Western Dairy-01Dairy foods are available in a variety of options and have always played an important role in health and wellness. There are many choices in the dairy case and one that stands out is organic or conventional milk options. Is there really a difference?

When it comes down to it, the difference between these two is farm management practices. The dairy farm families of Colorado, Montana and Wyoming make different choices every day for their cows, families, employees and communities. When a dairy farm chooses to be organic they are required to follow standards established by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for the organic label.

Dairy products are among the most regulated foods in this country and with the strict government standards ALL milk is wholesome, safe and nutritious. Food quality and safety are among the top concerns of consumers today, so let’s take a look.

Organic milk is better for you- FALSE

From a nutritional standpoint, organic and conventional milk are identical. All milk contains the same nine essential vitamins and minerals that make dairy foods an important part of your diet. In fact, there is no scientific evidence that organic milk is superior with regard to food safety or nutrition. As stated above, all milk is tested to the same stringent safety standards.

All milk except organic, contains antibiotics- FALSE

First and foremost, dairy cows are not routinely treated with antibiotics. If a cow develops an illness, both conventional and organic dairy farmers would treat the cow with the same antibiotic under close supervision of a veterinarian. On a conventional farm, during antibiotic treatment, the cow is removed from the milking herd until her milk is tested free of antibiotics. On an organic farm, the cow is removed from the herd completely once antibiotic treatment begins, usually, she is sold to a conventional dairy farm for the remainder of her life.

Milk is tested on-farm and upon arrival at the processing plant for traces of antibiotics – if at any point the milk tests positive, it is discarded and has no chance of reaching the store shelves.

Organic milk is hormone free- FALSE

All milk naturally contains small amounts of hormones. Bovine somatotropin (bST) is a protein hormone that occurs naturally in all cows. There is a synthetic copy of bST- called recombinant bovine somatotropin (rbST) – which some dairy farmers choose to use to increase their milk production. Health authorities such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have determined that milk from cows treated with rbST is both safe and nutritious. Plus, pasteurization destroys 90% of BST in milk, and the rest is made inactive during digestion.

Dairy farmers are committed to providing a safe, steady supply of dairy products. Dairy farmers and the dairy industry overall have a history of providing safe and healthy products. Whether people choose conventional or organic, they should feel good about consuming all varieties of milk, cheese and yogurt as part of a healthy, balanced diet.

Please visit Western Dairy Association to learn more about milk.