Navigating the grocery store can be overwhelming. Especially when you are trying to choose healthier choices. Let’s take a closer look at milk. Conventional, organic, raw, pasteurized, whole, how do you choose? I grew up on a dairy farm. Back then, we didn’t think about organic, non-GMO, grass-fed, and all the terms we hear today. We learned a lot about farming and milking. Over the past few years, I’ve learned much more about what is in our food, how it’s processed, and what all these terms mean.
I remember when I was a kid in the backcountry of Idaho, we had many friends and neighbors that owned dairies. You could drive up and down the country roads and see dairies everywhere. As I got older, things began to change. Many dairies went out of business. They sold their cows, and the barn and pens felt like ghost towns. Bigger dairies began to replace all these little dairies.
Then came the growth hormone rbGH (sometimes called rbST), a synthetic recombinant bovine growth hormone given to cows to help them produce more. My dad was still in the dairy business at this point. He was holding out as one of the last small dairies around us. I remember he took using the growth hormone very seriously. He researched and thought hard about what the best choice was. He opted not to use it and stayed in the business for a few more years. He has since sold out and now works for a small local company that produces milk instead.
As I began my journey as a certified natural health consultant, learning about nutrition was something I took to heart. Dairy is one area that I see clients react to often. So let’s talk about what all these terms mean.
Conventional dairy may be the cheapest route, but what are you giving up to buy cheaper milk? You may have added hormones, pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, antibiotics, and less nutrition and enzymes needed to help break down the milk in your system.
The standard for pasteurization is to heat the milk to at least 160˚F (71˚C) for at least 15 seconds. Doing this rids it of any pathogens that it may carry and prevents people from becoming sick. Organic ultra pasteurizes at 280˚F (138˚C) for 2-4 seconds. Some believe this kills all the good and bad and therefore opt to use raw milk instead of a local dairy.
Raw milk can either be organic or not certified organic. Organic raw milk can mean a higher price tag even though it tastes amazing! It is good to know where your milk comes from. It takes a lot to become certified as organic. A local farmer can have delicious milk with high-standard practices on their farm. You may find their milk is more organic than you think but haven’t opted to get the label. Do some research. You may find it to be a bit cheaper.
Organic means the milk comes from cows that eat feed that does not contain pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. They tend to be grass-fed. The cows do not receive growth hormones or antibiotics. It is probably your cheapest choice.
Homogenizing changes the structure of the milk so that the fat doesn’t separate after it is bottled. It also allows the producer to pull out the fat and give you what you know of as 2%, 1%, or skim milk. These have a higher sugar content than whole milk because the fat is adjusted. Heavy cream is in the best form and makes it easier to digest for some.
So which milk do you purchase? You buy the one that works best for your family and your budget. What are your priorities? Do you want raw milk? Then find a local farmer. You can choose organic or find someone that has the standards you prefer. Maybe you choose organic because you always get milk at the grocery store. It’s cheaper and simple. That’s great. We do all three. It just depends on what I want it for and where I’m at when we need more milk.
Where do you buy your milk?