September 14, 2006

We Recently Switched To Organic Milk. You?

I confess, the main reason we haven't given the kid organic milk all the time was my own laziness. If I bought milk, it was usually at CVS, which is a block closer than the grocery store.

The 2x cost would get to me, too, sometimes, if I was feeling even slightly cheap. Yes, honey, that's your dad: cheap and lazy.

Anyway, while I was in Las Vegas, my wife switched us over to organic full time. She said--and I had to agree, because I'd noticed it, too--that the regular factory milk always seemed to go south well before its printed "sell by" date, which kind of made her nervous.

Besides that, of course, the presence of bovine growth hormone and anti-biotics in most milk is significant enough to rate it #5 on the list of the top 10 foods where organic makes an actual difference. So here we are. [#1, by the way, is baby food.]

That list, by the way, is below. I'd seen it referenced all over the web--it's something of a crunchyweb staple now, often quoted without question or citation on organic/green gear and food sites--and I tried to trace its origins. Not because I doubt it, really, just because the research studies mentioned are all kind of old. Unfortunately, Mothers and Others For A Liveable Planet, the non-profit who put it together, ceased operations in 2001. If anyone knows an updated list of high-impact organic foods, please pass it along:

1. Baby Food
2. Strawberries
3. Rice
4. Oats
5. Milk
6. Bell Peppers
7. Bananas
8. Green Beans
9. Peaches
10. Apples

Ten Must-Eat [sic] Organic Foods [Living On Earth]

[update: nice timing. Treehugger posted a fresh (sic) list of the most pesticide-laden foods, i.e., the top 10 to eat organically. With spinach temporarily off any list right now, though, maybe they could go to 11?]


How about Consumer Reports, from their Feb 2006 issue?

[bingo, that's the one I was thinking of. thanks -ed.]

We find that organic milk tastes better, especially skim milk.

Parents should also know that not all organic is created equal.

There has been much talk lately about the dubious organic practices of large dairy manufacturers, passing off huge factory-type dairy operations as organic. Many people and health food stores now boycott certain "organic" products including Horizon.

We do buy Horizon and other chain store "organic" brands in a pinch as it is still the closest to organic option available. Even though these brands may be pushing the envelope on the definition of organic, they still don't add any other weird chemicals or additives directly to their products (although they may be in the feed or somewhere else in the history of the cow).

Hope this helps,

P.S. Here's a short list of "organic" products currently being boycotted by the Organic Consumers Association:

Costco's "Kirkland Signature"
Publix's "High Meadows"
Safeway's "O" Organics brand
Wild Oats' organic milk
Giant's "Nature's Promise."
In addition OCA is calling for a boycott of Horizon's sister soy brands--Silk soymilk and White Wave tofu--which have begun turning away from U.S. organic farmers and instead importing cheap organic soybeans from China and Brazil, where labor rights and environmental standards are routinely violated.

[oops. Horizon's often the only option. Part of the Organic Industrial Complex, i see -ed.]

Consumer Reports did a review of organics earlier this year. Their list of things to buy organic was (in no particular order): Apples, bell peppers, celery, cherries, imported grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, potatoes, red raspberries, spinach, and strawberries; meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy; and baby food.

I think you need a subscription to read the whole article, but I think it's some good information.

[it's linked above, btw. no subscription needed. -ed.]

I can't remember exactly what it is, but I read recently that many Organic milk products had crazy-long expiration dates because they're ultra-pasteurized. Which, I think, blasts any bacteria but could possibly give the milk a burned or bitter taste. But it will last a lot longer.

I think it's done because there aren't as many local organic dairies, so organic milk has to travel longer distances to get to your market.

Here it is:

The official U.S. government definition of an ultra-pasteurized dairy product stipulates "such product shall have been thermally processed at or above 280° F for at least 2 seconds, either before or after packaging, so as to produce a product which has an extended shelf life under refrigerated conditions."

And, no, we haven't switched to organic milk. Though we do buy milk from cows raised with no growth hormones.

[cool. re. ultra-pasteurized, we also rotate some euro-style milk-in-a-box through from our end-of-the-world emergency kit. -ed.]

Nothing is more organic then the breast! Breast is best (and free mind you)! The average age worldwide for weaning is 4 to 5 years old. Natural weaning for humans is between 2.5 to 6 years of age. (

In addition, see:

Soy anyone?

[soy is a whole other kettle of, er, worms, isn't it? what with all those phytoestrogens and what not? -ed]

We've done organic milk from the start, for (1) her health and (2) our taste.

Everything's so damned expensive the extra ten bucks a month on milk doesn't amount to much. And it does taste better.

If you haven't tried them, buy some cage-free organic eggs. Happy chickens lay some great-tasting eggs. One of the biggest organic/non-organic taste differences, IMO.

In fact, the happy chickens themselves taste great. The todd eats them a couple of times a week at Stone Barns. If you live nearby, that's also a great place to get eggs -- they're a day or two old at most, as opposed to six WEEKS or so for your standard supermarket egg. Yummy.

I guess I'm not a vegetarian.

"Nothing is more organic then the breast! Breast is best (and free mind you)!"

This is true.

However, to add a stay-at-home-dad twist to the issue, in our family the "breast" was in Manhattan and pumping during the day eventually became too difficult/painful.

So do it as long as you can. Then steal the milk from a healthy cow or goat.

O, open the door on organics debate. Yikes!

We've been giving Cobalt (and ourselves) organic everything whenever convenient and/or can afford it. For him, it's more for the chemical issues. While for us, it's more for the socio-economic issues.

Living in SF, it's pretty easy to get most things in an organic variety, but paying $3/lb for organic peppers at the [Chainstore] grown in S. America vs. $1/lb for regular from the local produce market just doesn't make much sense. We do, however, belong to a CSA and get biweekly delivery of produce and eggs grown organically about 2 hours away.

But for milk, yogurt, etc., it's always organic unless the store is out, then its from a CA dairy that doesn't use the hormones. (Our kid's so big he doesn't need them, anyway. If fact, it kind of makes us wonder.)

[yeah, the organic-from-anywhere vs local-food debate's another one altogether. But it's funny, I'm always so dazzled by the coolness of "Cobalt" that I believe anything you say. -ed.]

Not only does ultrapasteurization make milk taste funky, it kills much of the nutritive value, including vitamins and enzymes.

It's a good thing that people can get organic milk if they live far from an organic dairy. But I believe raw organic milk is better. All the nutrition, no chemicals, no factory farms. Check out for facts and resources!

All milk is ultra-pasturized these days, not just organic milk.

I'm reading info on Cornucopia's boycott of Horizon, and I just don't find it that convincing. When I'm buying organic milk, I'm thinking about the product quality and health impacts. Cornucopia notes that they can't be 100% sure that all the cattle are raised organically from birth, and they speculate about some possibilities of contamination. But really they seem to want to punish Horizon for being large-scale, for being started by wealthy entrepreneurs, and for being owned by a corporation.

If "organic" has to mean "do I feel good about the production?" more than "do I feel good about the product?" then I don't think I'm going to spend much time worrying about whether something is organic or not.

Though I breastfed until my daughter was nearly 2, I can see why "extended" breast feeders are seen as nuts. In a discussion about organic milk, we get a comment about how breast is best--as if this is what is up for discussion, then some statistic about how 4-5 is the worldwide average for weaning. Where in the world is that I wonder?

"I'm reading info on Cornucopia's boycott of Horizon, and I just don't find it that convincing. When I'm buying organic milk, I'm thinking about the product quality and health impacts. Cornucopia notes that they can't be 100% sure that all the cattle are raised organically from birth, and they speculate about some possibilities of contamination"

In response I'd point out that things like access to pasture vs feedlots and other criteria are *legally* required elements for a product to be able to call itself organic. Organic (as opposed to "natural" or "healthy" or other labels) is one of the only labels that actually mean something b/c there are requirements to back it up. So the fact that Horizon is violating these requirements are important, even if those things arent important to you personally, because it ensures that the milk has followed the requirements for organic labeling. If they dont follow these requirements, they shouldnt be called organic, even if many of us would still eat it (for the health benefits). It's a matter of not following the requirements for "organic" labeling because they cost too much to the manufacturer, but still taking advantage of that label to sell their product (at a premium).

Yeah, if "the average age worldwide for weaning is 4 to 5 years old", then there must be 3 kids somewhere who are breastfeeding until age 7 to make up for my 3 kids who "only" BF'd until they were 18 months.
Or maybe there's 1 kid out there who BF'd until age 15. I'll check the LLL website for info about that.

We get organic everything -- milk (in glass bottles produced by Swiss Brown and Jersey cows), meat, fruit and veg... And we are in Canada, where there are no bovine growth hormones, but feel the incentive nonetheless. We can't control everything our daughter eats, but we do the best we can at home.

Yeah, the hubby howls about grocery bills every now and then, but he doesn't complain too much -- first off because everything really DOES taste better, and secondly, because after a number of years on a largely organic diet, we are both looking younger than his younger brother and sister (4 & 8 yrs younger), and we are beginning to suspect it is our diet.

The portion of the Consumer Reports report on fruits/vegetables actually came from, who first published their report a couple of months prior to CR. They have a nice printable wallet card of best fruits/veggies on their site.

I've also done a lot of reading on rbGH/rbST through I found one of the most readable articles to be this old one from Penthouse (insert your own "I just read the articles" joke here).

[I guess I just wonder WHERE you found it -ed.]

We're very fortunate that we can afford to buy as much as we can organic.

As for milk, our daughter had a lot of issues with milk early on, so, after the nutramagen, we went to soy and have slowly blended in cow's milk (organic, of course).

We also carry the milk (and soy!) boxes in the diaper bag in case we are out and we need to give her something.

Ok, so I can't support a cow on my .14acre suburban DC lot in order to have fresh organic milk, but as for the vegetables, am I the only one who has sacrificed some of the lawn for a vegetable garden? It's not that much work, and my daughter will grow up knowing the goodness that comes from eating sugar snap peas right off the vine, not to mention the peppers, cucumbers, tomatos, etc. she'll get to help harvest and enjoy.

[what, no zucchini? we used to be drowning in garden zucchini when we were kids. -ed.]

We also have a small vegetable garden. Of course, we use organic seeds and organic seedlings.

Of course, half the time, we have little luck... except lettuce and tomatoes. Those things grow like weeds.

[you guys are so organic, I just want to come roll around in your compost pile -ed.]

May not be easy if you're trapped on a little island with 10 million people, but here in Denver we can drive 30 minutes or so and be at an organic, family owned farm. We get vegetables and eggs this way, and it's pretty fun for kids to meet the chicken their eggs come from. The price really isn't that much higher either. We don't drink a lot of milk, but there are still a few delivery services around for local dairies. We also know a friend of a friend who has a couple cows and sells "shares" of milk.

As the Horizon thing proves, I'm more interested in whether my food comes from somewhere reasonably close and whether it's produced on a human scale rather than an industrial one. A lot of small farms use organic (or mostly organic) methods, but can't afford certification. Regarding milk specifically, the demand for organic product has been higher than supply for a few years. All these industrial farm operations see the profit potential and have been rushing to convert to organic as cheaply and quickly as possible. It shouldn't be a surprise that they are still essentially factories.

[so it's 30 minutes to an organic, family-owned farm, but 90 minutes to the freakin' airport? Denver remains a mystery to me.-ed.]

Stonyfield Farms also has a wallet-sized reference guide to pesticides in produce.


May not be easy if you're trapped on a little island with 10 million people, but here in Denver we can drive 30 minutes or so and be at an organic, family owned farm.

Which is better overall?

Driving 60 miles to the sustainable farm in a Land Rover/Hummer/Suburban/Corolla/Prius?

Or the island-dweller taking the subway/walking to the organic farmer's market?

Or even the island dweller getting the factory milk at CVS? ;-)

Our local organic grocery store (PCC in Seattle) has stopped carrying Horizon Organics. I didn't realize the Safeway "O" brand and Costco were on the evil list too. We had been buying them a lot lately.

We have a couple of small veggie and herb patches in the yard. It doesn't take that much room. Kyleigh loves nibbling the chives, mint, sage, basil and strawberries that grow along the path to the front door. She even eats the calendula flowers sometimes. I think it's good she can see the food growing, not just coming from the grocery store.

I planted another patch this spring. The local squirels have a very healthy diet. We didn't get 1 single zucchini this summer, and the pumpkins I planted for my daughter only have 2 nibbled on fruits from 6 vines. But she's so excited about them. We go out every day to see how big they are, and now how orange they are.

Hi All –

I work with a law firm that is investigating the sales of organic milk from Costco, Safeway and Wild Oats. According to investigations the milk labeled organic, and being sold at higher prices, is in fact not organic according to USDA regulations.

The milk production process used by these three stores is found to have over 14 violations of USDA regulations. A lawsuit has already been filed against Safeway which uses the same milk supply company and sells its milk under the Safeway “O”-label.

If you have been purchasing organic milk from Costco under the Kirkland Signature brand, Safeway under the “O”-label or milk marked organic from Wild Oats we want to hear from you.

You can reach the Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro attorneys by visiting , sending your information to or by calling 206-623-7292.

Every doctor gives advice to mothers to give mother milk to babies up to two years of age.But so many mothers were neglest with full of work and lazyness like you.But better to give mother milk only.


[ed. note: I deleted your self-promoting spam link, but left your hilariously rude comment. does that sell a lot of supplements?]

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