Friday, January 15, 2010

An Analysis of Milk: Organic vs Conventional

Most doctors recommend a child Jacob's age (17 months) drink 16-24 ounces of whole milk a day. I heard a lot of vague hints about the dangers in conventional milk, so, starting with his first cup, I decided to give Jacob only organic milk.

Based on the sheer volume of milk he consumes daily, I reasoned that even trace amounts of harmful stuff could potentially do him harm. I wasn't sure what specific type of harm, but it would be bad. This potential fate was not worth risking, so I willingly shelled out almost $7 a gallon for organic milk.

However, each time I pay for this pricey milk, a little part of me questions the worth of the expense. Is that $3 gallon of conventional milk really going to harm my child? Is the extra $4 a gallon for organic a wise investment?

After buying organic milk for over five months, the time came for me research this question for myself: Specifically, how is organic milk superior to conventional? I did some (not so highly scientific) Internet research on the subject and compiled some information that I believe to be factual.

Organic milk has a longer shelf life than conventional milk because of differences in pasteurization processes. Organic milk contains less bacteria than most conventional milk because it undergoes ultrahigh temperature (UHT) processing.
While interesting, this fact alone does not convince me to keep paying for organic milk. I've drank conventional milk for years and never gotten sick from any bacteria lurking around after traditional pasteurization (that I know of, anyway).

Organic milk comes from cows that are not given antibiotics. This is good since we are constantly warned about overexposure and resistance to antibiotics.
But, I also found that dairy farmers are strongly encouraged to limit their use of antibiotics on dairy cows by the FDA. Furthermore, the presence of antibiotics in milk violates the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act. (I read this in a article published by the Journal of Dairy Science. I tried to read the actual act and find this rule myself, but gave up.)
This leads me to believe that any amounts of antibiotics found in conventional milk will be statistically insignificant, and therefore, most likely harmless.

Synthetic Growth Hormones
Organic milk comes from cows that are not given rBGH. According to Wikipedia- a highly scientific source, I know- several studies of the hormone have revealed its association with increased risk for pervasive cancer.
The thought of this potential carcinogen being in my baby's milk is enough to make me pay for organic milk- no matter the cost.
But, I have also found that most dairies in the US now no longer use this hormone. (Here is a list of the biggest US Dairies that do not use rBGH.) So, most convential milk is rBGH free.

Based on the above findings, I perceive very little difference in organic and conventional milk. Therefore, continuing to pay extra for organic milk is a waste of resources. The next gallon I buy will be conventional.
Obviously, my family's health is important to me. If any of you have any more information on the subject, please share it!


  1. I love your blog. I will have to try out some of these recipies. Your blog reminds me of the Julie and Julia movie.

    Joyce Wright

  2. ....did Art take over your blog for the day?! :)


  3. Nice work! Check out my review of Ziliak & McCloskey, "The Cult of Statistical Significance;" there's at least one ungated PDF on the web (on Ziliak's website, I think).

  4. Let's go back to the basics. What we need to do is support the soil in a "healthy way" so that it provides an ongoing base for raising "healthy food". We need to provide a diverse seed stock, one that is abundant and sustainable in a specific microclimate. We need animals that are provided a "natural" source of food. We need to grow food that supports happy, healthy bodies. We need happy farmers to provide us the crops, meat, dairy to sustain nations.