Eating Dairy Poorganically

Hmmm . . . do we have mice?

You may know that it was a conversation with my friend who told me there was pus in cow’s milk that led me to begin looking into Eating Poorganically.  I’ve decided to make it easier for you and me to understand what “Eating Poorganically” means by focusing on certain foods. Today, I am going to focus on dairy because I feel good about what we’re doing so far.

(I will try to be brief and provide links for your further research.  Incidentally, I’ve also learned that there are internet articles about ANYTHING that you want to believe is true, so I’m sure that you can find articles to the contrary should you want to find them.  Nonetheless, this is my blog, so . . .)

1. What some call “pus,” others call somatic cells, or white blood cell, or essentially “non-milk” cells.  ALL milk has some of these “non-milk” cells in it.  There is a maximum “somatic cell count–SCC” number that the government requires for milk to be below before it can be sold.  Advocates for organic or raw milk say that the governments tests are not stringent enough and there is PUS in the milk from intensive farming.  Some critics think the government isn’t testing that well.  You will find articles on both sides that support both views. I tend to think that ‘pus’ is an intentionally pejorative term being used to make people scared of their milk.  After pasteurization, there are not significant risks to even the highest approved SCC count milk.

EP conclusion- I STILL don’t care about pus or somatic cells in my milk. (Sorry uborganics.)

Non-organic. Non-homogenized Local milk. Greek Gods Greek Strawberry Yogurt and Plain Whole Milk Yogurt

2. A lot of non-organic milk is already NON-rBst, or comes from cows that are not given growth hormones. My Harris Teeter brand milk and all Wal-Mart milk is non-rBst.  All dairy at Earth Fare and Trader Joes are non-rBst by store standards.

EP conclusion- If I can’t afford organic dairy, I will at least try to get non-Rbst milk or cheese or yogurt, which is often the same price as regular.

3.  Even cows not given rBst growth hormones still might be getting genetically modified feed or anti-biotics.  That means that non-rBst milk still might not be GMO and antibiotic free. However, Earth Fare and Trader Joes do not allow genetically modified products, hormones, antibiotics in ANY of their products, so ALL of their products–even non-organic are safe.

EP conclusion- Buy organic dairy with coupons, or buy the Earth Fare or Trader Joes brands.  Organic Valley, Stonyfield, and Yoplait are all coupon friendly brands that are organic or non-GMO. Yippee.

4. Whole milk is best. Campaign for real Milk is where I got much of the info on this. Of course, articles exist on both sides.  One article, which I linked on the EP Facebook page, details a study showing how women who drank whole milk over time lost more weight and sustained their weight better than women drinking skim milk.

EP conclusion- We’ve been buying FULL FAT DAIRY and we are loving it. No one has gotten fatter thus far. 🙂  I will tell you honestly, my skin has been kind of broken out lately, which I’ve heard can be from this. I will keep you posted on whether or not it seems related. (Because I know that you are all DYING to know about my complexion.)

Raw Milk from SC

5. Raw, unpasteurized, non-homogenized milk is best. In NC, raw milk is illegal to sell, so for our Eating Poorganic research, J drove to a location in SC where it is sold, bought a gallon of raw milk at $7.50 and we drank it. It was fine, but it spoiled in 4 days before we’d finished it.We also tried some NON-organic milk  from Earth Fare that was non-homogenized and from a local farm. It was similarly priced to full price organic milk ($5-6 a gallon).

EP conclusion- We will have to miss out on the nutritional benefits of raw milk.  It is not worth it to drive to SC, pay that price, and have it spoil.  If I don’t have a coupon for a national brand organic milk, I will buy the local non-homogenized milk at Earth Fare.


Trader Joes cheese and Butter

In summary . . .

MILK: mostly Organic Valley whole milk, which has a lot of great coupons. Horizon has some. I’d estimate I’m averaging $4 a gallon.

BUTTER: Trader Joes organic is $4.70 a lb.  That is my go to butter. I’m scouting for a better deal though.

Oh, there's the little mouse! I guess I can't be surprised my kids love cheese when the ProvidinaTOR hails from WI. 🙂

CHEESE: Trader Joes NON-ORGANIC, but non-rBst, GMO, antibiotic, etc . . is mostly $3.99 a lb for Cheddar and Monterrey Jack, so that is what I’m usually getting. The raw cheese was $4.99 and it was not noticeably better, so I won’t get it again.  Just FYI, pre-shredded cheese is apparently evil. They use corn-starch to keep it from sticking together, so you are paying for corn starch, affecting your melty-ness, and exposing yourself to a possible GMO corn derivative.

YOGURT: We are now loving whole Greek yogurt.  Stonyfield Oikos and the Greek Gods brand from Earth Fare are amazing.  I usually buy plain and just use honey to sweeten, but the Greek Gods pre-sweetened use natural sweeteners, so I have accepted it.  Stonyfield, Yoplait, and Dannon all publish coupons.  Yoplait is non-GMO. Dannon Oikos is run by Stonyfield, so even though Dannon Oikos is not certified organic, I am pretty sure Stonyfield (which is totally Uborganic) would not touch dirty milk with a ten foot utter.

Is this what they call "hand over fist"? I think Anika may have portion control issues.

I would say generally speaking, we are eating roughly 48 oz of yogurt a week and I’m paying about  $6 for that, which is only slightly more than I was paying for pre-sweetened yogurts that we didn’t love as much.

CREAM CHEESE, SOUR CREAM, HALF & HALF: Mostly I’ve been getting Organic Valley brand with coupons. We don’t use these items as much, but using coupons, I can generally get them for the non-sale price of the regular.

All together, I would estimate that we are spending about $60 a month on Poorganic Dairy.

Any questions about dairy?  Or any other foods that you want to see me discuss Eating Poorganically?

UPDATE 4-2-12 After 8 months trying the gamut of raw, organic, and whole milk dairies, we are back to regular non-organic 2% products. The raw products just weren’t working out from a bowel standpoint even after the supposed “adjustment” period. The whole milk products were just dreadful, dreadful, dreadful on my skin. Because I am really vain and cheap, I decided that the ACTUAL cosmetic and intestinal ramifications were more important to me than the reported beneficial enzymes that I could not detect. I do still buy organic yogurt to make my own because for that, I do prefer the enzymes and probiotics. 🙂

15 thoughts on “Eating Dairy Poorganically

  1. MY question is where do you get the coupons for Organic Valley, StonyField, Yoplait, Dannon? We do not take the paper.I don’t know if that is poorganic or just plain cheap–we’ve actually begged friends for old newspapers to use to start our wood stove in winter! I don’t have the newspaper as a source for coupons. Can I find them online??? and if so, where???

  2. hi Katrina,
    As the daughter of a dairy farmer (milking over 400 head) I have to share a few truths that may make you think twice about eating organic dairy. I am not anti-organic, actually the majority of the groceries I buy are organic. First, the whole rBst business is just a marketing ploy. The companies have absolutely zero way of testing milk for artificial rBSt because rBSt is a naturally occurring hormone found in milk. The companies cannot distinguish between the synthetic and the naturally occurring. In those companies the farmers “pledge” not to use it, but most do because it keeps the cows healthier longer (it is called posilac). Second, the majority of organic milk is UHT milk because organic milk spoils faster because it sits at farms longer ( for lots of reasons). Non-organic farmers can never give a cow antibiotics because the milk is tested daily. If antibiotics are found in the milk tank, the entire tank is thrown out (100’s of gallons of milk) meaning thousands of dollars of loss for the farmer, not something that they can afford. Third ( or something…I’m on a bit of a ramble) most organic farms (including Horizon) have a non- organic farm right next door. This is not by accident….when a cow becomes sick or gets mastitis in a quarter the farmer n the organic side milks the cow as long as possible…while the cow is sick (they get more money for organic milk) then the cow is moved to the non-organic side, given antibiotics, and the milk is dumped until the infection and antibiotics are out of the cows system, then, when heathy, the cow resumes milking on the
    non-organic side. I could go on and on……my father had the vetrinarian speak to me about it because I thought organic was best. To make a long story short, the vet said he would never give his family organic milk after seeing the condition of the cows and farms he visits (some are those large names you mentioned) . I’m sure it is not true of all organic farms, but it makes me think. Thought you might be interested….

  3. One other thing, the somatic cell count in organic milk is higher (close to double) then in non-organic milk due to farmers milking cows that have mastitis.
    Info. straight from the vets that check the cows as well as my father ( who holds a masters in microbiology)

    1. Wow, this is fascinating information! I am glad to have your comment. Maybe I will return to my original purchasing strategy of just buying whichever milk is cheapest. What about the grain feeds with antibiotics in them? Or the genetically modified grain feed? (I hope am not asking in a hostile way; I am just putting forth the questions that all the dubious milk drinkers might ask.) Maybe the local farm, non-organic might be best. Hmm . . . now I am rethinking it all.

      1. Not at all, Katrina. I think it is important to know what actually happens, not just what some people think happens. I cannot speak for other farms, but I can say that my father does not feed grain to the cows. He feeds silage, which is a mix of nutrients, corn, and wheat. The ration changes daily ( kind of like a recipie) based on the cows needs. It is all calculated by a computer program that tests the milk. Feeding cows grain is super expensive, and not nutritious for the dairy cattle. I believe that beef cattle are given grain to fatten them up before slaughter, however. We buy local organic beef that is grass fed for that reason ( so does my father). Just remember that everything that is written needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Just because organic milk says that the cows are given grass does not mean that their only fed grass. They would hardly produce milk! All cattle are fed silage mix and hay.
        Who knows what the right answer is? We buy trader joes regular milk soley because that is where we do all our grocery shopping. Growing up we always bought milk ( funny right?) because drinking milk straight from the cow…any cow, organic or non- organic is like playing russian roulette—-it could make you very sick. So, to this day I have never had raw milk. Best of luck!

        1. Not sure I understand….. Don’t corn and wheat count as grains as far as feed for animals in regards to not having food producing animals be grain fed? I’m new to this.

          1. Well, honestly, I would think so, but I think maybe the interpretation of the idea of “grain-fed” is different. Maybe there is some distinction between chewing on an actual grain or kernel of corn versus eating feed which is made from a corn or wheat product. But truthfully, I was not familiar with the distinction Amanda made. I have heard, and read on many “natural” and “organic” dairy sites that the cattle is typically NOT100% grass fed. Historically, dairy cattle have long been fed hay or other types of feed in months when grass feeding wasn’t an alternative, so the recent push for grass feeding has been somewhat new. Primarily I think it is stressed for beef cattle because grain feeding can increase the risk for e-coli, but that is not as much of a concern with milk, apparently. Or maybe it is easier to test milk? All that to say, I think it is VERY uncommon to find dairy that is 100% grass fed.

  4. not to be cheeky, but maybe we weren’t supposed to be drinking the milk of another animal in the first place (she says while drinking real cream in her morning coffee).

  5. Can I ask one more question in case Amanda is still watching? I am not poorganic at all, but we switched to organic milk years ago solely because of the hormones. My then-8yo was starting to develop a little bit, and I had heard a lot of talk about hormones in meat and dairy contributing to early puberty. We eat very little meat, but my kids love their milk, so we drink the HT organic. My now-13yo is still not in full puberty, so I’ve been congratulating myself that it worked. (TMI, I know.) Is the rBST the hormone everyone was talking about? Was I deceived?

    1. Mary Beth,
      The research that I’ve done indicates that there are some evidences that the rBst does have residual hormones, but that for whatever reason, there wasn’t “significant” evidences. For this reason, at Monsanto’s urging the FDA began to require that dairies who wanted to label their milks as non-Rbst also needed to include the statement. “No significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rBST-treated and non-rBST treated cows.” Here is an article about this, but FYI you will see this article obviously has a strong bias.

      Amanda differentiates between “grain feed” and “feed,” which I found interesting, but she didn’t say if the ingredients in the feed at her father’s dairy or other conventional dairies are genetically modified. From what I’ve read, most dairy feeds do include genetically modified ingredients unless the animals are organic. She’s right though that most dairy is not from “grass fed” beef, which would make it taste earthly. If in fact the feed contains GMO, it could be the GMO products that are causing early puberty and artificial development more so than hormones. GMO organisms, particularly soy and corn and their derivatives, are thought to be almost foreign substances, drastically altering our health. Read this article about soy, but again, note the bias.

      Also, as she states, most organic milk is “Ultra pasteurized” which destroys a lot of the nutrients (according to the raw milk people). Some milk is low heat pasteurized, which is not as destructive to the nutrients, but I only saw that label on a “non-organic” milk from Earth Fare. Incidentally, however, organic milk is not the ONLY type of milk that is rBst-free. As I states, HT and Wal-mart milk are two examples of types that are universally rBst free. (Though Amanda indicates that this labeling may not be true. Eeesh, it’s so complicated.)

      As she and I both seem to indicate though, dairy from EF or Trader Joes (if not organic) is probably your best bet since these store avoid ALL the problematic things (GMO, hormones, etc) whether the products are certified organic or not. Obviously, if in your personal experience you HAVE noted a difference, than I would focus on that rather than the very difficult to interpret debate.

  6. I just want to say I met and toured a local organic dairy which sells their milk to horizon brand. They had about 100 milkers. The cows were grass based. He told me he was nervous going organic bc of medical needs and cost but once switching to a grass based operation his biggest medical costs were their dogs. He also said his cows produced and loved longer. There was not a conventional dairy next door either. I too am trying to sort through milk! After giving up my personal dairy goat I am trying I find the next best option! It’s hard to sort through it all- like Amanda was saying just because they say certain things does not mean they are really true.

    1. I totally agree. I think it can be really confusing. As you have stated, I think local is the way to go because that enables us to ask our questions and really see what we are buying. I worked at a conventional strawberry farm this spring and would MUCH rather pick their strawberries than the overpriced organic ones shipped across the country from California. 🙂

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