When it comes to food I would say, for the most part, our family stays pretty healthy. We eat most meals at home. Our menus vary enough so that we’re careful not to eat too much red meat or fatty foods. Dinners typically include a vegetable or a salad, and a large bowl of fresh fruit sits center table in our kitchen. Plus, the four of us probably go through a gallon and a half of milk a week. Sounds like we’re doing a lot of things right, right? Well that depends on how you define “doing a lot of things right.”

Truth is, I am terrible at reading food labels or knowing which ingredients, hormones or acronyms to avoid. Blue 1, yellow 5, BHA and BHT, BVO, saturated fats, polyunsaturated fats…say what? I am a very simple grocery shopper (I cannot even keep up with coupons) so asking me to stay current with that kind data along with my crappy crayon-scribbled grocery list is unfathomable. But when it comes to milk – a basic dietary staple and one that we consume a lot – you’d think finding the healthiest variety should be simple. That’s what I thought, and now I’m worried I missed the boat.

Recently, a friend of mine told me that as much as she would love to go all-organic with her family’s diet, it’s just not realistic with their budget. But ever since she became a mom (nearly nine years ago) she has stuck with organic milk and has never wavered. Like us, her family consumes a lot of milk and she feels that by buying only organic milk she’s at least making a difference. For instance, we’ve all heard how certain processed foods and antibiotics can trigger the onset of early puberty in young girls, right? Well she firmly believes that drinking organic milk from a very young age can help slow that process.

As I sat and listened to all the reasons why nothing other than organic milk is best, my mind started to race. OMG I am an idiot. I have a young girl. I “blossomed” early, remember this post? My daughter is nearly nine years old – only two school-years-shy of where I was in that post. All  this time I never considered going organic because of the higher prices, but I didn’t consider buying just organic milk! It’s not that much more expensive than conventional milk. We’re talking some change, not several dollars. How could I not have been more savvy about that? Am I a terrible mom? Have I completely missed the boat?

So of course I came home and quickly researched the pros and cons of organic milk. And once again – just like all those labels, acronyms and hormones – I am completely confused. Is organic milk all that? Or is it hype? I wanted to write a post on this topic as a non-health professional – just one mom relating to other moms – so we can share our maternal (not clinical) opinions.

Below are the pros and cons of what I discovered. Let us know what you think. Which views, in your opinion, are justified? Is your family all-organic, somewhat-organic, or not-at-all-organic? Why or why not?

Views on Why Organic is Best

“Organically reared cows, which eat high levels of fresh grass, clover pasture and grass cover silage, produced milk which is on average 50% higher in vitamin E (alpha tocopherol), 75% higher in beta carotene (which our bodies convert to vitamin A) and two to three times higher in the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthine than non-organic milk… In addition, we found higher levels of omega 3 essential fatty acids.” ~ Jacob Nielsen, PhD and Tina Slots, Danish Institute of Agricultural Sciences

“(Non-organic) Dairy farmers inject cows with genetically-engineered cow growth hormones to boost milk production by about 10 percent..Cows treated with these synthetic hormones often become lame, infertile, and suffer from inflamed and infected udders…Humans, who consume these cows byproducts, are in no better shape…The milk is supercharged with IGF-1 (insulin growth factor -1), which has been linked to breast, colon, and prostate cancer…” ~ Shape magazine

“The ‘USDA Organic’ label means that cows may not be treated with bovine growth hormone (BGH) to increase milk production…Organics cannot come from cows being treated with antibiotics. If a cow in an organic herd does need to be treated with antibiotics due to illness, she is not returned to the herd for 12 months…Organics comes from cows that eat feed without pesticides. USDA reports show that non-organic milk may contain low levels of certain pesticides that come from the cows feed.” ~ www.family-health-and-nutrition.com

Views on Why Conventional Milk is Best

“There is no difference between organic and regular milk. Both contain the same unique package of nutrients that makes dairy products an important part of a healthy diet. An 8-ounce serving of organic or regular milk offers the same amount of nine essential nutrients, including calcium, vitamin D and potassium…Strict government standards ensure that regular milk is just as pure, safe, and nutritious as organic milk…”~ National Dairy Council

“‘Organic milk’ refers to the process by which it was produced, not to the product itself. Organically-produced and conventionally-produced milks are identical in their composition, nutritive characteristics, taste, purity and safety attributes. Organic production methods aim at recycling resources and promoting biodiversity, and these aims are valued by some consumers. However, all milk – regardless of how it was produced – must meet the same strict standards for content, wholesomeness and product safety. Marketing claims that organic milk is different from, and better than, conventionally produced milk have not been scientifically substantiated.” ~ Washington Dairy Products Commission

“BGH is a protein hormone (found in conventional milk) which means if we do ingest it, our digestive tracts will destroy it…Conventional herds that do receive antibiotics have their milk routinely tested to ensure the milk has no antibiotic content. So, no milk purchased in the United States should have any antibiotics in it…Pesticides, while there are trace amounts found in regular cow’s milk, are at levels far below what has been established as tolerable for humans.” ~www.family-health-and-nutrition.com