Pros and cons of organic milk: is the up charge worth the cost?

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As veterinarians we are often asked questions about food safety and organic food sources. The question usually ends up, " is the up charge for organic really worth the expense?". I have always felt that this is a multi- layered, complex question, worthy of discussion. 

In Todd county, we are blessed to have a large number of dairies in operation; within thirty five miles of Elkton, there are 17, small, Amish dairies that sell organic milk. For a complete list, click on the link below:

http://www.organicvalley.coop/who-is-your-farmer/index/

Admittedly, we do very little work for these dairies, but the principles of organic dairy farming will be discussed here. 

There are a few items that make organic milk appealing to most consumers:

#1. Organic milk is more healthy for their family because it doesn't contain antibiotics.  

#2. Organic milk tastes better than normal milk.

#3 organic milk is better quality because it has a longer shelf life. 

#1 So does normal milk contain antibiotics? No!

If our milk contained antibiotics, we as veterinarians would be in big trouble. Each load of milk is tested for antibiotics before it is allowed to enter our food chain. We have milk inspectors and veterinarians overseeing the process to make sure that we continue to have the safest milk in the world. So sleep easy, Todd County, on this one, we have you covered. 

#2. So why does organic milk taste different?

Most organic dairies raise their cattle on grass. I have worked for a grazing dairy for some period of time now, and I can tell you that cattle on grass make better tasting milk. It has a richer and more distinct taste than the milk of most confinement dairies. This, of course, is my opinion, but if you are ever curious to taste the difference, check out our friends' at Hatcher Family Dairy and see for yourself. 

http://www.hatcherfamilydairy.com/FAQ.aspx

#3 why does organic milk have a longer shelf life than regular milk? 

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/experts-organic-milk-lasts-longer/

check out the above article for more details on the answer. To be brief, organic milk is basically sterilized instead of just pasteurized. Organic creameries submit their milk to ultrahigh temperature processing, which removes all good and bad bacteria from it, thus greatly prolonging shelf life. It also makes the milk taste differently because it carmelizes some of the sugars naturally found in the milk. Some people find this offensive and claim that organic milk has a burnt taste. I personally can't taste the difference between normally pasteurized milk and ultra high temperature pasteurized milk. 

In conclusion, this article is to give you the facts on why organic milk may be different than normal milk. Non of the above items actually certify the milk organic, but are simply different steps in the processing chain that organic dairies use. Being organic simply means that no hormones,antibiotics, or pesticides can be used on the farm. So you decide for yourself, is organic really worth the added cost?

Thanks for reading, check our website for more information about us and what we do. 

www.toddcountyanimal.com