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The Heat is On – Pasteurized Organic vs. Regular Milk

Posted in Food Safety,Outbreaks & Recalls on July 25, 2018

These days, most of us have been taught to understand that organic products are always better for you than the regular stuff. Allegedly, organic produce is cleaner and not coated in pesticides, organic chips are healthier than nonorganic chips, organic milk builds strong bones while nonorganic milk clogs your organs. Organic milk is “free” of antibiotics and other scary things that farmers give their cattle to fend of disease. Organic milk has better nutrients (somehow) and is better for the environment (allegedly). But have you ever actually researched the products labeled “organic” to see what is actually so great about them? Have you ever looked into why organic milk is “better” than nonorganic (conventional or regular – call it what you will)? Maybe it’s not so much better, after all!

Milk is one of the hottest debated products. In fact, Theresa Marquez, the mission executive at Organic Valley, told a reporter once that “milk is an emotional product.” We have, after all, held an attachment ot milk since the moment we came into this would screaming and gasping for air. It is no surprise it is near (and very dear) to our psyche. And for those who love their organic milk, they will fight to the death to prove it is the best milk to drink.

But is organic really better? Are you wrong for drinking conventional (regular) milk? Let’s take on these milks head to head (or rather utter to utter) to determine once and for all if organic milk is really that much better than regular milk.

The Heat is On – Milk versus Milk

If you are a typical reader of MakeFoodSafe, you already know our stance on raw milk. If not, the short answer is, it is just not worth the risk. Raw milk is unpasteurized milk and can harbor dangerous pathogens that can make someone severely sick.

But we are not talking about raw milk here. We are examining if pasteurized organic milk is any better for you than regular old pasteurized milk.

There are many different types of milk, ranging from lactose-free to flavored, from rBST-free to coconut, almond, or cashew. All milks provide different levels of fat and other nutritional aspects, allowing consumers to select their preferred milk product to suit their own nutritional needs or personal preferences. However, cup for cup, organic and regular milk actually contain the same nine essential nutrients: calcium, vitamin D, and potassium. This makes them both essential players in a healthy diet.

But wait, you ask. Doesn’t regular milk have antibiotics? Doesn’t it contain dangerous chemicals? Hasn’t it been stripped of its nutritional value? Isn’t organic milk better for you? No on all counts. Organic milk is not a measure of quality or safety of a product. Organic signifies the process that makes it organic—not the final product. Studies have found very miniscule differences in the fatty acid profiles of organic and regular milk, and even more research has revealed that there are no nutritional differences between organic milk, rBST-free milk, and regular milk.

Many people are under the impression that organic milk is produced without antibiotics while regular milk is not, but the truth of the matter is that both milks are antibiotic free. Every tank of raw milk is checked for any and all antibiotic residue before it is processed, and if any antibiotics are found, then the milk is rejected and not sold for human consumption.

According to the FDA,

The PMO requires a milk sample to be collected every time raw milk is picked up at the farm (also known as a “universal sample”). A milk sample is also taken when a truckload or bulk tank of milk arrives at a Grade “A” dairy plant for processing. Each arriving truckload of milk at the plant must be tested for the presence of at least four of six specific Beta-lactam drugs (penicillin, ampicillin, amoxicillin, cloxacillin, cephapirin, and ceftiofur).

If this bulk milk sample shows concerning results, each farm that supplied milk for that truckload will undergo mandatory testing. Universal samples collected at the farm level are typically only tested if the bulk tank of milk that arrives at the processing plant tests positive for drug residues.

But What about rBST?

“Synthetic bovine growth hormone is sometimes used by some farmers to help their cows produce more milk,” Karen Jordan, veterinarian and conventional dairy farmer in Siler, North Carolina explained to the Huffington Post. She assured that “the product has been in use for 20 years, and its safety has been affirmed and reaffirmed by government agencies in the U.S. and around the world.”

So, Which is Safer?

Both milks are equal in safety levels – as long as they are pasteurized. There is no advantage to purchasing organic milk over regular milk here, since neither contain harmful antibiotics, and since research shows that they are both equal in nutritional value, there’s really no benefit to purchasing organic milk. If you think about it, it could actually do more harm than good to keep purchasing organic milk thanks to the price increase! Think of the money you’d be able to save—even two to three dollars per week—if you opted for the regular, less expensive milks over the organic brand. While it doesn’t sound like much of a savings plan, after a year of buying regular milk instead of organic milk, you could save over $100. I’m sure you could find something to do with that!

The Winner?

So, what is the conclusion? Milk is one of the most highly regulated foods, making it also one of the safest foods available. Both regular and organic milk are routinely tested for antibiotics, pesticides, and other harmful substances. Milk—both regular and organic—must comply with very strict standards before making it to your grocery store for sale.  the most highly regulated and safest foods available. Both regular and organic milk are full of pure, safe, and nutritious attributes, making it one of the healthiest foods for your consumption.

Who wins? It doesn’t really matter. Since both are pretty much equal and excellent choices, and there is no nutritionally superior alternative, which kind will you choose?

By: Abigail Ryan, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)