Is Organic Milk Really Healthier?
The benefits of organic milk can be best assessed by understanding the potential dangers of non-organic milk.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), for milk to be considered organic, it must be from cows free of bovine growth hormone and antibiotics, their feed must be pesticide free, and the cows must have access to pasture. Certainly not every milk product that comes from non-organic cows is full of hormones, antibiotics and pesticides from animals stuck in cages and fed corn products – just some of them.
Why Organic Matters
The four factors determining organic approval are hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, and pasturing. They all interrelated and highly important in cows’ health. Hormones like rBGH are given to cows to increase milk supply, which increases profits for farmers. rBGH increases infections in cows, causing greater need for antibiotics. Antibiotics accumulate in a cow’s system into its milk and ultimately into the consumer. Cows are both sprayed with and fed pesticides. Raising cows with corn and soy feed laced with pesticides greatly increases the pesticides passed through their milk to consumers versus what i seen in pasture fed cows.
Bovine Growth Hormone Use in Cows
Based on self-reporting by major US Dairy operators a 2007, a USDA report states roughly 17% of cows are treated with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH). RBGH has been linked to increased risk of cancer in humans and many associated side effects for cows.
Antibiotic Use in Cows
A 2007 study by the USDA concludes 90% of dairy operations in the US routinely use antibiotics to treat infection in cows. The report states on average 15-18% of cows from these dairy operations are treated with antibiotics.
Pesticide Use on Cows
According to a pest management report on major US dairy operations by David R. Pike, 13% of lactating cows are sprayed with pesticides daily. Major US dairy operations rely on subsidies outlined by a USDA policy for cheap corn and soy feed for cows. The pesticides used to grow the corn and soy fed to cows creates an accumulation of pesticides in the fatty tissue of cows.
The Benefits of Pasture Feeding
Cows are ruminants, which unlike humans gives them the ability to digest grass. Cows’ natural digestive process demands space in a large are to pasture and time, as eating grass doesn’t fatten the cow up as quickly as non-traditional feed. Many large cattle farmers have economically simplified the process by caging cows and feeding the corn and soy. Again, back to the circular relationship of the four organic factors- corn and soy essentially rots a cow’s gut. So, not only are cows ingesting more pesticides through the corn and soy, they are given antibiotics to combat the infections caused by the feed.
The Choice is Yours
The practice of raising cows by organic standards varies greatly from most large dairy producers. The difference in practices translates fundamentally different products in both safety and price, available to consumers. One approach is to cut cost wherever possible at the expense of health concerns to deliver a lower price point. Another is to sacrifice cost for health concerns. Every day, we as consumers vote on which standard to accept, thankfully, tomorrow is a new day.