Making Sense of the Milk Moo-stery

| October/November 2007

Despite its neutral (some would say delicious) flavor and docile, decidedly uncontroversial original source, milk has, in recent years, become a divisive subject. Doctors, organic farmers and industry officials engage in heated debates about whether Americans really need to drink milk at all, and, if so, how much and what kind of milk is healthiest.

Many of today's dairy cows are injected with a genetically engineered growth hormone known as rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone). Organic farmers and other skeptics assert that this milk poses health risks to humans. Among the purported possible side effects: an increased chance of colon, prostate and breast cancer.

The developers of the hormone disagree, stating that milk from cows injected with artificial hormones is no different than milk from untreated animals. The FDA approved rBGH in 1993, though it is banned in both Canada and the European Union.

The hormone is used to make cows more productive; rBGH increases production unnaturally by as much as 10-15%. This strain on the cows often leads to udder infection.

If you're nervous about purchasing milk from hormone-injected cows, here are other options:

Buy local or regional milk
The easiest way to know the content of your milk is to get it from a nearby farm where you can ask the producers how they raise their cows. A simple way to do this is through an independent grocer or cooperative ? find organic farms, restaurants, and stores near you at and As an added bonus, local milk usually tastes better because it hasn't been ultra-pasteurized. Ultra-pasteurization heats milk to a much higher temperature than pasteurization alone, and as a result can be stored for weeks longer. The consequence, however, is a product that is notably less tasty.

Of course, for a really fun time, you could raise your own dairy cow.

Stick to organic milk
Choose organic milk and you'll avoid added hormones and antibiotics. In addition, you can relax knowing that the cows have been given a diet entirely free from animal byproducts. Be sure to look for the green and white certified USDA organic label. One great option is the brand Organic Valley, a farmer owned co-op of over 1,100 family-owned farms.

Give the cows a break
Sheep and goats make milk, too, and they are often easier for lactose-intolerant individuals to digest. At the very least, try goat cheese before you shun the milk of non-mooing animals.

Try plant-based milks
Soy, almond and rice milks are lactose-free alternatives perfect for people avoiding milk. They are available in a number of varieties and flavors, but, as always, you should remain aware of the energy cost and practice behind the product you choose. Make sure to buy organic plant-based milk to avoid drinking genetically engineered milk. The organic standards prohibit the use of GMOs (genetically modified organisms).

Have you found your perfect milk source? Do you think soy is the solution? Share your comments in the field below.
6/25/2008 5:32:36 PM

Be very careful with SOY products, though all natural, sure, they are known to cause major health problems, especially in children. It can cause early puberty, breast diseases, and prostrate problems,as well as cancer in these areas. Asians do not consider SOY a super food, it is eaten like ketchup over there. Not on or in everything, but a condiment for certain foods. In small amounts it can be very benificial, but we should not be replacing other valuable foods for this food which was meant to be eaten in small amounts. Just like certain herbs that are benificial can cause problems and even death if you take too much, so can soy. For more information you can visit and learn about it, and other things that cause such problems.

debra taylor_3
2/10/2008 5:47:42 PM

I have attempted numerous times to order the Whole Foods and Cooking E-Handbooks by clicking on the order now link. Each time I get a security warning. How do I go about learning more about this book?

turquoise prater
11/28/2007 12:00:00 AM

I was raised on raw milk, raw cheese, raw butter and homemade yogurt & kefir. Cow's milk made up about 70% but we did milk goats and sheep. Both the goat & sheep milk was used in the raw form only. I was a horse trainer starting at the age of 9 and worked & played hard at my trade. I never had colds, flu nor any contagious illnesses. I left home to work in Fairbanks, Alaska. There was no raw dairy available. The taste of pasteurized dairy was horrendous and there was no life in the products. I came down with a life threatening case of double pneumonia. When I was able to travel, I moved back to my home state and back onto all raw dairy and my health improved at once and within 6 months my lungs were strong and healthy again.

teri reinhart
10/31/2007 12:00:00 AM

Factory dairy farms are not checked often enough. Mastitis has GOT to be a problem with that many cows in that small of an matter how many antibiotics are used. I, personally can not stomach the thought of pus milk. I switched to organic dairy products and still cut WAY back on our consumption a year ago.

km anderson
10/27/2007 12:00:00 AM

Quitting milk and cheese has "cured" my constant colds/sinus problems.Milk products are frequently hidden ingredients in many common foods, so it's difficult to give it up completely. I do "cheat" occasionally.By cutting out dairy products from my daily eating, my "nasal allergies" and "colds" have all but gone away. I used to constantly need drugs to keep from getting "all stuffed up". Since I've been dairy-free, I've only taken a few doses of Sudafed in the past year.

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