To buy organic milk or not?

organic-cows.gifMy column in Sunday’s Accent section of the Savannah Morning News garnered more emails than I expected. I wrote about the question an increasingly number of parents face on each milk run: to buy organic milk or not?

Do we dole out extra bucks on organic milk and risk finding out from future medical studies that organic milk is no more healthy than conventional milk? Or do save our dollars by buying regular milk and risk finding out from future studies that we were harming our children by giving them regular milk when organic was available?

Several organic dairy farmers weighed in after my column was published. Most sounded similar to the response of Lyle Edwards, a thoughtful 32-year dairy farming veteran who spent the last five years farming organically at Spring Brook Farm in Vermont: “Since I switched my cows to organic, the cows have less health problems than they did when I was farming conventionally.”

Edwards said organic is the best choice. He calls rBST-free milk “a big rip-off to consumers.” Such milk isn’t organic, but instead referred to as “organic light” because it comes from cows not given the bovine growth hormone. An increasing amount of store-brand milk is rBST-free milk. Hormone-free milk isn’t officially organic because it doesn’t meet all the requirements and doesn’t cost as much to produce.

“They still use other hormones such as lutalayse, GNRH and oxytocin, plus hundreds of other practices that are not allowed organically, such as docking tails and the use of confined animal feeding operations.”

Still, if it comes down to buying rBST-free milk (because you can’t afford organic) or conventional milk, isn’t hormone-free milk a better alternative to regular milk?

Lyle counters: “The difference between rBST-free milk and regular is very little. The differnce between regular milk and organic milk is wider than the Grand Canyon. Remember, rBST-free milk isn’t the same as “hormone-free” milk because farmers still administer hormones other than rBST.”

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