Conventional or Organic
The question still lingers on what type of milk to buy. The milk case is littered with more types of milk than anyone has time to sort through. Dietary needs help to dictate directly to those who must find a certain type of milk. However, if you can drink any type of milk, how can you possibly make the best decision about what is best for you and your family? The choices are endless, but for most, the decision about what to buy comes down to a simple few. Non-dairy, conventional dairy, or organic dairy milks. Non-dairy is a must for those who have nutritional needs, or for those who choose a particular lifestyle, such as a vegan.
The debate over organic and conventional milk is still heated and there are strong supporters for each side. A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, now the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics analyzed the composition of organic and conventional milk and found that there are few differences between the two. Hormone concentrations were higher in organic milk than in conventional. Recombinant bovine somatotropin (rbST), used for increasing milk production in cows, was extremely low in both organic and conventional, and did not differ between the two types of milk. The nutritional composition did not vary between milk types with the exception of protein. Protein in organic milk was slightly higher, 0.01%, over conventional milk.
Nutritional composition of milk, to include the quality of polyunsaturated fatty acids, depends greatly on the cow’s diet.
Raw milk is sold, through retail, in only a handful of states. In other states, raw milk is available directly from farmers. In 17 states, it is illegal to sell raw milk for human consumption. While raw milk may seem like a healthier option, there are many risks to drinking unpasteurized milk.
The advent of pasteurization in the 1920s helped kill many pathogens that can be present in raw milk. Pasteurization occurs when milk is heated to at least 161° F for slightly longer than 15 seconds. This helps to kill E Coli, campylobacter and salmonella, all of which can contaminate raw milk.
There has not been any scientific evidence to prove that raw milk is nutritionally superior to pasteurized milk. In fact, the analyses that have been accomplished show that they are nutritionally equivalent.
Consumption of raw milk or cheese from 1998-2011 has been responsible for 2,384 illnesses, 284 hospitalizations, and 2 deaths. The risk from unpasteurized products has led the majority of the national and international health agencies to recommend against the consumption of raw milk. Those that are especially vulnerable are pregnant women, children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.
The consumer’s decision for which milk to consume is ultimately a choice that is based on personal preference. Research has been conducted to aid the public in making the best decisions based on scientific evidence. All other facets, such as environmental footprint and sustainability are other factors that can be considered when making the final reach into the milk case.
Resources used for this article:
American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases and Committee on Nutrition. Policy Statement: Consumption of raw or unpasteurized milk and milk products by pregnant women and children. Pediatrics. 2014;133(1):175-9.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/rawmilk/raw-milk-questions-and-answers.html#related-outbreaks. Accessed July 16, 2014.
Forman J, Silverstein J. Clinical Report: Organic foods: Health and environmental advantages and disadvantages. Pediatrics. 2-12;130(5):e1406-e1415.
Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund. http://www.farmtoconsumer.org/raw_milk_map.htm Accessed July 16, 2014.
Vicini J, Etherton T, Kris-Etherton P, Ballam J, Denham S, Staub R, Goldstein D, Cady R, McGrath M, Lucy M. Survey of retail milk composition as affected by label claims regarding farm-management practices. JADA. 2008;108(7):1198-1203.