Healthy tips from a Registered Dietitian
Do you drink milk? It is one of the most nutritious drinks available (if you are not lactose intolerant or allergic to milk, of course) and widely available. My next question – do you select organic milk products like cheese and yogurt? As a dietitian and promoter of good, clean and sustainable foods and environments, I encourage others to select organic and natural products wherever possible – and especially those sourced from animals.
Sadly, as recent media has described, the organic dairy industry is in trouble. As with other higher priced foods and beverages, the impact of the recession has hurt organic dairy farms’ business. And, some research shows there is no nutritional benefit to choosing organic dairy products.
While a few years ago, many dairy farms opted to go organic in hopes for better profits and more animal and earth-friendly products, the tides have changed. Now farmers who went organic may be considering switching back to conventional practices. The reason stems primarily from the fact that fewer consumers are purchasing organic dairy products like milk, opting instead to buy conventional milk at a lower cost. And, it costs a lot to maintain an organic dairy – expensive feed (with rising costs) and maintenance appear to be hurting the industry, too. With everyone seeming to watch pennies these days, it is no wonder so many individuals choose to not afford the organic versions.
Despite the recession and research defending the health benefits of conventional dairy products, I still hope to encourage consumption of organic foods and beverages. In an attempt to convince some individuals to continue to purchase organic dairy (or switch over to it), listed below are some of the benefits of organic dairy products:
• Organic milk is sourced from cows given 100% organic feed. This means the milk is not exposed to dangerous synthetic pesticides or herbicides. Additionally, the feed cannot contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs), animal by-products, urea, manure or synthetic preservatives.
• By avoiding the use of dangerous chemicals on the land, organic farms help to nurture the land and reduce the amount of pollution entering the air, water, land and food.
• The farmland cannot contain sewage sludge.
• There can be no irradiation used to produce food or drink products.
• The cows are not treated with antibiotics or synthetic growth hormones. To note, however: conventional milk is regularly tested to ensure no trace amounts of antibiotics remain in the milk supply.
• Cows are treated more humanely, since they are given access to outdoors – fresh air and pasture. Although the time outdoors may be very small (depending on the dairy farm), it is better than nothing.
• Pasture-fed cows may produce milk containing naturally higher levels of CLA (a fatty acid beneficial to health).
• Many people (including me!) believe most organic dairy products taste better than conventional versions.
Perhaps we can help the organic dairy industry – small and large farmers alike. Look for brands like Organic Valley, Stonyfield Farm and Horizon Organic at the grocery store. Or, look for your grocery store’s own brand of organic dairy products. This will continue to promote our own health and well-being, while also promoting a healthy environment! Coupons and store sales offer ways to save money on these great products.