Let’s Talk About: Dairy

There’s a lot to say about the state of corporate dairy in America.

A lot of it bad.

I’ve been thinking about this post since I started this blog.  I wasn’t sure how I was going to state my feelings about dairy – or if I even was going to state my feelings at all.  I’m still not sure.  I want to write this post to inform you of the state of corporate dairy and from there you can make the best decision for your family.  Some people don’t have a choice but to feed their family corporate dairy.  A gallon of grocery store brand milk is a quarter of the price (even less) than a gallon of milk from a dairy that strives for grass fed cows – especially a family with teenagers.  I know when my brother and I were teenagers, we were going through a gallon of milk a day.  My poor mother, we just about drank her out of house and home!  I just hope to inform you of the different qualities of milk so that you can consciously make a decision.  That being said, I’d rather you feed your family milk, even corporate milk, than sugar laden soda and juice.

Mooo.  I like grass!

The very first thing that is important to understand is that cows like grass.  They were designed to munch on grass. All day long.  Graze and graze and graze.  Cows produce the best milk when they are grazing on a pasture of grass.  Many dairy farms will supplement grain into their cow’s diet during the winter.  They will do this because the cows won’t get enough grass to eat in the pastures during the winter, hence not have the energy to produce enough milk.  Many dairy farms will not and will strictly have their cows graze.  An ethical dairy farm will give their cows antibiotics when their cows are sick but will throw the milk out until there are no traces of the antibiotics in said cow’s milk.  Also, an ethical dairy farm that strives for quality milk will not inject their cows with hormones.  The milk that you get from smaller dairy farms is pasteurized but it is not ultra-pasteurized nor is it homogenized.  Generally, they will bottle it in sterilized glass bottles for quart and half gallon sizes or in plastic for smaller sizes.

Corporate dairy, on the other hand, is all about volume; maximizing the output of milk from a cow.  These farms are known as Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs).  The cows are in close quarters and fed grain, hay, or silage, or a mixture of all three.  Because the animals are in close quarters, they are pumped with antibiotics to minimize infection.  Some will also pump their animals with growth hormone in order to artifically increase a cows milk production.

Many corporate dairy farms ultra-pasteurize and homogenize their milk.  This is not necessarily a bad thing but it does effect the taste of the milk.  Most people are used to homogenized milk.  Homogenization just means that the milk was shot through  an atomizer and it breaks up the fat particles of the milk so that it sits evenly through out the milk and does not settle to the top.  Milk will be ultra-pasteurized to increase shelf life.

Corporate diary farms also like to add additives to their dairy.  The big one recently was the diary lobby petitioning the FDA to allow them to add aspartame to their milk without labeling it.  Their argument was that kids just don’t like the flavor of milk and so if they add aspartame to it, it will make milk sweeter, hence kids will drink more of it.  It’s so much better for the children, they say.  HA!  They just want to sell more milk.

Another big argument in the dairy world is the difference between using skim, low-fat, 2%, or whole milk.  I do not drink milk but I do eat yogurt every day, about 1/4 – 1/2 cup.  I have, within the last year, switched strictly to whole milk.  I have found that, not only is it tastier, I don’t have to eat as much, I am more satiated, and am fuller longer.  Overall, switching to whole milk was a very good decision for me.  There have been studies done that children who grow up drinking whole milk are less likely to be obese than children who drink lower fat content milk.  If, however, you find that your family drinks a lot of milk, uses a lot of milk in cereral, and eats a lot of yogurt you may want to eat skim, 1% or 2%.

Don’t just take my word for it!  I hope that you do some of your own research to come to your own conclusion!  It’s about what is best for you and your family and I can’t be the voice in that…

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