers are allowed to hire their own inspectors to be certified USDA Organic. In Aurora's case, the Post investigation revealed the inspectors had visited the farm outside of the grazing season, which means they had no way of knowing whether the dairy's grazing habits met the organic requirement. In 2007, the USDA even sanctioned Aurora Organic Dairy for willfully violating organic standards, but the farm was allowed to continue operating after a settlement was reached.
Legal Complaint Filed Against Fraudulent Organics As a result of the Post investigation, the Cornucopia Institute filed legal complaints against Aurora Dairy and Colorado Department of Agriculture, their organic certifier. They've also asked for the removal of the USDA's lead organic regulator, Miles McEvoy. Cornucopia's co-director Mark Kastel explains:16 "The rigorous investigative work by Peter Whoriskey at The Washington Post clearly illustrates a pattern of long-term corruption by both Aurora Dairy and the USDA's National Organic Program.
Our organic regulators have turned a blind eye as giant industrial operations place ethical family-scale dairy farmers at a distinct competitive disadvantage … These gross violations of the law were well-documented in a series of complaints we filed against Aurora operations in Texas, and other 'organic' CAFOs in the U.S., as well as their certifiers that have languished at the USDA for over a year and a half without enforcement action.
" In addition to fooling consumers, CAFO-style "organic" farms are also pushing real organic farmers out of business. You might not know it, but we actually have a milk surplus at the moment. Thanks to the unnatural efficiency of swiftly growing dairy CAFOs, milk supply has outpaced demand. This is true of organic milk as well. John Boere, a California dairy farmer, used to be an organic farmer but was unable to find a market for his milk, forcing him to switch back to conventional farming at a steep loss.
He told Cornucopia:17 "The surplus of milk is so bad here in California that some organic handlers are being forced to divert organic milk onto the conventional market, at a substantial loss. This contributes to the crumbling farm-gate pricing, and for some, like me, being forced out of organic altogether … If all organic dairies were forced to get 30 percent of their dry matter intake (feed) from pasture, as the law requires, there would be a shortage of organic milk, not a surplus!" Arla Defends 'Live Unprocessed' Food Campaign In related news, Arla Foods is being sued by a manufacturer of recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH, also known as rBST).
18 The company drew the ire of rBST maker Eli Lilly after it produced a "Live Unprocessed" food campaign in which rBST is depicted as a cartoon monster. The ad campaign also targets the food additive xanthan, depicted as a green alien with six tentacles and three eyes. Eli Lilly says the ads — which present rBST as something monstrously unnatural — are "built upon a fundamental deception" and that "rBST is not dangerous and is not something consumers should fear.
" Arla is being sued for breaching unfair competition laws and violating the 1946 Lanham Act, the federal trademark statute that prohibits trademark infringement, trademark dilution and false advertising. Arla has countered with a motion to dismiss the complaint, saying "There are no allegations sufficient to claim that Arla's actions proximately caused the harm about which Plaintiff's complain." Arla also noted that in International Dairy Foods Association vs.
Boggs (2010), it was found that "milk from cows treated with rBST contained higher levels of compounds, including pus, that accelerated the spoiling of the milk, increased fat content and decreased levels of proteins; and elevated levels of insulin-like growth factor 1, a hormone linked to several types of cancer." Where to Find Raw, Grass Fed Milk, Meats and Other Organic Foods If you're going to drink milk, consider switching to raw, grass fed milk if you can get it.
Raw-Milk-Facts.com and RealMilk.com can tell you what the status is for legality in your state, and provide a listing of raw dairy farms in your area. The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund19 also provides a state-by-state review of raw milk laws.20 California residents can find raw milk retailers using the store locator available at www.OrganicPastures.com. Also keep an eye out for the brand-new AGA grass fed certification.
In the meantime, their website allows you to search for AGA approved producers certified according to strict standards that include being raised on a diet of 100 percent forage; raised on pasture and never confined to a feedlot; never treated with antibiotics or hormones; and born and raised on American family farms. The Grassfed Exchange also has a listing of producers selling organic and grass fed meats across the U.
S., and the Weston A. Price Foundation has local chapters in most states. Many of them are connected with buying clubs in which you can easily purchase organic foods, including grass fed raw dairy products like milk and butter. Another excellent resource is the Cornucopia Institute, which maintains web-based tools rating certified organic brands of eggs, dairy products and other commodities, based on their ethical sourcing and authentic farming practices separating CAFO "organic" production from authentic organic practices.