Yet, one of the first lessons I learned as a news reporter was to choose your sources carefully. First-hand sources are the most reliable and trustworthy. Therefore, my opinion that the arguments against regular milk are largely untrue is based on first-hand information from one of my best friends, whose parents and in-laws both own large dairies in California. Plus, the Central Valley area in which she lives produces something like 90% of the nation's milk. I'd say she's a pretty reliable source. So you can read and believe what other sources tell you about dairies, or you can believe her first-hand account. Here's the truth of what happens on a dairy, according to my friend.
First of all, the cows are the farmers' livelihood. This means great time and expense is devoted to taking excellent care of the herd. The better cared for they are, the better their milk will be, and the greater the profit for the dairy. (Plus, many of these dairy families are committed Christians, and so there are stewardship issues and deep personal values involved in caring for their cows).
My friend told me nutritionists come often and check the cows' pH-levels, to see if they are alkaline or acidic. Their diets are adjusted accordingly. Few of us monitor our diet and nutrition as closely as these cows are checked. My friend said they grow their own corn, but in addition, citrus producers send surplus citrus, almond producers send almond wholes, and other healthful foods are ground up and fed to the cows as well. Plus, yes, they are also turned out to pasture where they can graze on grass.
Contrary to public opinion, they do not administer steroids to the cows to help them make milk faster. Plus, most milk cartons these days are printed with a statement that the milk is from cows not treated with rBST growth hormones. I don't know where that idea got perpetuated, but I believe the vast majority of dairies do not employ the dreadful practices the organic-milk crowd rails against them.
Yet, here's my favorite, most convincing argument about the safety of non-organic milk:
My friend's family's dairy is made up of 2,200 head of milk cows. One day, one cow was on a trace amount of antibiotics. This cow accidentally made it in the milking line. Oh-oh, right? Antibiotics in our milk. Wrong. When the milk truck came to take the milk, mandatory testing (performed on the milk every time it is picked up) detected that trace amount of antibiotic--from one cow out of 2,200. The entire tank of milk had to be dumped, per FDA regulations. So since this is true, how in the world can people say that cows' antibiotics make it into the milk we drink? It just doesn't happen.
Here is some additional proof:
"Sick dairy cows treated with antibiotics for humane reasons go through an FDA-prescribed withdrawal time that varies, based on the antibiotic and the animal’s illness. This means that during the withdrawal time, the sick animal’s milk and the antibiotics are kept out of the milk supply. The FDA also has set strict standards for the presence of antibiotics in milk, and each and every milk tanker is tested for the presence of the important antibiotics before the milk is allowed to enter the milk processing facility. The milk from the rare tanker truck which has been accidentally contaminated is discarded and does not enter the human food chain." Source: http://www.realcaliforniamilk.com/farm-life/animal-care/animal-faqs/Additionally, with the radiation issues coming from Japan, my friend shared with me that we are all safer if we do not rely on any one dairy or farm--organic or not--for our milk, eggs, and meat. This is because if a radiation cloud were to contaminate a farm, or radiation got into the feed, we would be exposed to that radiation through the cow's milk, let's say. If it were our only source of milk, its effects would be highly concentrated in our bodies. But if we bought our milk at the store from a wide range of producers, any effects from possible radiation at one farm would be dispersed and lessened in our bodies. Does that make sense?
Going back to the heart of the issue, my friend lives just down the road from an organic dairy. She really believes her family takes better care of her cows and devotes more time and attention to them than the organic dairy does.
If, after reading this, you are still convinced you want to dedicate some of your grocery budget to organic milk, that's fine. But if you are on the fence about it all, I hope this report helps convince you that non-organic milk is really ok. Don't believe everything you read against non-organic dairies. Listen to dairy farmers themselves. Hear what they have to say about their farms and practices (a great source is realcaliforniamilk.com), and then make a decision for yourself.
I'd love to hear your opinion of it all, and if you have any questions, I'll see if I can get them answered for you. (My friend, a conventional California dairy farmer, shared in a post here about the nutrition and care they give their cows, and her take on why organic is a non-issue when it comes to milk, in her professional opinion. That post of mine is here).
(linked to Works for Me Wednesday)