Choosing Quality Dairy by Kirby Wetzel, January 27 2016, 0 Comments

All mammals when babies drink milk from their mothers’ bodies. However, humans are the only mammals that continue to drink milk into adulthood—and, the milk of another species to boot. Some say this is unnatural and we shouldn’t do it. Others say the fact that it is unnatural to consume another species' milk explains why so many humans have a lactose intolerance. But cheese is delicious! For those of us who can tolerate and enjoy dairy, what are best practices when seeking out a quality dairy source? Is all dairy created equal? Nope. Not even close.

There are so many options when purchasing dairy. There is skim, one percent, two percent and whole. Then there is organic, grass-fed, grass-fed organic and raw. 

Well, as far as organic vs. non-organic, organic dairies DO NOT allow:

  • Pesticides or herbicides
  • GMOs
  • Antibiotics
  • Growth hormones
  • Irradiation

In addition, organic dairies:

  • Have better animal welfare requirements
  • Lower levels of environmental pollution
  • Audit trail to track milk production from farm to glass (or cereal bowl)
  • Require certification, including inspections
  • Require cows to be on pasture for pasture season
  • Have legal restrictions on allowable materials

So, what does all this mean? It means that the food the cows eat and the milk they produce is essentially free from chemicals, antibiotics and hormones. The milk does not encounter radiation, which is great because radiation is bad and also because it allows organic milk to last much longer. Seriously. I’ve had organic milk for six weeks before it approached its “best by” date.

Non-organic dairies allow:

  • Pesticides and herbicides
  • GMOs
  • Antibiotics
  • Growth Hormones
  • Irradiation

 There are no:

  • Animal welfare requirements
  • Audit trail to track milk production
  • Certifications required (including inspections)
  • Requirements for cows to be on pasture for pasture season
  • Legal restrictions on allowable materials

What should you look for?

I suggest buying the very best dairy you can. I look for 100 percent grass-fed, unpasteurized and organic. (Note: if you are getting dairy that is designated as grass-fed but not specifically labeled organic, assume it’s not organic.)  If you can get raw milk from a farm using organic farming practices, do it! I, however, live in New Jersey where raw milk is not sold. There is a caveat regarding the grass-fed label. All cows are originally fed grass at some point in their life. Some companies will label milk "grass-fed" if the cow ate grass at one point, but has been fed grain for the majority of his or her life. If you just have to eat grass to be labeled grass-fed, then you could say that about me too! (Don’t ask.) If it's important to you that the cows ONLY be fed grass, get on the horn (or the Web!) and ask.

Also, sticking to a smaller scale production is key in my opinion. Many smaller farms who are doing it “right” really believe in their product and organic farming practices—that’s why they do it—and also why they have not sold out to a big brand Agra company. I feel better avoiding the big names and sticking to smaller organic brands when it comes to buying my milk, cheese, yogurt, butter and ice cream. Why? 1. Because I can call someone on the phone and a real person (!!) answers my questions, and 2. It tastes better!

Now that you're informed, enjoy your dairy in good health!