Last updated on: 6/27/2008 6:51:00 AM PST
Is Organic Milk Healthier Than Conventional Milk?
General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
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 livestock - (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]."
Dec. 21, 2000 - United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
U.S. National Standards on Organic Agricultural Production and Handling (106 KB)
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:
"The 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...
Organic 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."
Sep. 2003 - Paolo Bergamo, PhD
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:
"Organically 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."
Jan, 2005 - Jacob Holm Nielsen, PhD
Tina Slots (formerly Tina Lund-Nielsen)
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:
"The '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 processes...
Milk 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."
June 2004 - The Organic Center
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."
Mar. 15, 2007 - National Dairy Council (NDC)
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):
"USDA makes 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 processed."
Mar. 19, 2007 - United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
The American Dietetic Association (ADA) commented in their article "Organic Foods Versus Conventional Foods," published on their website (accessed Mar. 19, 2007):
"Research 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 processed."
Mar. 19, 2007 - American Dietetic Association (ADA)
The Washington Dairy Products Commission explained in their article "What Is Milk?," published on their website (accessed Mar. 15, 2007):
"'Organic 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."
Mar. 15, 2007 - Washington Dairy Products Commission