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.
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.
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.
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.
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.