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?


Cheryl I.
Past Member 4 years ago

Interesting, thank you.

Mpa Mpa
Mpa Mpa4 years ago


Svetlana B.
Svetlana B5 years ago


Tim Cheung
Tim C5 years ago


Julija S.
Julija S5 years ago


Marie B.
Past Member 5 years ago

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.

clara H.
Clara Hamill5 years ago

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.

clara H.
Clara Hamill5 years ago

Sounds good but much harder.

Deepti Patil
Deepti Patil5 years ago

thank you..

Lauren C.
Lauren C.5 years ago

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.