Agriculture Trends: Organic Milk

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UK Soil Association Organic Reprot 2009

Over the past few years there has been organic dairy products have become quite the trend. In 2011 nearly 2.1 billion pounds of organic milk were sold growing 14.5% over the previous year. Since then the demand for organic milk has been on a steady increase. However, scientific studies have shown that there are no health benefits to organic milk so why is the increase in organic milk sales?

One possible cause could be the rumored health concerns spread about the use of rbST, an engineered version of the Bovine Growth Hormone that is naturally found in cattle. John Whitehouse, manage of the Fairchild Dairy Teaching & Research Center explains that this engineered hormone can be given to the cow to increase milk production. However, this method is rarely used especially in the northeast.

“I don’t think there is a plant in the Northeast that will even take that milk,” said Whitehouse. “I found that if you feed the cows well and take good care they will produce just as well without buying a product to help them.”

Whitehouse also adds that HP Hood, the buyer and packager the milk farmed at the Fairchild Center pays to have the farmers not use the hormone. Each truckload of milk is tested for trace sign of hormone usage and will be dumped if any trace amounts can be found.

To top it off the dairy farming industry and FDA both have done studies to prove the the consumption of rbST has no side effects on humans.

Another trending health concern revolves around the trace dosage of antibiotics that can be found in milk. Again, White house explains that this isn’t the case.

“We milk the treated cows separate from the others and none of that milk goes into our tank. Hood tests our milk on pick-up and back at the plant for any trace amounts of antibiotics in the milk. If any is found the whole truck is dumped and we don’t get paid,” said Whitehouse.

However, Nicole Guindon from the UNH Organic Dairy Research Farm explains that there are key differences between organic and conventional milk production.

“One of the most notable differences is the fact that we are required to have our animals out on pasture for at least 120 days per year.” Said Guindon. “The grasses in the pasture must also be treated with organic fertilizers and no pesticides.”

There is also a zero tolerance policy with the use of antibiotics. If a cow is to fall ill it but be treated with organic approved products or sold at auction. Any violation of this protocol can have the farm be stripped of its organic certification.

One of the reasons people may buy organic milk over conventional milk is simple, organic tastes better to some people. Dairy cows can turn almost any type of feed into milk. So by letting the cows graze in a pasture rather than feeding processed grains, some consumer can taste more fresh and natural milk.

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