Think Beyond Organic to Ethical Milk


Wednesday I was reaching into the cooler at a local grocery loading up with three different cartons of organic milk. An older man asked me if I really thought that organic milk and 1/2&1/2 was better for me. I replied “yes I believe it is, but I know it is healthier for the cows that produced the milk”.  He looked at me kind of funny, with a look that said he expected further explanation so I complied.  In general organic foods are produced with less harm to the environment, and in the case of animal products, to the animals.  When you buy conventionally produced milk, you can not be sure that you are not getting hormones, antibiotics, or in some cases blood, in y0ur milk.  Of course the conventional milk you buy may usually be free of any of these contaminants, but if you buy organic, the supposed guarantee is that the milk is always without any of these by-products of conventionally mass produced dairy.  What is at least as important is that in general, organic dairy products come from healthier, happier cows.

Now this man then stated that the reason he was thinking about the milk’s relative worth was its price.  The organic milk was almost 3 times the price of the regular milk.  One of the reasons for this is that organically produced milk is not eligible for all of the food subsidies or the farm bill food subsidy system in the U.S. Organically produced milk is more expensive to produce, but a 3 times greater price tag is the result of not only an artificially low price for non-organic milk, but the mindset of the retailer. Many stores see organic products as “specialty” items and raise the price accordingly.  This practice needs to stop if organic products are to compete with conventional ones, but that is a topic for another post.

I encouraged him to consider buying organic as much as possible.  I also encouraged him to think beyond organic to ethically produced food.  Humane food production methods are in my mind as important as organic when I buy food.  He did put the organic milk in his cart, but I could not help but think about the majority of shoppers for whom price needs to be the biggest consideration.  Organic or not, ethical or not, most people simply can not afford to buy anything but the lowest priced food.

As I pulled away from the dairy case with my cart, a lady reached in to get a carton of soy milk.  That made me think of the many people who believe that cow’s milk has no place in the human diet regardless of production method or price.  But that is a diet choice separate and apart from the organic decision.  Her soy milk was organic, but even so the choice of soy over cow’s milk is not clear cut from a health standpoint, especially for men.

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Will Sig
1 Linda Prout

I love this story Will. It will take all of us “in the field” like this to make change. there is so little awareness around food quality out there. I also wanted to say I really like the new look of your site. And, as always I am enjoying your posts. Thanks, Linda

As a side note, a local 4H girl was busted by the local authorities recently for selling raw cow’s milk from her parent’s dairy farm and now calls her product “pet food.” Consumers can often find dairy products at Farmer’s markets or from farms labeled “pet food,” which are actually higher quality versions than most of the human food on grocery shelves. I buy raw goat’s milk and delicious goat feta from a young farmer who must label her products “Pet food” after being turned in by another farmer for selling without that label.


2 Will

Thanks Linda! It was a lot of work and still has a few changes to be done. But it is also updated in many ways “under the hood”, making it better not only for viewing but in many other ways also.

That is one smart girl, and a funny story. I have never seen “Pet Food” at our local Farmer’s Market, but now I will look!


3 Jon

Thanks for this post. I took a look at YouTube and found the following videos on milk cruelty.

ABC News Video.

Longer Video of a New York dairy farm.

.-= Jon´s last blog ..Prisoner Makes Unusual Request =-.


4 Ruth

Hi Will. I buy soy milk and butter myself, I have really bad skin and a friend of mine who is a dermatologist suggested to stop using dairy products. My skin hasn’t entirely cleared up (I’m still using regular yogurt and cheese, can’t find suitable substitutes in my local grocery store) but it’s a lot better. I have heard that it’s not a good idea to give soy formula to baby boys unless they’re allergic to the regular formula, because soy is known to be an estrogen mimicker. I’d love to try raw milk, goat’s milk, etc. but the nearest place I’ve found to get it is on the other side of the state.


5 Will

Yeah Ruth, I have heard that about the soy milk for baby boys too. I don’t know myself if this is an issue or an urban myth. Maybe I’ll look into it. Perhaps you need to follow Linda’s lead and look for raw milk labeled as cat food!


6 Jul

I did a search for ethical food as a friend in England keeps talking about it. I found several links to your site, including this post, but I was amazed that you were writing about it 3 years ago, while it was still in its infancy here in Europe. The US organic community seems to ignore the concept of ethical food whereas in Europe it is as or more important a consideration as organic. Most of the links to ethical food topics are based in Europe. Almost nothing is across the sea in your part of the world.


7 Coralie Nellhard

Hi Will,
I really liked your insight about organic milk production.
There is such a lot ot learn about factory farming and cruelty to animals because of the market cravings for ever cheaper food.
Your insights are excellent, I will follow you and hope you keep up the good work.
All the best!
Coralie Nellhard recently posted..Make Today A Better Day for You!My Profile


8 Steve Denning

thot I’d feature your article on our Blog; as always Will, you have a quiet way of finding center. The video shared by Jon is brutal, haunting. I’m finding it difficult to move on for the moment. I recall the fascination, as a young boy, working summers on Grandma’s farm in Koshkonong Missouri, hand-milking 30 head, taking the fresh milk to the cheese factory. Of course, it was no factory–just a small town business hosting sustainable dairy products. A time & a world away from where we are now… difficult to move on for the moment.


9 Coralie Nellhard

As many people are becoming more and more concerned about how factory farm animals are treated, I thought you might like to read this insight on how we can help by the way we think and make choices.
Here is the link
Coralie Nellhard recently posted..Health and Happiness Go Hand in Hand!My Profile


10 tracy

Wonderful post!! My hubby and I have a grass fed beef ranch and while we could make so much more money if we produced more cattle in a less humane way, we choose to manage the land and the animals for the optimum health of both.
With rotational grazing and keeping the herd size small we are producing a product that is healthier for those who buy from us than the majority of stuff sold in the store.


11 Coralie Nellhard

It´s so good to notice that people are becoming more and more aware of the nutritional benefits of organic milk, there really is a great difference. So a big THANK YOU to all you farmers that take on the extra work to produce such milk and give your cows a humane life.
I am “half vegan” sounds a bit odd here I guess, although for me it is a positive act, however, there are a lot of benefits of real milk and cheese, especially for your teeth which I read about recently I refer to this article on my blog if you happen to pass by.
Coralie Nellhard recently posted..The victorMy Profile


12 Keith

Will, one thing to keep in mind about soy is that,in addition to a hormone mimic, it is almost entirely GMO in nature. Real science is still not entirely sure what the long-term effects of vthese foods.

As for whole raw milk, that is actually real and healthy food, unlike most of the pasteurized, homogenized stuff that is sold in most supermarkets. I wish I could find ice cream made with raw milk!


13 Blessings

Hi, dear ones~Many thoughts, but must share only a couple right now (time considerations). First, a comment Will made near the beginning of these posts that many people cannot afford organically produced food. Well….yes, and no. Part of this is a lack of WILLINGNESS in the U.S. to spend more on food. Cheap “non-food”, addictive consumables…and two-week-old, nutritionally poor produce from thousands of miles away….have “spoiled” us. I don’t have the statistics on hand, but have read credible numbers showing that Europeans are accustomed to spending a far higher percentage of their incomes on food than people in any income bracket in the U.S. expect to pay.

I’m not speaking from a position of material comfort = though, blessedly, I have enough for the present. The area in which I live has been economically depressed for many decades prior to the current economic crisis = ever since a robust, water-powered manufacturing sector was shipped, industry by industry, overseas. I have neighbors working two or three jobs to keep any kind of roof overhead, with no health coverage. Yet, nearly all of the same folks consider cable TV a necessary expenditure. Some of them also spend money on cigarettes! And on alcohol.

None of these are as essential as better food! We are facing a question of awareness and choices = even as we all work diligently to bring about a far more equitable economy, along with the provision of high-quality, fresh, pure, locally and humanely produced food at prices that support the farmer, the coop or greengrocer, AND the buyer.

As someone who has not lived with a TV in residence since leaving my parents’ household 41 years ago, I assure you that it is an unnecessary expense. The children in these extremely deprived households live only 4 or 5 blocks from beautiful parks, hiking trails, and bike paths that are as safe as any outdoor play spaces anywhere. Good food plus pick-up soccer or softball or tag will confer VASTLY better physical and emotional well-being on these children who initially would, of course, complain that without their TV screens, unlimited computer time, and video games, they are “bored”.

Second track = Everyone who cares about food, community building, organic and/or human practices, the environment, and HOPE should see the documentary “Fresh”. It was originally aired on PBS, and is available for local showings. Beautiful, informative, and inspiring, on so many levels!

Happy holidays, all. Thanks for listening!


14 Will

Thanks for all that great commentary! I agree with most of what you say although my take on the pricing of healthy food is a bit different. I have had a draft post on that subject for months, but never seem to be satisfied that I have really conveyed what I think. It WILL be published eventually.

As to the movie Fresh, I have had it suggested a few times. I just today published a post taking the Fresh movement to task a bit. Maybe those of you that have actually been able to see the movie can read that post and straighten me out!


15 Blessings

Hi, Will~
Thanks for replying to my post. I can’t find what you wrote about “taking the Fresh movement to task bit” = Is it in another thread? Perhaps you can enter the link here. {I’m a blogging-illiterate!}

I actually don’t know anything about the “Fresh movement”, nor what their goals or program might be…. I simply saw the film, and loved what was presented = both on the negative side of factory farming….and a rather poignant look at the relative unconsciousness and denial that affect some of the human beings who operate it….and, even more, the visits with families and individuals who are living and teaching and marketing the fruits of organic and earth-friendly agriculture = often in highly unexpected, challenging circumstances.

So, I’m interested in what you have seen or heard that seems “worth” critique.

Also, my apologies to everyone on this board that I may occasionally pipe up, but then “disappear”, not engaging in the continuing conversation. I have a health challenge that slows me down quite a bit and requires my full-time attention to basic life logistics such as getting the laundry off the floor!

Best to all~


16 Will
17 Coralie

Very interesting reading!
I absolutely agree that many people spend money on “unnecessary” food, stuff and pastimes and would have more money to spend on local produced and organic food if they were prepared to cut down on these things.

Having spent some time in the USA, I am inclined to agree that many stores sell a scary amount of junk and processed food.

So far we have been lucky in Sweden, because the interest for organic and local produced food products is steadily growing.

However, a main concern is the influence EU has (Sweden is an EU member) this means that “large scale farming” is gaining ground. Small local units are finding it more difficult to compete, the costs for transport and animal care are much more than for larger farming units.
On the whole I think EU is a good idea, but many rules need to be adjusted to suit certain areas better.

The best we can do as consumers is to buy local and organic and there is a lot of money to be saved by changing your priorities.

I took your advice and went to the “Fresh” homepage and embedded a video code on my blog. The film is not available outside the USA as far as I know.
Fresh is a great movement, well worth spreading.

Thank you very much for all your good tips and ideas!
Coralie recently posted..Better Lifestyle- Better LivingMy Profile


18 Karen

Will that’s a great post and Im so glad you managed to make a difference at just the right moment in time and to influence the guy to buy the organic milk.
It is very hard when we are on a tight budget to buy organics particulalry as you say stores will often hype the price unrealisitically. BUT when you buy organic you really do begin to appreciate the real taste in any food and milk is quite distinctively tastier and creamier. I don’t think its just in my mind, even if it is, it’s worth those few pennies more. And your not on a guilt trip for animal cruelty either.
Also if we buy organic especially with meats you find that you can buy less as the meat doesnt shrink away and become a tastless lump like all the cheap inorganic stuff that most people buy because they think they are saving money.
Oh that video was harrowing Jon but they should be put out on the telly more often to make people think!
Karen recently posted..Stinging nettles- the wild plant which is good for youMy Profile


19 Georgianne

I wanted to chime in and say that organic milk is not really the best choice to buy at all. My husband and I went through the whole dilemma of buying organic milk vs conventional milk thinking organic automatically meant a more ethically produced item; better for the cows, better for the environment. Unfortunately, we discovered most organic milk readily available on grocery store shelves AND health food stores alike is ultra-pasteurized. You cannot make homemade yogurt or cheese or kefir from UHT milk. We tried and then did the research when it failed. UHT milk has been heated to 280 degrees for 2 seconds, effectively killing any worthwhile enzyme in milk and really turning it into nothing much more than a white colored liquid with absolutely no health benefits whatsoever. The main reason is profit. Organic milk companies can’t sell milk as fast as conventional milk companies, so the longer shelf life of UHT milk is heaven sent, as far as company profits go. They have traded their so-called ethical treatment of cows into a nasty product for human consumption. Although, organic doesn’t presume ethical. Horizon organic milk is owned by Dean Foods, a company that is constantly being sued for unethical business practices, purposely monopolizing the market, and not really treating their organic cows any better than their conventional-milk cows. (They also happen to won Silk, a soy milk company.) So the dilemma is really buy milk that is better for your health or one that might treat the cows better. Horrible choice. Of course, if organic milk from a reputable company is available that is simply pasteurized and not ultra-pasteurized, then by all means buy it. But I went on an organic milk hunt and could not find a single non-UHT bottle of organic milk within a 20 mile radius of my house. Considering we have homemade yogurt, kefir, and cheese going constantly the need to be able to grab a gallon of milk on a normal errand run is imperative.

Anyhow, hopefully organic food will become more in demand and therefore more readily available. In the meantime, please try and have any local shopping source (grocery stores, health food stores, even pharmacies) that sells milk to offer non-UHT — just plain old pasteurized (pasteurized non-homogenized would be even better) — milk on their shelves. Boycott organic UHT milk. It is a nasty product.

And for those of you who insist on soy milk, please make sure you’re drinking non-GMO soy, although I would not advocate soy in any form except fermented. But that’s another rant.
Georgianne recently posted..The Milk DilemmaMy Profile


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