Making Sense of the Milk Moo-stery

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 www.eatwellguide.org and
www.localharvest.org. 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.