It happens almost every day. I pull up my Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest and there it is, someone has posted an article, blogpost or something else related to milk and nutrition.

Sadly, a good majority of the information concerning milk is negative or incorrect.

When I start to dig into the reasoning behind what has been posted, I find that people are just trying to understand and make healthy choices for their family.

However, time and time again they are making their choices from articles based solely on opinion or unsupported facts. Most of the articles are one-sided and causing them to fear milk (silly, I know – but it’s happening.)

As a dairy producer, I am finding it my responsibility to educate and defend our industry. I try and teach those around me, whether they are neighbors, friends, family or only cyber friends, a little bit about where milk really fits into our lives.


We live in a world of mass information, and it can be complicated to try and find the truth. I thought it would be helpful to share a few facts so you can be ready to respond if you are also finding yourself in the same situation I keep finding myself in:


What’s the difference between organic milk and regular milk?

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.


Is organic milk safer than regular milk?

No. Strict government standards ensure that regular milk is just as pure, safe and nutritious as organic milk. According to the USDA and the American Dietetic Association (ADA), conventionally produced food is equally as safe as organically produced food.


But doesn’t milk contain pesticides, antibiotics or hormones?

Both organic milk and regular milk are natural and pure. Stringent government standards that include testing all types of milk for antibiotic and pesticide residues ensure that both organic milk and regular milk are wholesome, safe and nutritious.

Label statements on organic milk refer to farm management practices, not to the milk itself. While organic dairy farmers use only organic fertilizers and organic pesticides, and do not give their cows supplemental hormones, the milk itself is no different from regular milk.

• Hormones are present naturally in all milk. While some dairy farmers use a supplemental hormone for their cows, the safety of this use has been affirmed and reaffirmed by leading national and international health and agricultural organizations over the past 15 years.

Carton to carton, bottle to bottle, there is no significant difference in the level of hormones in any milk.

• All milk is tested for antibiotics to ensure it meets the government’s stringent quality and safety standards, so you can be assured that both organic and regular milk are free from antibiotics.

• It’s important to note that dairy cows are not routinely treated with antibiotics. If a cow develops an illness, both organic and conventional dairy farmers would treat the cow with the same antibiotics.

The cow is taken from the milking herd, treated and is not put back into the herd until her milk tests free of antibiotics. On an organic dairy farm, upon treatment, that cow would permanently exit the herd.

• On both organic and conventional dairy farms, every tanker load of milk is strictly tested for antibiotics. Any tanker that tests positive – and this is extremely rare – is disposed of immediately, never reaching the public.

• The most recent FDA data available (2003) indicate that all of the milk tested was found to be completely free from pesticide residue. And when looking at the last 10 years of FDA data, milk and milk products consistently contained the lowest amount of pesticide residues when compared to other agricultural products.


How do I help support small family farms?

There are large and small farms in both the regular and organic categories. The vast majority of U.S. farms, big and small, are family-owned and operated.


Which milk is fresher, regular or organic?

Dairy farmers and processors work hard to provide fresh milk – organic and regular – to the marketplace. Most milk is delivered to stores within a few days of milking.


Can drinking raw milk prevent or cure any diseases, such as asthma, allergies, heart disease or cancer?

No. There are no health benefits from drinking raw milk that cannot be obtained from drinking pasteurized milk free of disease-causing bacteria. The process of pasteurization of milk has never been found to be the cause of chronic diseases, allergies or developmental or behavioral problems.


Does pasteurization change milk’s nutritional benefits?

No. Many studies have shown that pasteurization does not significantly change the nutritional value of milk and dairy products. All of the nutritional benefits of drinking milk are available from pasteurized milk without the risk of disease that comes with drinking raw milk.


Is it true that raw milk has more enzymes and nutrients than pasteurized milk?

While it’s true that the heating process of pasteurization does inactivate some enzymes in milk, the enzymes in raw animal milk are not thought to be important in human health.

Some nutrients are somewhat reduced in raw milk, but the U.S. diet generally has plenty of other sources of these nutrients. For example, vitamin C is reduced by pasteurization, but raw milk is not a major source of vitamin C.

Over the last few years as I have discussed these topics with my friends, I have come to one conclusion. All we as producers can do is educate and then listen. Feelings about milk seem to be a little bit like religion: Everybody has their own beliefs, and we just have to try and respect that and get along. PD


Holly Hull

Dairy Producer
Preston, Idaho