Organic Dairy Products Fact Sheet • Conventional and organic by po9383


                                                                  Dairy Products
                                                                Fact Sheet
           Midwest Dairy Association                                                                                
     America’s dairy farmers are dedicated to providing wholesome, high‐quality milk and dairy products. All milk in the U.S. 
      follows the same strict federal standards for quality, purity and sanitation. The difference between organically and 
                                      conventionally produced milk is in the process used.1 

Organic and Conventional Milk Production
•     Conventional and organic milk production is similar in many ways - animals are well cared for and proper
      attention to the environment is given.
•     According to the USDA, milk can
      only be labeled organic if it is from                                      Conventional      Organic
      cows that are exclusively fed organic
      feed, are kept in pens with adequate      Preventative Health Care for     Yes               Yes
      space, allowed periodic access to the     Animals
      outdoors and direct sunlight, are not
      treated with hormones or                  Antibiotics Used to Treat/Cure   Yes               No
      antibiotics. 2                            Animal Illness
•     It is hard to find clear evidence that    Milk Tested for Antibiotics and  Yes               Yes
      organics are better. Some studies         other Drug Residues
      have been suggestive, others
                                                Use of Synthetic Growth/         Yes               No
      ambiguous. In 1939, the agronomist
                                                Production Products Allowed
      Eve Balfour, one of the early leaders
      of the organic movement, split her        Source of Animal Feed            Conventional      Organic
      country estate into two plots,                                                               Only
      farming one organically and one
                                                Feed Products with Ruminant      No                No
      conventionally. After nearly 40
      years of study, she found no
      consistent or significant differences     Size of Dairy Farm               Any               Any
      between them in terms of nutritional
      value.3                                   Housing System                   Any               Any
•     Many factors influence the price of
      foods, including milk. Organic foods
      have higher prices than conventionally produced foods. One reason is due to the high cost to dairy farmers
      choosing to follow the standards that are required to receive the “USDA Organic” label.
•     Some people seek to support family farms by buying organic. In fact, data from the USDA show that more
      than 99 percent of all farms are owned by families.4 Furthermore, 91 percent are considered by USDA to be
      “small family farms,” with $250,000 a year or less in income.5 There are large and small farms in both the
      regular and organic categories. Organic farming has more to do with farm management practices than the size
      of the farm itself.

Nutritional Value
•     Both conventional and organic milk offer a powerful package of calcium and eight other essential nutrients.
•     When evaluating the health claims, research does not support a health advantage of organic over conventional
      milk for any segment of the population. 6
•     Despite any differences, a well-balanced diet can equally improve human health regardless of its organic or
      conventional origin.7

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Milk Safety
•    Strict government standards, including pasteurization, ensure that milk is pure, safe and nutritious. The
     American Dietetic Association (ADA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) confirm that
     conventionally-produced food is equally as safe as organically-produced food.8
•    No matter the type of farm, antibiotics are only given when necessary for a prescribed time to treat specific
     illnesses. The milk from cows undergoing treatment never reaches the food supply. During 2007, more than
     four million tests were conducted on milk samples to detect antibiotic or other drug residues in, with less than
     0.1% positive. Any milk testing positive was destroyed – never reaching the consumer market.9
•    All milk, including human breast milk, contains hormones that are digested just as other proteins are digested.
     While some cows are treated with hormones that are produced by biotechnology, known as bovine
     somatotropin (also called bST or rbST), studies show there is no significant difference between milk from
     cows that receive supplemental hormones and cows that don't. The safety of milk from cows treated with
     bovine somatotropin has been affirmed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), World Health
     Organization (WHO), American Medical Association (AMA), National Institutes of Health (NIH), American
     Dietetic Association (ADA) and regulatory agencies in 30 countries.10
•    In 2008, the Journal of the American Dietetic Association published findings from research that tested whole
     milk samples obtained from retail stores across the U.S. with three label claims related to farm practices: 1)
     conventional, 2) from cows not treated with rbST, and 3) USDA-certified organic. The research concluded
     that all three types of milk are virtually identical in terms of quality, safety and nutritional composition. None
     of the samples had detectable levels of antibiotics. Concentrations of bST in milk were the same regardless of
     milk label.11

Taste and Freshness
•    The taste of milk, regardless of whether it is organically or conventionally produced, can differ slightly from
     bottle to bottle and season to season. Factors that may impact taste include location of the farm, breed of the
     cow, variations in cows’ feed from farm to farm, and even the time of year. Milk that is ultra-pasteurized for
     longer shelf-life may have a slightly different taste. People should do their own “taste test” to see which kinds
     of milk they prefer.
•    There are more than 71,000 dairy farms located throughout the U.S.12 and more than 500 fluid milk
     processing establishments. 13 In fact, most milk travels only about 100 miles before it reaches the grocer’s
     shelves. 14

        Also refer to Midwest Dairy Association fact sheets “Dairy Food Safety” and “Sustainability and Dairy Farming” 
      This fact sheet was reviewed by: Mike Hutjens, PhD, University of Illinois; Lloyd Metzger, PhD, South Dakota State University;
                         John F. Smith, PhD, Kansas State University; and Leo Timms, PhD, Iowa State University.

   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Marketing Service. National Organic Standards Final Rule, Accessed September 2006.
  U.S. Department of Agriculture. National Organic Program Organic Production and Handling Standards, October 2002, Accessed September 6, 2006.
  E. Balfour. Towards a Sustainable Agriculture – The Living Soil. Speech delivered to the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements
  Conference, Switzerland, 1977, Accessed September 6, 2006.
  D.P. Blayney. The Changing Landscape of U.S. Milk Production. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. Statistical Bulletin 978.
June 2002.
  U.S. Department of Agriculture. U.S. Farms: Numbers, Size, and Ownership, Family Farm Report, 2005.
  K. Collins. Organic Milk: What You Get for the Money, Nutrition Notes Week of September 25, 2006, American Institute for Cancer Research. Accessed September 14, 2006.
  Faidon Magkos, Fotini Arvaniti, Antonis Zampelas; Organic food: nutritious food or food for thought? A review of the evidence, International Journal of
  Food Sciences and Nutrition, Vol 54, No 5; September 2003.
  American Dietetic Association. Organic Foods versus Conventional Foods, undated, Accessed September 6, 2006.
  U.S. Dept. f Health and Human Services, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. National Milk Drug Residue Data Base, 2007 Accessed May 2008.
   National Dairy Council, Accessed September 1, 2006.
   Vicini, J et al. Survey Retail Milk Composition Affected by Label Claims Regarding Farm-Management Practices J Am Diet Assoc. 2008;108:1198-1203
   U.S. Department of Agriculture. NASS, Agricultural Statistics Board. Farms, Land in Farms, and Livestock Operations 2007.
   International Dairy Foods Association, Dairy Facts 2007.
   U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service, 2007.
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