Well, that is, if you are drinking milk. A while back I wrote a post on organic produce, the point of which was essentially “Meh, nutritionally organic and conventional produce are very similar”. But that’s not gong to be the point of this article. The point of this article is that if you put dairy products into your body, they better damn well be organic 99% of the time.
How Milk Is Made
Conventional dairy farming can be a nasty business. Cows live in close quarters, are fed corn/grains (not the natural diet of a pastured animal) and receive antibiotics (scary fact: somewhere around 80% of antibiotics produced in the US are given to animals). None of these things is particularly healthy for the cow. And I haven’t even gotten into the pooping – how much, where it goes, and what that does to the environment. I’m not going to either, there’s enough on that circulating the web. (Or, if you’re interested in a comprehensive book on industrial dairy and meat production in the US, check out Animal Factory).
In contrast, the standards for organic livestock include:
- Organic feed
- Access to outdoors
- Ruminants must have access to pasture during growing season (at least 120 days)
- Preventive healthcare plan
- Prohibited use of antibiotics, growth hormones, genetic engineering, or cloning
Source – Extension
Why It Matters
OK there we go. Antibiotic resistance and superbugs are a HUGE HUGE HUGE problem that is continuing to grow. The more antibiotics are used when they shouldn’t be (like for prevention in all of our livestock, or when you have a virus like cold or flu), the more opportunity bacteria have to build resistance. And bacteria we can’t kill leads to disease and death. Can you imagine dying because you cut your foot at work? Before antibiotics, it happened. If you want to read something terrifying about antibiotic resistance, read this article on a post antibiotic era.
Another benefit of organic dairy is the actual nutrition, and there’s some evidence to back it up.
As far as dairy is concerned, several studies demonstrated the superiority of organic dairy compared to conventional. A review conducted in Germany added data from the last three years to an existing pool of data and found that organic dairy products are higher in protein and omega-3 fatty acids and have a higher omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acid ratio than conventional products. Typically, the Western diet is high in omega 6 fats and low in omega 3 fats, but a higher omega 3 to omega 6 ratio is thought to reduce inflammation and risk of heart disease. The authors suspect that these results are due to the differences in the way organic and conventional dairy cows are fed. (Palupi E, Jayanegara A, Ploeger A, Kahl J. Comparison of nutritional quality between conventional and organic dairy products: a meta-analysis. J Sci Food Agric. 2012 Mar 19. doi: 10.1002/jsfa.5639. [Epub ahead of print])
Another study in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture looked at the fatty acid and antioxidant profiles of various input levels of conventional and organic milk found that “highest concentrations of nutritionally beneficial compounds were found in the low-input organic system. Adapted grass-based feeding strategies including pasture offer the potential to produce a distinguishable organic milk product quality.” (Kusche D1, Kuhnt K, Ruebesam K, Rohrer C, Nierop AF, Jahreis G, Baars T. Fatty acid profiles and antioxidants of organic and conventional milk from low- and high-input systems during outdoor period. J Sci Food Agric. 2014 Jun 5. doi: 10.1002/jsfa.6768. [Epub ahead of print]).
How To Choose The Right Dairy
Look for the organic label. Bonus points for grass-fed. And to avoid sugar, stick to plain dairy – no Strawberry milk, fruit on the bottom yogurt, etc. Also remember to look for organic when you are buying cream for coffee, too.
Photo c/o http://www.pinterest.com/hamcohealth/infographics-posters-memes/
Photo 2 c/o Mica Monkey