Organic Milk – The Most Important Product a Family Can Buy

Written by Max Goldberg on January 16, 2012. Follow Max on Twitter: @livingmaxwell.

For people who are new to organic or have very limited financial means to buy organic, the one thing that I always say is the following:

The absolute number one priority in your household should be organic milk for your kids.

Even if a family thinks that organic food is out of their budget, organic milk cannot be compromised under any condition.

Organic milk is about the health of the kids, and that comes before everything else.

THE SERIOUS HEALTH RISKS OF HORMONAL MILK

Approximately 20% of the milk in the U.S. is hormonal milk. But what exactly is hormonal milk?

Hormonal milk is milk that comes from cows who have received a genetically-engineered hormone called Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH).

Animals receive this growth hormone for one simple reason: it will increase milk production for the farmer.

And while some very biased studies say there is no health risk of hormonal milk to consumers or the cows, I don’t buy it for one second.

Neither does Dr. Samuel Epstein, Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition and an international leading authority on the causes and prevention of cancer.

Dr. Samuel Epstein says these studies were not only paid for by Monsanto and others but their claims are “blatantly false.”

Author of several books, including What’s In Your Milk?: An Exposé of Industry and Government Cover-Up on the Dangers of Genetically Engineered (rBGH) Milk, Dr. Samuel Epstein warns that:

- rBGH makes cows sick. Monsanto has been forced to admit to about 20 toxic effects, including mastitis, when rBGH had been administered to cows to make them produce more milk.

- rBGH milk is contaminated by pus, due to mastitis (an infection of the udder commonly induced by the hormone), and also by antibiotics used to treat the mastitis.

- rBGH milk is chemically and nutritionally different than natural milk.

- Milk from cows injected with rBGH is contaminated by the hormone, traces of which are absorbed through the gut into the blood of people who consume this milk or products made from it.

-rBGH milk is super-charged with high levels of the natural growth factor (IGF-1), which is readily absorbed through the gut.

Excess levels of IGF-1 have been incriminated in well-documented scientific publications as causes of breast, colon and prostate cancers. Additionally, IGF-1 blocks natural defense mechanisms against early submicroscopic cancers.

NON-U.S. GOVERNMENTS SEE RISKS IN HORMONAL MILK

Cancer Prevention Coalition warnings of these risks in 1990 were endorsed by the National Family Farm Coalition, representing 30 organizations, and also by the Campaign Against rBGH, representing 10 organizations.

A 2007 Cancer Prevention Coalition petition to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “Seeking Withdrawal of the New Animal Drug application for rBST,” was endorsed by the Organic Consumers Association, Farm Defenders, and the Institute for Responsible Technology.

Nevertheless, the FDA has remained indifferent to these risks, in spite of longstanding Congressional concerns.

Unlike the U.S., other countries have not taken such a passive and indifferent stance toward hormonal milk.

The European Union, New Zealand, Japan, and Canada all have banned the use and imports of hormonal milk and dairy products in order to protect their citizens from IGF-1 hazards.

WHAT TO DO? BUY ORGANIC

As we have seen with recent stories about arsenic in apple juice and illegal fungicides in orange juice, consumers must take serious responsibility for the health of their families. And this means buying organic.

It is especially the case with milk because kids are consuming so much of it on a daily basis and it is a vital source of nutrition.

Furthermore, the bodies of children are still developing and are very susceptible to anything that is impure, synthetic or artificial.

Three action items here:

1) As I mentioned, make sure you are buying organic milk for your family.

Organic milk does not contain any synthetic growth hormones, and all feed that an animal receives is pesticide-free and organic.

2) Contact the school that your child attends and make sure they are not serving hormonal milk.

If it were me, I would start an aggressive campaign with other parents to get organic milk in the school.

3) Forward this post to anyone you know who may be buying conventional or hormonal milk for their families. We need to make sure that as many people as possible are aware as to what is really going on with our food supply.

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49 Comments

  1. What about non-organic milk that states they use no artificial or synthetic growth hormones? Would you still consider milk the number one organic choice above all others?

    I can’t afford complete organic right now but am doing my best to buy as much as I can and as smart as I can.

    Written by Ashley on January 16, 2012 @ 12:59 pm
  2. Dear Max,

    I am a dairy farm professional and have been associated with this field for the last more than 30 years. I agree with your comments one hundred percent. We need to however try and maximize the production of cows in the organic segment in a way that does not flout the cardinal fundamentals of organic milk. This would reduce the price of the product in the long run. Selective genetics, better quality fodder etc, would be the things to look at.
    Regards,
    Suhail khan.

    Written by Suhail Khan on January 17, 2012 @ 3:11 am
  3. Hi Suhail,

    Thanks for your comment. Could you please explain what specifically you are referring to here? –> “we need to maximize production of cows in the organic segment in a way that does not flout the cardinal fundamentals of organic milk” Do you mean it should be grass-fed?

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on January 17, 2012 @ 9:44 am
  4. Hi Ashley,

    The one issue you have is that you don’t know whether the animal is receiving organic feed or not, and that is important. Yes, they may not be getting growth hormone but does the feed contain pesticides? If it does, that will certainly impact the quality of the milk.

    Is hormone-free milk better than hormonal milk? Absolutely.

    You said that you are doing the best you can and as smart as you can. If you’re doing your best, that’s all that you can ask for.

    Thanks for your comment.

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on January 17, 2012 @ 9:54 am
  5. What about cheese? Does it need to be organic? Even at Whole Foods it is hard to find.

    Written by Jen on January 17, 2012 @ 8:40 pm
  6. Thanks for the help Max! Love your blog!

    Written by Ashley on January 18, 2012 @ 10:11 am
  7. Hi Jen,

    I put milk #1 because that is what kids consume the most of and I had to pick a product that is universally eaten by a wide range of the population. Furthermore, it is essential that kids are eating organic because their bodies are still developing.

    I understand that cheese, especially from small vendors, is hard to find organic. That said, I would call your preferred brands of cheese and ask them about the milk they are using to make the cheese to see if it is “clean”, i.e. hormone-free.

    That’s the best advice I can give you.

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on January 18, 2012 @ 5:36 pm
  8. Hi Ashley,

    Thanks so much for your kind words and for reading my blog. I really appreciate it!

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on January 18, 2012 @ 5:36 pm
  9. Hi! Unfortunately, here in Canada organic milk is expensive. It is approx $8-$10 for a 4L jug. I have 2 young boys who love milk. We buy a jug of milk almost everyday. That would not be affordable if it was organic:(

    Written by Tricia on January 22, 2012 @ 9:58 am
  10. What about RbGH free milk? Please comment on that. At over $6/gallon most families can not afford organic -

    Written by MomOfFour on January 23, 2012 @ 12:12 am
  11. Hi Tricia,

    The rising price of organic milk is a concern for everyone.

    If it were me, I would buy my kids less milk and make it organic. Another thing a person could do would be to slightly dilute it with water.

    I would absolutely not give my hormonal milk, even if it meant that I would only be eating one meal a day.

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on January 23, 2012 @ 12:13 pm
  12. Hi Mom of Four,

    Certainly rGBH-free milk is better than hormonal milk but the the feed that the animals are getting might not be organic or pesticide-free.

    You may want to call the milk producer and find out.

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on January 23, 2012 @ 12:17 pm
  13. Thanks very much for the info! My sister emailed me the link to this post because I moved to the States from Europe, not having been fully aware of what they do to food products here… I will definitely watch what kind of milk I buy from now on.
    I can imagine some families not being able to afford organic milk, but think about it, can they afford NOT to buy organic or at least non-hormonal?!
    We all need to be more conscious of long term effects. And if milk becomes something too expensive to drink by the gallon, then every kid in our family maybe only gets one glass a day, simple! There are a lot of things we need to cut down on when it comes to spending on luxury. Sadly, healthy milk has become a luxury product.

    Written by simona on January 23, 2012 @ 4:52 pm
  14. I already make it a point to buy rBGH-free milk. This article doesn’t state the improved benefits of organic milk vs. rBGH-free milk, just that rBGH milk is bad. Organic in general is better, but why esp. so in dairy, vs. hormone free? It doesn’t help that so much organic milk is -ultra pasteurized, which I’ve read takes all the good stuff out. And then there’s the raw milk debate, which gets me going in a tizzy even more.

    So many options, so much debate, cost/benefit ratios and availability all play into this.

    So until I know more about the benefits of organic vs. rBGH-free milk, I’ll stick with rBGH-free milk.

    Written by Mara on January 23, 2012 @ 10:22 pm
  15. Hi Simona,

    Yes, that is how I view it as well. I would rearrange my spending to make sure my kids were getting organic milk, even if that meant no vacations, no DVDs, no movies, etc. My kids would get fed organic, and other areas of spending would get sacrificed.

    Unfortunately, the price of organic milk only seems to be going in one direction — up.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on January 24, 2012 @ 10:40 am
  16. Hi Mara,

    I did not say that rBGH-free is bad but I prefer organic milk over rBGH-free milk. Why?

    With rGBH-free milk, there are no synthetic growth hormones but you don’t know what kind of feed the animals are getting. They very well could be getting feed that is genetically-modified or feed that contains toxic pesticides.

    As studies have shown in humans, (like this one http://www.gmwatch.org/latest-listing/1-news-items/13047-bt-toxin-found-in-blood-of-pregnant-women-and-fetuses ), insecticides which are sprayed on GMOs get passed on from the pregnant mother to the fetus.

    Therefore, one could assume that the toxins on the feed could end up in the animal’s milk.

    In my view, that is why organic milk is superior to rBGH-free milk.

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on January 24, 2012 @ 10:49 am
  17. I am a dairy farmer in NY. The vast majority of the farmers I know do not and have never used rbgh. It is very easy to get milk that’s labeled rbgh free in NY. I think you should be looking at the entire milkshed that produces the milk for your city. Here in the northeast we have a vast grasslands agriculture that our dairy farms have traditionally evolved on. This is a well-watered extensive grassland that dairy farmers use for grazing, hay and silage. 99% of the state’s dairy farmers are not certified organic. Our farm uses extensive grazing in spring, summer and fall. We have thought about going organic, but there is one rule we cannot live with. This is that if a cow is ever sick and treated with antibiotics even once, she must then be put into the auction ring. This generally means that she must be SLAUGHTERED. I do not want this for a beloved cow who is treated and then recovers. I say dump the milk, not the cow.
    As to grain feeding. Yes, we do supplement what the cows get with grain and no doubt some of it is GMO grain. However, the cost of the extra grain is phenomenal and prices rising all the time.
    Please look to your rural communities and ask what it takes to keep critical mass of farms needed to support rural businesses (machinery dealers, large animal vets, hardware stores, etc.) in the communities. Rural NY deserves your respect and support not the unending sneers that what we produce is somehow not good enough. As NY’s dairy farms have been hammered by low prices (due in part to NYC consumer groups breaking the backs of NY farmers collective bargaining efforts), so many farms have gone out of business, we now have 3,000,000 acres of empty farmland here (grasslands). yes, THREE MILLION. Go read Cornell’s report called “Green Grass, Green Jobs” for the details.
    If you want only the 1% of the farms who are certiifed organic, then turn your backs on the rest of the farmers. But please don’t weep when you drive upstate and see empty farms for miles and miles. Just drive on the NY Thruway once between Albany and Syracuse and look to your right and left and you will see what I mean. Barns falling down, families broken, large lot subdivisions, habitats fragmented and devastated little rural towns.

    Written by Lorraine Lewandrowski on January 24, 2012 @ 1:19 pm
  18. Any organic milk suggestions?

    Written by Tracy on February 6, 2012 @ 4:43 pm
  19. Hi Tracy,

    Stonyfield and Organic Valley are two excellent brands. Maybe there is a local, organic brand at your market that is very good as well.

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on February 7, 2012 @ 4:27 pm
  20. I really like Kalona Super Natural because it’s the only milk that I’ve found that’s gently vat pasteurized (145 degrees instead of 171+) and non homogenized, which preserves more of the nutrients. It’s sort of pricey ($3.50 for a half gallon), but their website has a coupon for 50 cents off, which helps. I’m also a big fan of raw milk, when I can afford the splurge (it’s $8 for a half gallon around here, which can be pretty cost prohibitive). The big problem that I have with many national Organic brands is that they’re still owned by the large conventional dairy producers that I’m trying to avoid.

    Written by Dorothy P on February 10, 2012 @ 12:40 pm
  21. We deliver and support RonnyBrook Dairy products. Their local farm uses the methods of a Closed herd, Grass fed, Free range cows. There are no growth hormones used and it is non homogenized- giving it a great creamline for your coffee! Go Organic

    Written by Rustic Roots on February 20, 2012 @ 11:14 am
  22. To Dorothy P: :You are absolutely right. Regular dairy farmers sometimes wonder why consumers get milk from OV when we keep reading of stories of some of the huge CAFO’s that they buy from. There was a story in the latest dairy newspaper talking about mega multi-thousand cow CAFO’s that supply some of their milk. They don’t mention this to anyone, but instead show the consumers pictures of happy family farms.

    Written by Farmer on February 20, 2012 @ 6:55 pm
  23. Everybody pretty much ignored what I, as a dairy farmer, had to say on here. So, if you all want to ignore the average dairy farmers who don’t use rbgh, who use antibiotics only for a sick animal and who live off of the beautiful grasslands of the northeast, then ignore me. 9 out of 10 beautiful dairy farms in the northeast were destroyed in my lifetime. Empty barns, empty farms everywhere in Upstate, NY. Cornell detailed some 3,000,000 acres of abandoned grazing lands in Upstate NY as of 2009. (Green Grass, Green Jobs report). Throw away the natural resources of your region, NYC, and push the family farmers from the land seems to be what is happening as dairy production moves to large scale farms of Texas and California. I just can’t fathom how it makes sense to destroy the farms close up to the millions of people of the Northeast Corridor who need to be fed: Food Security. Upstate NY and the Northeast are places of rural beauty that produce beautiful milk. Why can’t we be celebrated instead of spit upon?

    Written by NYFarmer on April 8, 2012 @ 2:46 pm
  24. Dear Max:

    Here in CA we have two dairies that are producing raw milk organically, ORGANIC PASTURES and CLARAVELLE FARMS. Both are outstanding; Claravelle has their milk in glass bottles.
    These products are far superior to organic pasteurized milk.

    In France, all the best cheeses are made from raw milk.

    Written by Douglas Gray on April 22, 2012 @ 10:33 pm
  25. Hi Douglas,

    Yes, many people have a strong preference for raw organic milk. http://livingmaxwell.com/farmageddon

    If not, I think you would appreciate its message.

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on April 23, 2012 @ 8:46 pm
  26. Dear Max,
    I discovered your website recently and am very interested in your articles. Regarding milk, I am French and when I traveled to the States for my work in 2005 I was horrified to read on bottles of organic milk that they are hormon free and many other “free”. I was thinking : “The other bottles don’t state anything so are they full of these ?” At this time my feeling was that the US organic match the French conventional but now, I am not sure.

    Anyway, what I would like to add to your excellent articles is : “Isn’t cow milk a great product for veals ?” Cow milk naturally contains growth hormones in order to grew up a veal, not a human being with a much more smaller body but a very different brain. I read so much frightening things about the milk industry that I stopped drinking cow milk. I replaced it with plant-based milk and now with raw nut and cereal milk. And I am feeling so much healthier. On the other hand I breastfed my daughter 2 year and am still breastfeeding my 1 year old boy. In my opinion if a human being drinks his mother milk as long as he needs to, then he does not need to drink any other animal milk.

    To Douglas : definitely the best French cheeses are made with raw milk. There is nothing comparable with the pasteurized one. Moreover they generally come from smaller farms. I used to love them…

    Thank you Max for this excellent site and your commitment.

    Written by Aurélie on July 10, 2012 @ 4:24 pm
  27. Hi Aurelie,

    Thanks so much for your kind words and insight.

    Ever since I started writing this blog and analyzing organic food from all over the world, it is clear that the governments in the EU care much more about health than our government does here. If ours did, we wouldn’t have such a big problem with GMOs, pesticides, and growth hormones.

    Again, I appreciate what you have said about my site very much.

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on July 10, 2012 @ 4:42 pm
  28. I cannot believe that you are promoting pasteurized dairy! Organic milk is better than non-organic but still not good for us. Organic dairy are almost never 100% grass-fed and given any grain will affect the CLA and Omega-3’s. Add the pasteurization and you have destroyed any of the health benefits.

    Are you afraid to promote raw milk with all its proven health benefits?

    For more information check out the Weston A Price website. You can also read “The Devil in the Milk” or check out http://www.RealMeatandDairy.com.

    Written by Gayle on July 16, 2012 @ 2:42 pm
  29. Hi Gayle,

    I know very well the Weston A. Price website and promoted heavily the movie Farmageddon.

    My agenda here is to promote organic. When raw organic milk is freely available in all 50 states, I’ll promote it then.

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on July 16, 2012 @ 5:20 pm
  30. Hey Max, what about pasteurization and homogenization? Even organic milk has to undergo these 2 processes to be sold in stores.

    Pasteurization denatures milk and makes the proteins un-digestable, while homogenized milk has been linked to heart disease.

    Isn’t raw, organic milk the only way to go?

    Written by Tyson Faulkner on August 8, 2012 @ 9:36 am
  31. Hi Tyson,

    That is what many people believe.

    Raw milk still has very arcane rules and laws, and not everyone can buy it easily or legally. My primary goal is to make sure that people are avoiding rBGH in milk.

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on August 8, 2012 @ 1:14 pm
  32. I would go a step further and encourage people to buy pastured organic milk. Most dairy cows are fed corn instead of grass. Grass is what keeps a cow healthy and contributes to healthy milk. Also, encourage milk drinkers to know where their organic milk comes from. Even some organic milk producing cows are never pastured but kept confined. My son asked me the other day about milk production (We drink almond and occasionally soy), He had visions of baby cows drinking mommy’s milk. I had to tell him that usually, the baby cows born to milkers are used for veal (and had to explain that process to him) and then momma cow is ready to have another baby so she can keep the milk flowing. He didn
    t think it was very fare especially since there are so many other ways to get the nutrients in milk.

    Written by tonya on August 21, 2012 @ 7:13 pm
  33. Hi Tonya,

    I agree that grass-fed organic milk is better but my goal is to first get people to switch to organic and realize that they should be drinking milk that doesn’t contain growth hormones. Also, finding grass fed organic milk is not that easily available for many people.

    Thanks for your input.

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on August 23, 2012 @ 10:05 am
  34. I live I southern VT bordering northeastern NY to the west and MA to the south Both of these states are a mere 3 mi. from me. We have a significant amount of CSA organic farms within a 20 mi. radius. It’s becoming common for farms to carry goods from other farms that produce various goods like meat, dairy, etc. I belong to a farm that does this. I buy milk there from a local organic dairy (VT). The milk is pastured organic. It is reasonably priced at $3 a quart. I also get 16 oz. containers of delicious and healthy skyr (plain and maple) for only $4. I agree with your idea of buying all one can this way. I find that the more important I consider something, the more able I am to find a way to afford it. I also like your idea of watering down the non-organic milk. I’d go a step further and say that unless the milk is organic it shouldn’t be served. Milk is not a necessary food and in its non-organic form has no health benefits but instead, is detrimental to health and should be avoided.

    Written by Halaluani Lowe on September 20, 2012 @ 5:40 am
  35. This a great web site. Anybody who knows where i buy raw organic milk in Houston

    Written by Steve on September 24, 2012 @ 10:37 am
  36. Thank you so much Steve!

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on September 26, 2012 @ 4:58 pm
  37. Hi there, just wanted to say that I try to buy as much organic as I can and sometimes if I am on a tighter budget, I try to stretch my dollar by adding clean water to my 4 kids whole organic milk, use our organic cheese sparingly and use more dried organic and bulk beans, and grains to add bulk and protein. Another thing that helps save money in my area, is buying organic, free range eggs from small farm stands. I live in a rural area and there are a few places to get them from within a 10 mile radius from my house. That way I can better afford the organic milk and cheese. Both of which I find very important as my kids love dairy.

    Written by rebecca on November 23, 2012 @ 7:45 pm
  38. Hi Rebecca,

    Thanks for sharing and I am glad that you are using as much organic as you can. Your kids will be very appreciative once they get older and know how critical it was for them to drink milk that doesn’t contain bovine growth hormones.

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on November 24, 2012 @ 1:19 pm
  39. You’re crazy. Calm it down and get real!

    Written by Laura on May 9, 2013 @ 1:05 am
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  46. Thanks for your great effort.
    I live in northern virginia. What organic milk (company) you will recommend for me?

    Written by Kamal on June 5, 2014 @ 11:26 am
  47. Hi Kamal,

    If you can find a small, local, organic producer, that is a great option. Also, bigger brands such as Stonyfield and Organic Valley are excellent ones as well.

    All the best,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on June 9, 2014 @ 8:48 am
  48. […] a previous post, I wrote that milk is the most important organic product that a family can […]

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