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How to Find Honest Milk

How to Find Honest Milk

When my kids and I spent two weeks on an organic farm in Costa Rica last month, we learned what real milk–fresh from the cow and flash pasteurized on the spot–tastes like. Now home again, we just can’t go back to the bland, denatured product that we find on our grocery shelves–and Anne Mendelson’s great article in the current Mother Earth News, “The Astonishing Story of Real Milk,” gives me hope that we won’t have to.

Anne explains that the milk we buy in the United States is the result of years of messing with how we breed and feed cows–for maximum profit. In the 1940s, she reports, a good milk cow produced about 4,500 pounds of milk per year. Today’s cows produce 20,000 pounds or more per year. “Modern industrial cows’ entire system is concentrated on making milk,” she writes, “frequently to the point of endangering life and limb.”

Because cows can’t produce more and better milk, dairy farmers settle for volume. The huge amount of milk produced by today’s “supercows” is diluted and less nutritious. Plus, cows are fed grains, especially corn, which destroys their appetites. Constantly thirsty, they drink more water–and make thinner milk. Injecting the cows with the hormone bovine somatotropin (BST), also called “bovine growth hormone” (BGH) increases their stress.

Buying organic is one way around the hormones, but Anne warns that “pious-sounding rhetoric and pictures of contented cows on milk cartons are no guarantee of humanely tended animals or more ‘natural’ milk.” The sad fact is, most organic milk comes from a few very large producers, is produced using the same methods as conventional milk, and travels thousands of miles to reach retail shelves. “Why should we support new-style versions of factory farming clad in airs of moral superiority?” she asks.

Anne won’t buy organic dairy products unless they have another solid selling point such as not being homogenized or coming from small local dairies. She urges everyone to seek alternatives to mass-produced conventional milk in places such as farmers markets or retail sources that encourage locally based agriculture–and she promises it’s not that hard.

“Finding honest milk from small dairies run by people who care about well-tended animals and fresh flavor is more possible than ever,” Anne writes. To find a dairy near you, search at Local Harvest or Eat Wild.

Slaughter-Free Milk: Could it Work?

Read more: Animal Rights, Basics, Diet & Nutrition, Drinks, Eating for Health, Food, , , , , , , ,

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Robyn Lawrence

Robyn Griggs Lawrence is editor-in-chief of Organic Spa Magazine, an eco-lifestyle magazine that bridges spa wisdom with green living. Through print, online and phone apps, Organic Spa Magazine offers expert advice and inspiration on sustainable health and wellness, beauty and skin care, fashion and travel. 


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9:07AM PDT on Aug 23, 2012

Interesting, thank you.

4:02PM PST on Feb 24, 2012


12:11PM PST on Nov 9, 2011


11:30AM PDT on Oct 31, 2011


12:23PM PDT on Oct 25, 2011


10:29PM PDT on Oct 18, 2011

There is nothing "honest", ethical or humane about taking milk from another species. Cow's milk is good for CALVES.

Calves are taken away from their mothers within 24-48 hours after birth. I have witnessed this firsthand and it is heart wrenching to see calves so frightened and mother's so distraught over the loss of her newborn. It is heartless and it is unnecessary. Humans do not need to consume cow's milk anymore than they need to drink dog's milk, or rat's milk, or cat's milk. Stop buying into and supporting animal cruelty.

9:35PM PDT on Oct 17, 2011

The vegans miss the point here. There are people who drink milk and are not going to stop because you tell them to or you humanize them this is trying to people to find smaller farms that treat them better.

9:31PM PDT on Oct 17, 2011

Sounds good but much harder.

11:34PM PDT on Oct 13, 2011

thank you..

9:46PM PDT on Oct 8, 2011

Very true Lika S.!!
I think that animals and humans are meant to work together. We feed and shelter the cows, they feed us.
Where would they be in the wild? Dying from exposure and getting slaughtered by predators?? Yeah, that's much better (sarcasm).
It's WONDERFUL to have honest milk... an animal and human community, all working together.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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