Organic milk is one of the most popular forms of organic food. For many shoppers, it is the first organic product they try. Wal-Mart plans to produce its own brand of organic milk, at a lower price than competitors. But critics believe that it will be a substandard form of the product.
Activist groups argue that Wal-Mart and other large retailers get their organic milk from large factory farms. The cows on these farms do not graze on fresh grass in pastures, but are rather fed a diet high in grains.
Wal-Mart's private-label brand of organic milk (Great Value) is produced by Aurora Organic Dairy (which also supplies Costco, Target, Wild Oats and Safeway).
To produce milk more cheaply, experts report, Aurora cuts corners. Their cows only eat grass when they aren't being milked or at the end of a lactation cycle, which amounts to only three months at most each year.
As a result, Aurora produces more milk annually (20,000 pounds per cow) than the average organic dairy (up to 18,000 pounds). Aurora also milks its cows three times a day, above the norm too.
Many organic farmers contend that grass feeding is essential for organic dairy production, and that milk from grass-fed cows is higher in beneficial nutrients.
The major issue here will be missed by nearly the entire media because they are under the belief that pasteurized milk is better for you than raw milk. If you are under a similar confusion than you simply need to read my article on raw milk that helps clear up this confusion.
The real issue is not organic versus non-organic milk, it is raw versus pasteurized. Secondary issues would be the food source that is given to the cow. Ideally, they should be fed exclusively on grass. When you start giving cows grains, even organic ones, their milk will have lower levels of important nutrients such as conjugated linoleic acid.
Now to add even more to the already serious confusion about the real issues with milk comes Wal-Mart, which will push sales even further away from the local small farmers and to multi-national factory farming operations.
When Wal-Mart made hay in the press earlier this year with its announcement about doubling its organic foods sales, I cautioned you to be skeptical about the source, and it seems my concerns are well-founded.
Sounds to me like a cheaper, more conventionally-produced product being labeled deceptively as an organic one. Aurora claims that they will be lowering the number of cows on its farms, anticipating stricter regulations from the USDA on what constitutes organic milk, but they will still have far too many cows to realistically pasture.
Wal-Mart has a major history of abusive practices, as has been brilliantly documented in the movie Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price. Wal-Mart's entry into the organic food market may activate market forces that could devastate small organic farmers, and substitute inferior, factory-farmed products in their place.
This will be especially true if they start outsourcing food from <st1:country-region>China</st1:country-region>, where organic enforcement standards are close to non-existent.
Now, I am not opposed to selling Chinese goods -- that's why we're able to have such low prices on many of the products we offer on our site. But there is a major difference between light bulbs and organic food. With manufactured goods, it is very easy to check the quality.
On organic foods, however, this is much more difficult to do.
Of course, it's important to note that even genuinely organic milk is still pasteurized, a process that eradicates virtually all of the beneficial bacteria present in milk as well as distorts its fragile proteins in ways that can be harmful to you.
That's why your best source for milk is to locate a farmer near you who produces and sells raw milk. I have seen so many patients improve their health after switching to raw milk, I believe it is one of the healthiest foods you can consume. It has more nutrients, more health benefits, and tastes better as well.
I am coming to the strong understanding that one of the missions of this site will be to reconnect people to small, local, independent food producers so they can have access to the highest quality foods that can help sustain and nourish them to achieve high-level health.