Organic milk costs a good deal more than ordinary milk in most stores—but I can show you below that it is worth the extra cash.
Today’s dairy cows endure cycles of artificial insemination, pregnancy and birth, and mechanized milking for 10 out of 12 months. This overburdens the cows, who are considered “productive” for only two years and are slaughtered for hamburger when their profitability drops, typically around their fourth birthday, a small portion of their natural lifespan. This is sad.
My main reason that we switched to organic milk only in our house was that turning dairy cows into milk machines has led to epidemics of so-called “production-related diseases,” such as lameness and udder infections, the two leading causes of dairy cow mortality in the United States. We all remember the Humane Society of the United States investigation showing sick and crippled dairy cows being beaten and dragged into the California dairy cow slaughter plant en route to the national school lunch program, triggering the largest meat recall in history.
Because of the udder infections in the U.S. dairy herd, the dairy industry continues to demand that American milk retain the highest allowable “somatic cell” concentration in the world. Somatic cell count, according to the industry’s own National Mastitis Council, “reflects the levels of infection and resultant inflammation in the mammary gland of dairy cows,” but somatic cells are not synonymous with pus cells, as has sometimes been misleadingly suggested. Somatic just means “body.” Just as normal human breast milk has somatic cells—mostly non-inflammatory white blood cells and epithelial cells sloughed off from the mammary gland ducts—so does milk from healthy cows. The problem is that many of our cows are not healthy.
According to the USDA, 1 in 6 dairy cows in the United States suffers from clinical mastitis, which is responsible for 1 in 6 dairy cow deaths on U.S. dairy farms. This level of disease is reflected in the concentration of somatic cells in the American milk supply. Somatic cell counts greater than a million per teaspoon are abnormal and “almost always” caused by mastitis. When a cow is infected, greater than 90% of the somatic cells in her milk are neutrophils, the inflammatory immune cells that form pus. The average somatic cell count in U.S. milk per spoonful is 1,120,000.
So how much pus is there in a glass of milk? Not much. A million cells per spoonful sounds like a lot, but pus is really concentrated. The average cup of milk in the United States would not be expected to contain more than a single drop of pus. EWWWWWWW. If drinking pus is not enough to sway you, I have included a few more handy facts about ordinary vs organic milk.
Get Longer Shelf Life
One big advantage organic milk has over regular milk is its shelf life: most brands of organic milk are sterilized at very high temperatures (around 280 degrees F), so it can keep for up to two months.
Because regular pasteurized milk is heated to only 165 degrees F or lower, it doesn’t have the same shelf life. On the other hand, high-temperature sterilization can make milk sweeter—something that may be a plus or minus, depending upon your preferences.
If you’re concerned about milk going bad in your refrigerator, organic milk might actually save you money. Alternatively, you can buy non-organic milk that has been sterilized at high temperatures.
Drink up Extra Nutrition
While ultra-high-temperature processing can have a negative impact on some nutrients, researchers find that organic milk does have a high level of omega-3 fatty acid. Omega-3 can be found in many foods and taken as a supplement. Studies show that Omega-3 can reduce cardiovascular disease, improve neurological development and function, and strengthens immune function.
Two products— bovine growth hormone and antibiotics—are said to be found in regular milk but not in organic milk.
It’s quite true that organic milk comes from cows that have never been given these drugs, which means that organic milk is guaranteed to be free of any residue.