Is Organic Milk or Hormone Free Milk Worth It?

Lately my family and I have been buying organic milk. I have two children, 2 and 4. I rarely purchased organic milk before this year. I’ve wondered if buying it is worth it because of the cost especially since there are milks labeled “hormone free” on the market. Organic milk is sold at a premium versus nonorganic milk. Nonorganic whole milk retail prices for January to December 2010 averaged $3.24 a gallon while organic whole milk averaged $7.38 per gallon.

The reason I purchased organic milk this year is because I’ve been concerned about the added hormones and who knows what else that is in milk.  I’ve read articles that suggest that added hormones in all foods (not just milk) have impacted our nation’s children when it comes to early puberty. Apparently others think organic is the way to go also. Organic dairy products have experienced average annual sales growth of over 23 percent from 2000 to 2008, and in 2010 totaled approximately $3.9 billion in sales according to the National Organic Program.

The concern about nonorganic milk is that many cows in the United States are injected with recombinant bovine growth hormone (RbGH), also called recombinant bovine somatotropin (rbST). In many other countries, they have banned the use of RbGH, unlike here in the United States.

I’ve done some research and this is what I found. According to the USDA Department of Agriculture:

  • Organic milk must come from livestock that has not had growth hormones
  • No antibiotics
  • At least 30 percent of the food they eat must be grazed at pasture during a grazing season of at least 120 days
  • Has been fed organic
  • No meat or poultry by products can be in the feed

Due to the concern of added growth hormones, many grocery stores no longer carry milk that has added hormones. According to Phil Lempert, a grocery analyst, he says you can buy any store brand in the country and get the same nutritional value as organic milk without worrying about those artificial hormones getting mixed in. I’m not sure how true Mr. Lempert’s statement because I believe there are many stores out there that sell milk with the added RbGH. I don’t think all stores have jumped on the bandwagon to not sell hormone free milk.

You might find this report about organic milk very interesting that comes from the Office of Inspector General. The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service operates the National Organic Program (NOP). The NOP  was designed to develop, implement, and administer national standards governing the marketing of organic agricultural products and to assure consumers that such products meet consistent standards. The Office of Inspector General (OIG) initiated an audit to determine whether milk marketed as organic meets NOP’s standards.

Apparently the audit found some concerns. There were several findings make by the NOP. For example: We found that the workers responsible for sanitizing organic milk transportation tankers were following a pasteurized milk ordinance which permits the use of FDA-approved sanitizers without making any provisions for using NOP-approved sanitizers when sanitizing the milk transport tankers used in transporting organic milk. Because milk transporters are not NOP certified, the certifying agents can only validate that the milk transport procedures, which include the sanitation of the milk transport tankers, are included in the responsible party’s organic system plan. As a result, consumers purchasing organic milk have reduced assurance that their milk will not come into contact with NOP prohibited substances during the transportation phase in the chain of custody.

You can read more recommendations from the report here.

So after collecting all of this information, is organic milk or even hormone free milk worth it? I’m not sure. There is so much conflicting information and debate. I found this article on Huffingpost that suggests that hormone free milk is a gimmick, marketing term.

Here are some more resources that suggest it is not worth it:

http://classic.the-scientist.com/2007/2/1/34/1/

http://ac360.blogs.cnn.com/2008/04/09/got-milk-got-hormones-got-a-problem-with-that/

As of right now, I believe I will still purchase organic milk or milk that has the “hormone free” labels. I really love the taste of the organic milk we purchased at Costco. If you are interested in buying organic milk, you can find organic milk on Amazon.

What do you believe about the organic vs. hormone free vs. nonorganic milk debate?

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