By Bob Condor

Milk has its share of detractors. Not exactly enough to balance out the seemingly endless “Got Milk?” campaign, but a significant number of American parents and natural food enthusiasts who simply deplore the use of hormones in raising cows. Mass-produced is not wholesome as much as chemical brew, they say.

So for about a decade now, anti-milk activists have been recommending that we drink hormone-free milk and preferably organic when possible. Maybe five or six years back, we hit a point in this country when daily consumption of organic milk reached about 1 percent.

“That’s when all of the mass producers decided it was financially smart to be marketing organic milk,” said one dairy executive who works for one of those mass producers. “One percent of the U.S. milk market is a lot of money.”

To their credit, Americans are now buying considerably more organic milk than one percent of all sales—exact percentages are hard to identify.

Now comes some validation: A new study from Newcastle University in the United Kingdom reports that grass-fed cows produce milk with higher levels of antioxidants and healthy fatty acids (omega-3s and conjuaged linoleic acid) than other types of milk, including organic brands that use feed rather than fresh pastures.

“Grazing dairy cows on grass or grass and clover produces milk not only with a healthier fatty acid profile but higher levels of fat soluble vitamins and antioxidants,” said Gillian Butler, who led the stydy as livestock project manager for the Nafferton Ecological Farming Group at Newcastle University.

Earlier research points to the greater nutritional potency in organic milk. The Newcastle findings indentify the fresh grass diet of grass and closer as the “major reason” for superiority of organic milk.

So now we not only want to eat grass-fed beef as meat-eaters; we also want to our kids and families to drink milk from grass-fed cows.<


The study is part of the ongoing Cross-European Quality Low Input Food project, which looks into animal health and welfare, milk quality, and working toward minimizing the use of antibiotics in dairy production. And what it also proves is Europe is now afraid to think sensibly and worry about its dairy lobbyists later—or never.

“This paper clearly shows that if you manage livestock naturally then it’s a win-win situation for both us and them,” says Professor Carlo Leifert, the Cross-European project coordinator.

Moreover, not all organic milk is treated equal. Natural food activists are working hard to expose industrial-scale organic dairies that milk thousands of cows daily and don’t pasture their cows to the standard of federal organic standards. For instance, the Wisconsin-based Cornucopia Institute has alleged that Aurora Organic Dairy, which provides private-label organic milk to Wal-Mart and Target, was found by U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors to be in “willful violation” of organic standards. Cornucopia also claims that Dean Foods’ dairy farms, which sells as the Horizon brand, doesn’t pasture cows to standards.

Cornucopia has published an informative report and scorecard ranking of all organic dairy brands on their web site:

“Bob Condor is the Daily Health Blogger for Barton Publishing. He is also the Living Well columnist for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He covers natural health and quality of life issues and writes regularly for national magazines, including Life, Esquire, Parade, Self, and Outside. He is a former syndicated health columnist for the Chicago Tribune and author of six books, including “The Good Mood Diet” and “Your Prostate Cancer Survivors' Guide.” He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and two 11-year-old kids.”