The United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) U.S. National Standards on Organic Agricultural Production and Handling, approved on Dec. 21, 2000, define the following requirements for milk to be considered organic:
"Section 205.236 Origin of Live Stock - (a)(2)Dairy
Animals - Milk or milk products must be from animals that have been
under continuous organic management beginning no later than 1 year
prior to the production of the milk or milk products that are to be
sold, labeled, or represented as organic...
Section 205.237 Livestock Feed - (a)The
producer of an organic livestock operation must provide livestock with
total feed ration composed of agricultural products, including pasture
and forage, that are organically produced and, if applicable,
organically handled... (b)The producer of an organic operation must
not: (1)Use animal drugs, including hormones to promote growth;
(2)Provide feed supplements or additives in amounts above those needed
for adequate nutrition and health maintenance for the species at its
specific stage of life; (3)Feed plastic pellets for roughage; (4)Feed
formulas containing urea or manure; (5)Feed mammalian or poultry
slaughter by-products to mammals or poultry; or (6)Use feed, feed
additives, and feed supplements in violation of the Federal Food, Drug,
and Cosmetic Act...
Section 205.239 Livestock Living Conditions
- (a)The producer of an organic livestock operation must establish and
maintain livestock living conditions which accommodate the health and
natural behavior of animals, including: (1)Access to the outdoors,
shade, shelter, exercise areas, fresh air, and direct sunlight suitable
to the species, its stage of production, the climate, and the
environment; (2)Access to pasture for ruminants [including cows]."
Paolo Bergamo, PhD, and colleagues from the National Research Council of Italy, reported in their Sep. 2003 paper "Fat-Soluble Vitamin Contents and Fatty Acid Composition in Organic and Conventional Italian Dairy Products," published in Food Chemistry:
aim of the present study was to determine fatty acid and fat-soluble
vitamin contents in buffalo and cow's milk dairy products and to
compare the composition of organic milk fat with that obtained by a
conventional management system...
management resulted in the production of milk containing improved CLA
[conjugated linoleic acid], TVA [tranvaccenic acid], and LNA [linolenic
acid] concentrations... It is noteworthy that the findings of higher
CLA, TVA, and LNA amounts, in all organic samples analysed, strongly
suggests a high nutritional value of organic milk fat. In particular,
on account of the LNA importance for human nutrition and health and, on
the basis of the data reporting the cancer preventive effect of TVA and
CLA-rich foods, the nutritional quality of organic dairy foods seems to
be higher than that of conventional dairy products."
Jacob Holm Nielsen, PhD, and Tina Lund-Nielsen, PhD, both of the Danish Institute of Agricultural Sciences, explained in their Jan. 2005 paper "Healthier Organic Livestock Products: Antioxidants in Organic and Conventional Produced Milk," presented at the First Annual European Union Project Quality Low Input Food and Soil Association Annual Conference:
reared cows, which eat high levels of fresh grass, clover pasture and
grass cover silage, produced milk which is on average 50% higher in
vitamin E (alpha tocopherol), 75% higher in beta carotene (which our
bodies convert to vitamin A) and two to three times higher in the
antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthine than non-organic milk... In
addition, we found higher levels of omega 3 essential fatty acids."
The Organic Center, an organization that promotes organic farming, stated in their June 2004 article "Health Benefits of Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)," published on their website:
'magical properties' of CLA [conjugated linoleic acid] include reducing
the propensity to store fat (especially abdominal fat), inhibiting
tumor development, promoting sensitivity to insulin cells, increasing
immune response against viral antigens, and modulating inflammatory
from dairy cows on organic farms, particularly pasture-based
operations, contains significantly higher CLA levels. The difference in
CLA levels between organic and conventional milk is a function of the
time of year, quality of pasture, levels of production, and herd health
and management. CLA levels in organic milk are often found to be 30
percent or more higher than in conventional milk."
The National Dairy Council stated in its article "Organic Milk: FAQ," published on their website (accessed Mar. 15, 2007):
"There is no difference between organic and regular milk. Both contain the same unique package of nutrients that makes dairy products an important part of a healthy diet. An 8-ounce serving of organic or regular milk offers the same amount of nine essential nutrients, including calcium, vitamin D and potassium...
Strict government standards ensure that regular milk is just as pure, safe, and nutritious as organic milk. According to USDA and the American Dietetic Association (ADA) conventionally produced food is equally safe as organically produced food...
Label statements on organic milk refer to farm management practices, not to the milk itself. While organic dairy farmers use only organic fertilizers and organic pesticides and do not give their cows supplemental hormones, the milk itself is no different than regular milk."
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) stated in their article "Organic Food Standards and Labels: The Facts," published on their website (accessed Mar. 19, 2007):
no claims that organically produced food is safer or more nutritious
than conventionally produced food. Organic food differs from
conventionally produced food in the way it is grown, handled, and
The American Dietetic Association (ADA) commented in their article "Organic Foods Versus Conventional Foods," published on their website (accessed Mar. 19, 2007):
shows that nutritionally there is no evidence that organic produce is
better or safer than conventionally grown produce. Organic food differs
from conventional foods in the way in which they are grown and
The Washington Dairy Products Commission explained in their article "What Is Milk?," published on their website (accessed Mar. 15, 2007):
milk' refers to the process by which it was produced, not to the
product itself. Organically-produced and conventionally-produced milks
are identical in their composition, nutritive characteristics, taste,
purity and safety attributes. Organic production methods aim at
recycling resources and promoting biodiversity, and these aims are
valued by some consumers. However, all milk - regardless of how it was
produced - must meet the same strict standards for content,
wholesomeness and product safety. Marketing claims that organic milk is
different from, and better than, conventionally produced milk have not
been scientifically substantiated."