Organic Cow’s Milk: The Great Debate

Organic Cow’s Milk: The Great Debate

Should you care about drinking cow’s milk that is organic, hormone-free or antibiotic-free?

There are many things to consider when choosing the type of cow’s milk to drink. Is the motivation to buy organic milk for safety, quality, humane treatment of cows or to be healthy? Let’s discuss the meanings of these words to help you make an informed choice.  

The first thing we’ll need to do is understand the words organic, antibiotic-free and hormone-free, according to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) guidelines.

Antibiotic-Free

  • Cow’s milk does not have antibiotics.
  • The cow could have been treated with antibiotics, but they must be completely gone from the animal before it is used for milk or meat.
  • All milk is tested for antibiotics before it leaves the farm to ensure the safety of the milk.

Even if it does not say it on the label, all cow's milk is free of antibiotics when consumers drink it.

Hormone-Free

  • Cows are not treated with antibiotics.
  • Cows are not treated with hormones.
  • Cows must consume at least 30% of its diet from grazing in an organic pasture (organic grass land).
  • The rest of the cows’ feed must be organic.

The Choice is Yours

Organic cow’s milk is not necessarily more or less healthy than non-organic milk. Organic cow’s milk is usually more expensive, so the choice is yours.

Regardless if the milk is organic or not, it is an excellent source of protein, calcium, B-vitamins, and is fortified with vitamin D. Consumers should remember that all milk is safe to drink because it is regulated for safety by the FDA and USDA.

Coming soon: we will discuss the differences between cow’s milk and non-dairy alternatives. Is there really a best option?  

Written by: Abigail Johnson, TMH Dietetic Intern and Graduate Student at Florida State University

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