Organic Milk- Not Quite

Milking You For All You Are Worth?

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Look, I enjoy great food as much as the next guy (or gal).  No, wait.  I am pretty sure I enjoy great food more than most.  Which is why I really don’t like going to restaurants- because the food is generally mediocre, mislabeled, and overpriced.

I and my great friend buy the best ingredients possible and then spiff them up with spices and complementary foods to create wonderful meals.  For each other, for ourselves, and for our friends.

I keep strictly kosher- and my friend doesn’t.  So, a lot of what he buys is off-limits to me. And, he routinely complains how expensive kosher beef, chicken, lamb, and turkey are.  And, we both don’t buy organic.  Because we know it’s generally a rip off.

Now, I do actually buy organic fowl.  But, that’s only because the largest US purveyor of fowl has figured out that its potential market is greatly augmented by keeping to organic and free-range- while still following the rules of kashrut.  That means they sell organic fowl for prices that are slightly below or at par with organic purveyors- and still satisfy their Jewish patrons.

But, even so, they are a drop in the bucket.  This firm has some 625 million in annual turnover- but the US organic market is almost 75 times larger at $ 40 billion [at least].   And, those numbers include products from some 100 countries around the globe.

Organic Milk- Not Quite

Herein lies the rub.  There is no real “oversight” over the organic designation.    After all, the USDA lets the farmers hire their own inspectors that “ensure” (yeah- wink, wink) that the products are organic.  Moreover, these inspectors show up about once a year- and via arranged visits! (Only 1 in 20 visits are surprise inspections.) So, it’s not surprising that there are many farms that don’t have their animals out to pasture all day-  and instead are kept in feedlots or barns.

(A simple satellite photo over these farms proves the fact.  Because they are protected from oversight (and overflight) via drones, by folks who wonder what it is they are buying.  And, they buying some $ 6 billion in organic dairy products (that are probably NOT truly organic- even though they are paying almost double the conventional price).

Now, I am not saying that these cows are being fed hormones.  Or, that the fields are kept whole by using pesticides.  (Those practices are absolutely illegal for organic dairy farms.)  But, many “organic” farmers feed corn, soybeans, and other grains to their animals- even during the grazing season. (This practice actually increases the milk production of the cows. However, it does lower the conjugated linoleic acid [CLA] and alpha-linoleic acid components of the milk.  [Simple linoleic acid is found in higher concentrations in feedlot produced milk- while the grazing cows produce more of the two components above.])

It gets worse.  I’m only talking milk here.  But consider this.  Half of the commodities (corn, coffee, soybeans are the big 3) sold as “USDA Organic” come from overseas- and much of it via Turkey.    And, despite the long time frame (some 3 years to convert to organic farming) involved in “going organic”,  how is it that Turkey has grown its ‘organic’ corn exports from 15000 metric tons to 399000 metric tons- in just TWO years (from 2014 to 2016). Or, effect an increase supplying ‘organic’ soybeans from 14000 metric tons to 165000, in the same time frame.  (Just so you know- that’s 7% of all organic corn imports and 4% of all organic soybeans.)

Or, how is it that Ceres (one of the largest “organic” inspection agencies, based in Germany), which effects the most rigorous of such testing, found that more than 1/3 of  Chinese organic products had pesticide residues. (The actual data were 37% of the 232 samples).

And, that still begs the question- why buy organic?  There simply is no data demonstrating that organic food is better or more nutritious.  Even though we see the fats in the milk are different- there is no data demonstrating that this is better or worse for those who imbibe organic milk.

Caveat emptor?  Nah.  It’s more like “there’s a sucker born every minute.”Roy A. Ackerman, Ph.D., E.A.

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