Organic Milk Basics

Nutrition
April 13, 2012

A look at the key differences in organic versus regular milk.

Milk has long been regarded as a healthy drink everyone should consume — especially children. These days, more understanding about how milk is produced, processed and handled is occurring. Health, environmental and animal safety concerns have boosted the availability and popularity of organic milk. Check out these organic milk basics and decide for if organic milk is right for you and your family.

Organic milk. The rules governing organic milk touch many aspects of the milk production life cycle. Some of these are:

  • Antibiotic use — Organic dairy cows are not to be treated with antibiotics as a routine. If a cow should require an antibiotic, it’s not allowed back in the milk production rotation until 12 months of antibiotic-free certification have passed.
  • Pasture time — Organic dairy cows are required to have access to time in the pasture for feeding. While the exact terms were once vague and non-defined, they have been recently firmed up. The organic cow does feed on grass in a natural setting and must do so for a minimum of 120 days reports Medill Reports, the Northwestern University Medill School's website.
  • Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH) — BGH increases milk production. Dairy cows from organic farms are not allowed shots of BGH.
  • Pesticide use — The use of pesticides on an organic dairy farm is forbidden. The organic cow cannot consume pesticide-treated feed.

Conventional milk. The standards of conventionally produced milk are different from the standards for organic milk production:

  • Antibiotic use — A traditional dairy cow can be returned to the herd immediately upon certification that the cow is antibiotic-free. No waiting period is required.
  • Pasture time — There are no regulations governing pasture time for conventional dairy farm cows.
  • Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH) — Regular dairy farm cows are allowed BGH. BGH is a concern to many since it may produce Insulin Growth factor that could cause illnesses in humans if ingested often.
  • Pesticide use — Conventional dairy farms are allowed and often do use pesticides to control insects. The conventional cow is allowed to ingest feed that has been treated with pesticides.

Organic vs. conventional. The Huffington Post reported its taste test results and discovered no difference in taste from conventional and organic milk. The conclusion can be drawn that the most popular reason for buying the typically more expensive organic milk would be because of the strict regulations in producing organic milk.

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