Get off your horse and drink your milk.
– John Wayn
Is Organic Milk Worth the Extra Price?
Got Milk? Actually, it is getting hard to answer yes to that question. We have a one year old who needs his milk, but in the last few weeks I’ve had bad experiences buying it for him. In a major Canadian city, two supposedly high quality food chains have been selling milk past its due date. I really need to pay more attention 🙁
Anyway, I started thinking about milk and what our options are. What is organic milk, and is it worth the extra cost?
In Canada, all milk goes through similar processes before being sold to the public. These processes include pasteurization, homogenization, and fortification.
According to this article in the Globe and Mail, organic milk and regular milk are pretty much the same in terms of nutrition. They are both good sources of calcium, magnesium, vitamin A, riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin B12, and vitamin D. In Canada, milk is fortified with vitamin D. Skimmed milk and partly skimmed milk are also fortified with vitamin A. Milk that contains higher fat levels does not need to be fortified with vitamin A. Vitamin A is fat soluble and so high fat milk already contains sufficient quantities (see nutrition charts).
Pasteurization is the standard preservation method for milk. There are two methods of pasteurization. The first method, “low temperature, long time”, heats the milk to 145°F (63°C) for at least 30 minutes. The second method, “high temperature, short time”, is apparently more common. Here, the milk is heated to about 160°F for at least 15 seconds, and then cooled rapidly. In both cases, the milk is heated to kill most bacteria.
Now, I have seen many questions posted on the internet asking why organic milk has a longer shelf life than regular milk. What I’ve found is that there is another method of preserving milk. Ultra high temperature (UHT) processing heats the milk to 280°F for 2 to 4 seconds, killing all bacteria. When the UHT process is used, milk does not need to be refrigerated before opening and has a longer shelf life than milk in ordinary packaging.
Milk is homogenized to prevent the butter fat or cream from floating to the top. Homogenized milk means that the fat has been broken up into very small pieces and equally distributed throughout the milk. In Canada, we generally call non-reduced fat milk homogenized milk, but in fact, almost all milk sold (including reduced fat milk) is homogenized.
Organic vs Non-Organic:
Milk termed organic means that the farmers fed the cows with crops grown without pesticides. However, even on conventional farms, field crops used to feed cows have low pesticide residue.
On both organic and non-organic farms, cows with infections are given antibiotics. On a conventional farm, the milk from the treated cow is discarded for the period of time that the cow has been on the antibiotics and the time it takes for the antibiotic to leave the cows system. On an organic farm, once a cow requires antibiotics, it’s milk is never sold.
Hormones (such as recombinant bovine growth hormone) are illegal in Canada. So, organic or non-organic makes no difference in this case.