What You Need to Know Before You Buy Organic Milk
Not all the organic varieties are equally good for you.
You walk into the grocery store, and head to the back (it's always way in the back) for some milk, only to be confronted with what seems like an increasing problem: Too many choices.
Even leaving out the alternative milks (which could soon be in a category of its own), there are a number to choose from: Lactose-free, traditional, something called A2, as well as all the organic brands to choose from. Perhaps you lean toward the organic, maybe because you've heard the cows are treated better, or because you're hoping it's a little healthier for you or your kids.
But are all organic milks equally as healthy compared to conventional milks? And why (and how?) is the store-brand organic so much cheaper than the name-brand stuff?
According to the consumer advocacy group The Cornucopia Institute, an "organic" label isn't held to nearly as strict standards as it could or should be. The selection of organic milks at your local store ends up including a wide variety of milk producers that aren't making a healthier product.
Speaking to Food Safety News, Cornucopia's co-founder Mark Kastel said: ""In essence, we thought that ... the USDA organic seal was doing the Cliff Notes version of research for safer, more nutritious food...." But it turns out that "in many cases, either directly or through the industry lobby group the Organic Trade Association, [some producers] have either successfully watered down the working definition of the organic label or convinced regulators to look the other way in terms of enforcement."
In order to give consumers more accurate information, the institute has published its Organic Dairy Scorecard, which scores dairies on a variety of criteria, from whether the cows are grass-fed, how the calves are treated, whether they are certified organic, and even what the ownership structure is, and how transparent the dairy is. Then they collate that into a 0-5 cow rating system for ease, with the best dairies receiving 5 cows.
Stonyfield Farms is among Cornucopia's top winners available nationwide, as well as General Mills' Liberte , and Annie's Homegrown products. More than 160 different brands from across the country were included in the report. You can view the full list of the best organic milks available here, as well as the brands that these experts say to avoid.
According to the report, when produced properly, organic milk can be significantly healthier. In an announcement to Food Safety News, the organization wrote: "published, peer-reviewed research has indeed documented a demonstrative difference in certain nutritional components of milk from cows that receive a substantial percentage of their feed from fresh pasture. And these compounds, including omega-3 fatty acids, CLA [a fatty acid thought to help with weight loss], and antioxidants are thought to have health and immune enhancing properties."
To read more about the criteria and see where your go-to milk lands on the list, visit the Cornucopia Institute's website.