Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Milk: Myth Vs. Fact

I got a call from Jennifer DeHoog of the St. Louis District Dairy Council about a "milk" story posted on this site a few weeks ago. People were commenting saying why they do or do not buy organic milk? DeHoog says some of the information given wasn't exactly correct. She sent me this website: Dairy Farming Today that explains some myths about milk.

Here are the original comments to the milk story

Myth: All milk – except organic milk – contains antibiotics.
Fact: All milk is carefully tested for antibiotics. Any milk that tests positive is disposed of immediately, and does not enter into the food supply.

“It is a good thing to be able to provide good husbandry and good health care to the animals when they get sick. And some of them need antibiotics...Any animal that’s treated with antibiotics doesn’t make it to the food chain. The steps we have put in place to avoid such a thing are next to impossible to allow it to happen.”

Myth: Today’s dairy cow is treated like nothing more than a milk machine.
Fact: Dairy cows must be healthy and well cared for in order to produce pure, wholesome milk.

“I think a lot of people in town and in the urban areas don’t realize or they have the misconception of how we care for the animals. I think we do a great job of caring for the calves and cattle.”

Myth: Dairy cows are kept in cramped, dirty quarters without access to the outdoors.
Fact: Cow comfort is very important to dairy farmers. Ensuring that clean, dry bedding is available to cows at all times, in addition to providing healthy living conditions, are top priorities to dairy farmers.

“We have a bed for each animal. We have food and water 24 hours a day. We can keep shade over them if it’s in the hot sun…if a cow is comfortable she is going to eat more and then she is going to give more milk.”

Myth: Pesticides are overused and end up in milk.
Fact: Pesticides are not a health concern in any milk products. Thorough testing and stringent government standards ensure that all milk is safe, pure and nutritious. Dairy farmers consistently meet or exceed safety regulations on pesticide use.

“Farmers do not overuse pesticides because we live on the land, we drink the water, we drink the milk, and so as part of being a good manager and good steward, farmers are caring for the environment…Milk is the most highly regulated food product in the country.”

I sent Jennifer a few questions about this. I still don't know if I should be buying organic or regular milk.

Question: So should we be buying organic milk?

Answer: It is consumer preference, which type of milk to buy. Whether people choose regular or organic, they should feel good about consuming all varieties of milk as part of a healthy, balanced diet.

Question: What is the difference between generic milk and organic? Is the quality exactly the same? Is it better for growing kids?

Answer: In terms of quality, safety and nutrition, there’s no difference between organic and regular milk.

Both organic and regular milk contain the same combination of nutrients, including three of the five nutrients that the 2005 Dietary Guidelines identified as “nutrients of concern” for children – calcium, magnesium and potassium (other two are vitamin E and fiber). These nutrients play important roles in overall health and disease prevention, yet most children aren’t getting enough of them. Whatever milk variety parent offers their child(ren), they should feel good that it is a healthy choice.

Milk Production

Whether producing regular or organic milk all dairy farms and plants must meet stringent federal and local regulations to ensure safety. In fact dairy foods are among the most regulated foods in this country. The difference is that organically produced dairy foods must meet the additional requirements of USDA's National Organic Program. These include, among other things, requirements that farmers use only organic fertilizers and pesticides, and do not give their cows antibiotics or supplemental hormones. Dairy foods can be labeled “USDA Organic” only if all of the USDA certification criteria are met.

Leading Health Organizations Take

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the American Dietetic Association (ADA) affirm that conventionally produced food is equally safe and nutritious as organically produced food. The UK’s Food Standards Agency (similar to the FDA in the U.S.) has also concluded that organic and conventional milk are equally healthy. (www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/pubs/faq/BuyOrganicFoodsB.shtml, www.eatright.org/About/Content.aspx?id=10606 and www.food.gov.uk/news/newsarchive/2006/sep/organicmilkresponse)

Question: What about the hormone controversy? Is all U.S. milk really hormone free?

Answer: Hormones
All cows have a natural protein hormone (bST) that helps them produce milk. Some
dairy farmers choose to supplement their cows' bST to boost milk production,
helping to ensure a plentiful milk supply. Extensive studies have concluded that the
milk from these cows is the same wholesome product that we have enjoyed for
generations. This has been affirmed and reaffirmed by the FDA, among other
leading U.S. and international health organizations. A 2008 study in Journal of the
American Dietetic Association analyzed the composition of organic milk, milk labeled
rbST-free” and regular milk, and found that the label claims were not related to any
meaningful differences in milk composition.

-NewsAnchorMom Jen

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