Many people have switched to buying organic milk because the awareness of how dangerous conventional milk is due to hormones, antibiotics, and GMOs used in the production of milk is increasing rapidly in health and food communities.
But did you know that organic milk can still come from feedlots and undesirable environments, just like conventional milk? Here are important reasons why organic milk may not be the best choice for your family:
1. The wrong kinds of feed
Sure, these producers are not allowed to use hormones or antibiotics. But many larger organic producers – and some smaller ones – still feed their cattle unsuitable feed that can cause digestive distress for cattle. Cattle are ruminants which means they are meant to eat grass, fibrous plants, and shrubs. Grassfed cattle naturally stay healthier when on pasture and are under low-stress when eating the correct feed intended by nature. These animals usually don’t need to be treated with drugs.
Many organic facilities that produce milk feed their cows soy, corn, and grain, and sometimes other types of miscellaneous feed. These are unnatural and produce inflammatory which causes an acidic environment in the cow’s digestive tract and body, and set the stage up for disease. This is why many farmers administer antibiotics. Read from Nourished Magazine why grain fed meat is not an optimal nor nutritious food for the cow’s good health.
Soy and corn, even when “organic” are likely to be contaminated with GMO soy and corn since most crops grown in the U.S are now GMO. Co-existence is not possible, read why from the Institute for Responsible Technology.
“Pasteurization is a process that kills harmful bacteria by heating milk to a specific temperature for a set period of time. First developed by Louis Pasteur in 1864, pasteurization kills harmful organisms responsible for such diseases as listeriosis, typhoid fever, tuberculosis, diphtheria, and brucellosis.
Research shows no meaningful difference in the nutritional values of pasteurized and unpasteurized milk. Pasteurized milk contains low levels of the type of nonpathogenic bacteria that can cause food spoilage, so storing your pasteurized milk in the refrigerator is still important.”
What were the REAL reasons for pasteurization?
Any discussion of pasteurization would not be complete unless we delve into why it was originally developed. In Nina Planck’s book, Real Food: What to Eat and Why, she explains the story of urban dairies with sick cows that led to the eventual practice of widespread pasteurization.
Dr. Ron Schmid, naturopathic physician, says that pasteurization was never intended to to be used on all milk everyone consumed: “No one was claiming that all milk should be pasteurized, as even the most zealous proponents of pasteurization recognized that carefully produced raw milk from healthy animals was safe.”
Louis Pasteur invented pasteurization in the 1860s. It was a form of heat sterilization intended to improve storage quality of beer and wine. Industrial farming began in the late 1800s and early 1900s when population growth demanded higher food and milk production in urban areas in the Eastern U.S. Authorities proposed pasteurization when outbreaks of tuberculosis and other infectious disease started to spread due to poor quality milk.
Indeed, quality was greatly diminished compared to milk from small family farms and cows grazing on pasture. Cattle were housed in small, confined quarters and consumed cheap, leftover slop material from nearby whiskey distilleries. Although urban dairies realized a cost savings to feeding dairy cattle this way, their health suffered. Mortality rate for cows was high, and they experienced open sores, teeth that fell out, and had putrid breath. Not surprisingly, facilities and employees were filthy and unkempt. Illnesses such as tuberculosis, infant diarrhea, scarlet, tyhphoid and undulent fever (brucellosis) became rampant.
Pasteurization actually does not kill all pathogenic bacteria. Some survive the heating process.
Ohio State University Extension Service reported that Listeria, E. coli, and salmonella have all been found to withstand exposure to heat – at temperatures as high as 145 to 150 Fahrenheit. That’s the temperature at which most low-heat or gentle pasteurization occurs.
Cornell University recently released a report from a study that looked at predominant strains of spore-forming bacteria. These strains, primarily Paenibacillus bacteria, cause spoilage in milk and other foods. They are found frequently in nature and are responsible for curdling effects and also off-flavors in various foods, including dairy.
Researchers discovered certain bacterial strains are able to withstand these heat temperatures, and the results is often milk curdling during storage. “In fact, the bacteria may be uniquely adapted to overcome the twin tactics of dairy protection: pasteurization followed by refrigeration.” According to co-author and research support specialist Nicole Martin, “the spores are not only resistant to heat, the small jolt of heat during pasteurization may actually stimulate them to germinate. Some can reproduce in refrigerated dairy products at temperatures that would stymy other types of bacteria.”
Some companies such as Organic Valley, Horizon, and other companies have taken pasteurization to a new level by heating the milk to a higher temperature. UHT or ultra high temperature processing heats at or above 280 degrees to kill pathogens. UHT milk has been reported to have a shelf life of up to 10 months (before opening)! Yuck.
What’s so bad about this? Raw milk from healthy cows on pasture contains fragile enzymes, proteins, and beneficial bacteria that our bodies need to properly digest and absorb nutrients. Raw milk is a rich source of carbohydrates, protein, fats, minerals like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K2, as well as Omega 3s and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).
When these are altered or destroyed through pasteurization, the body perceives this once whole food as a harmful invader and produces an immune response to protect itself. Proteins are altered, and in particular, casein proteins found in milk cannot be digested without those necessary raw enzymes. Even though organic milk may come from cows eating organic feed without antibiotics or hormones, UHT processing removes any benefits that the milk would have had.
From the Weston A. Price Foundation, UHT damages milk in the following way:
“According to Lee Dexter, microbiologist and owner of White Egret Farm goat dairy in Austin, Texas, ultra-pasteurization is an extremely harmful process to inflict on the fragile components of milk. Dexter explains that milk proteins are complex, three-dimensional molecules, like tinker toys. They are broken down and digested when special enzymes fit into the parts that stick out. Rapid heat treatments like pasteurization, and especially ultra-pasteurization, actually flatten the molecules so the enzymes cannot do their work. If such proteins pass into the bloodstream (a frequent occurrence in those suffering from “leaky gut,” a condition that can be brought on by drinking processed commercial milk), the body perceives them as foreign proteins and mounts an immune response. That means a chronically overstressed immune system and much less energy available for growth and repair.”
So although any milk can contain pathogens, pasteurized milk has a better chance of being tainted since this milk likely comes from industrial settings where cows exist in feedlots and consume feed that makes them sick. Any good bacteria that might come from this milk is destroyed when pasteurized, and good bacteria protects milk from becoming a harmful substance to consume. Since good bacteria counts as well as nutritional value goes when cows are not on pasture and with pasteurization, what remains is simply dead bacteria and something with no nutritional value nor protection for your body and immune system.
3. Better soil and environmental health
We can’t talk about nutrition in milk or any food without also mentioning the health of the soil. In addition to the meat being healthier when it comes from grassfed sources, raising grassfed livestock promotes better soil and plant health. Soil health is vitally important to the health of everything else in the world, and is home to a diverse community of bacterial organisms.
Geomorphologist (from University of Washington) David Montgomery’s book Dirt explains just how damaging modern agricultural practices are to the topsoil. In the U.S., cropland in the U.S. becomes eroded 10 times quicker than the rate for it to be replaced by natural means. Some of the biggest cash crops in the world today including wheat, corn, and soy are incredibly depleting of the soil. These shallow-rooted grasses bring about the disintegration of essential trace minerals such as iodine, calcium, and magnesium.
Perennial grasses and pastures allow important nutrients to be returned to the soil in roughly 10 years. (which grow back year after year) and which extend down beyond 10 feet below the surface return nutrients back into the growing system. This allows them to be available for plants and everything else higher on the food chain.
From Smarter Living, Wendy Gordon’s Top 10 Reasons to Eat Grass-fed Meat:
“In contrast, the deep roots of perennials, often extending more than 10 feet below the surface, act like elevators, lifting nutrients back into the system and making them available to plants and everything else up the food chain. Pure prairie builds up organic matter: the richest of virgin prairie soil in the Midwest once ran to 10 feet deep and was about 10 percent organic. What’s left of the soils where corn and soy now grow typically contains less than half that amount of organic matter. Perennial pastures can restore the richness of the soil in a decade or so.”
4. Access to outdoors
Another issue is that many larger organic facilities don’t allow their dairy cattle much access to the outdoors, even if that is implied on the label. You might see a picture of a farm with pastures and a barn or even see terms such as “humanely raised” or “pasture-raised”. The minimum USDA standards for organic only require 120 days annually on pasture. That means the rest of the time, animals may be in confinement of some type. This greatly diminishes the nutrient-quality of the milk produced. When cattle are in feedlot environments and fed something other than their natural diet (grass or hay), Omega 3s, fat soluble vitamins, and CLA diminishes greatly.
5. Cost of the milk
Depending on where you buy your milk, you will pay different prices. Although some raw milk producers charge upwards towards $10 a gallon for their milk, from my experience, there are many organic pasteurized milks on the market which cost about the same as buying local raw milk from my trusted farmer who uses sustainable practices and has their cattle on pasture.
For instance, many organic milks I’ve seen in the store are sold by the half gallon and cost in the range between $2.99 to $3.99. The whole gallon containers run anywhere from $4.99 up to $7.99. If you buy a whole gallon of local, grass-fed, raw milk like I do from my farmer, it’s only $6/gallon. Do you really want to pay the same amount for an inferior product?
So, you do have a choice. You can buy milk from commercial, industrial sources that takes animals and turns their meat and milk into a commodity-based product with little to no attention to their health or land stewardship, and cook the life out of foods that were put here to nourish us. Or, you can make the effort to find a local farmer producing raw milk from healthy cows on pasture, and take advantage of the superior health benefits found in this perfect food.
Want to make sure the milk you are getting is sustainable, organic, grassfed raw, or all of the above? Read Questions to Ask Your Farmer.
Want more information on the health benefits of real, living, raw milk?
Why low-fat foods are not good for our health (including low-fat and skim organic milk):