Organic Dairy | balancing health costs and pocketbook costs

healthy living Sep 09, 2018

While striving to buy organic and local produce, when confronted with the high cost of organic butter, organic cheese or an organic steak, you may feel the need to 'give it a pass'. As someone who is committed to choosing organic for everything I eat, I understand the trepidation about the cost of organic dairy, meat and eggs. There's more to the story behind the price tag.

This article is an exploration of the true cost of conventionally produced dairy, and whether there are tangible benefits (both nutritionally and environmentally) to organic dairy.

A study published in British Journal of Nutrition (February 2016)1 found clear differences between the organic and conventional products available to consumers. Professors Dominika Średnicka-Tober and Carlo Leifert, and their team at Newcastle University, reviewed 196 papers on milk and 67 on meat. What their literature review confirmed was that the healthy fatty acid composition of organic products was substantially higher across the board. Specifically, it was found that organic milk and meat contains 50% more beneficial Omega-3 fatty acids than conventionally-farmed milk and meat. So, the big question is why?

Professor Carlo Leifert explains, “Generally, cows that eat grass produced milk and meat that contained up to 50% more omega-3 fatty acids than those fed on grains. In countries where there is a lot of rain such as the UK, Ireland, Brittany and New Zealand most milk and cheese comes from cows fed on grass and you can tell this from the bright yellow colour derived from the carotene present in grass,” He joked, “Nutritionists do not agree on many things, but they all say we should double our intake of omega-3”.

Omega-3 is one of the most important anti-inflammatory nutrients, protecting your brain to enhance mental function and increasing insulin sensitivity to reduce your risk of Diabetes and weight gain.

Omega-3 fats protect your heart and heal your gut.

  • Organic dairy is 40% higher in conjugated linoleic acid, a fatty acid that has been researched as a weight loss supplement with good results – bodybuilders use it to lean out before a competition.
  • Organic dairy is higher in anti-oxidants Pro-Vitamin A (aka carotenoids) and Vitamin E, making organic milk a great choice for growing children and expectant mothers.
  • Organic dairy is higher in iron – a definite benefit for the 1 in 3 women globally and 1 in 9 Canadian women who are anemic.

Does milk have a dark side?

It's true that cow’s milk is one of the top 10 most allergenic foods, making it a real inflammatory problem. I keep it off my Meals That Heal recommended menu so that you can investigate your specific food intolerances. It is important to ensure that you tolerate dairy before returning milk, cheese and yogurt to your Live-It eating plan.

Personally, I'm allergic to casein (the protein in milk) and intolerant to lactose (the sugar in milk). However, I want the many health benefits of milk without the high cost and allergenicity, so I use coconut milk, butter and oil. I explain the dynamics of nutrition to avoid inflammation in my first book, so please read more about it in Meals That Heal Inflammation.

Here is my advice: when you choose to eat dairy or red meat, it is critical to choose organic.


  • You risk ingesting a growth hormone that can cause cancer when you forego organics.

Conventional dairies in the USA are permitted to use Monsanto’s genetically modified growth hormones to increase milk production in cows by up to 20%. The cows are stressed by  extra milk production, which can cause infections in their udders that need to be treated with antibiotics. Thank goodness this synthetic growth hormone has been BANNED in Canada because it is proven to cause an increased risk of breast and prostate cancer.2 Certified organic milk bans the use of growth hormones, ensuring the dairy you drink (especially in the USA) is free of this risk.

  • Pesticide residues are concentrated in conventional milk.

Organic dairy cows feast on organic hay, organic grass and organic grains. In sharp contrast, conventional cows are fed genetically modified grain that has been heavily sprayed  with Roundup™ pesticide (also known as glyphosate). Roundup™, applied to GMO crops, increased tenfold from 1996 to 2012. These cancer-causing, brain-altering pesticides concentrate in cow's milk3 and can be very problematic for young children who cannot easily detoxify pesticides. Eating foods laced with Roundup™ has been linked with Kidney Disease4 and shown to contribute to Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Depression, Dementia and Heart Disease.5 Pesticides and GMO feed are strictly prohibited in the organic dairy industry, which makes choosing organic a no-brainer if you have chemical sensitivities or young children.

  • 80% of antibiotics are fed to farm animals.

Most conventional cows eat feed laced with antibiotics6 to prevent illness and to fatten them up. It's no surprise that conventionally raised cows get more infections than organically raised cows7 because “factory” farming does not support the health of the animal. The overuse of antibiotics has given rise to increased antibiotic resistance,8 translating to infections that are impossible to treat with standard antibiotics while also destroying microbiome. It takes over a year to recover from a major course of antibiotics.9 Can you imagine living on antibiotics all the time? If you drink conventional milk regularly, YOU DO! Organic cows do not receive any antibiotics unless they are sick, and in those cases, they are pulled from the farm’s dairy production until the antibiotic course has cleared their system. It is only then that they are allowed to produce organic milk again.

In my opinion, if you choose to enjoy animal products, you can’t afford to eat conventional, factory-farmed products.

The cost of your health and the risks are simply too high!

Despite the higher cost, I encourage you to enjoy organic animal products. You'll help the planet, create greater compassion for the welfare of animals, get more nutrition and lower your health risk.

To read the complete study on the difference between organic and conventional milk for yourself, click here.


  1. Dominika Średnicka-Tober, Marcin Barański, Chris J. Sea, Roy Sanderson, Charles Benbrook, Håvard Steinshamn, Joanna Gromadzka-Ostrowska, Ewa Rembiałkowska, Krystyna Skwarło-Sońta, Mick Eyre, Giulio Cozzi, Mette Krogh Larsen, Teresa Jordon, Urs Niggli, Tomasz Sakowski, Philip C. Calder, Graham C. Burdge, Smaragda Sotiraki, Alexandros Stefanakis, Sokratis Stergiadis, Halil Yolcu, Eleni Chatzidimitriou, Gillian Butler, Gavin Stewart and Carlo Leifert: “Higher PUFA and n-3 PUFA, conjugated linoleic acid, α-tocopherol and iron, but lower iodine and selenium concentrations in organic milk: a systematic literature review and meta- and redundancy analyses.” British Journal of Nutrition, page 1 of 18 doi:10.1017/S0007114516000349 © The Authors 2016.
  2. Outwater JL, Nicholson A, Barnard N.: “Dairy products and breast cancer: the IGF-I, estrogen, and bGH hypothesis.” Med Hypotheses. 1997 Jun;48(6):453-61.
  3. Zen Honeycutt, Moms Across America, Henry Rowlands, Sustainable Pulse: “Glyphosate Testing Full Report: Findings in American Mothers’ Breast Milk, Urine and Water.” April 7, 2014
  4. Channa Jayasumana, Sarath Gunatilake and Priyantha Senanayake: “Hypothesis: Glyphosate, Hard Water and Nephrotoxic Metals: Are They the Culprits Behind the Epidemic of Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown Etiology in Sri Lanka?” Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2014, 11(2), 2125-2147; doi:10.3390/ijerph110202125
  5. Anthony Samsel and Stephanie Seneff: “Glyphosate’s Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Diseases.” Entropy 2013, 15(4), 1416-1463; doi:10.3390/e15041416
  6. Pamela Ruegg, DVM, MPVM, University of Wisconsin, Madison: ”Antimicrobial residues and resistance: Understanding and managing drug usage on dairy farms.” Presented at Central Veterinary Conference, Kansas City, MO, August 2013; Copyright© 2013,
  7. Cecilia Hamilton, Ulf Emanuelson, Kristina Forslund, Ingrid Hansson and Torkel Ekman: “Mastitis and related management factors in certified organic dairy herds in Sweden.” Acta Vet Scand. 2006; 48(1): 11. Published online 2006 Jul 17. doi:10.1186/1751-0147-48-11 PMCID: PMC1553465
  8. "The need to improve antibiotic use in food animals.” The Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics (APUA) has been the leading global non-governmental organization working to preserve the effectiveness of antimicrobial drugs since 1981.
  9. Martin Blaser: “Antibiotic overuse: Stop the killing of beneficial bacteria.” Nature 476, 393–394 (25 August 2011) doi:10.1038/476393a

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