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Organic Milk Can Be a Disaster for Organic Farmers

June 05, 2008 | 33,964 views

organic milk, dairy cowsAn organic label does mean something -- for spinach, as an example, it means that synthetic pesticides and fertilizers weren‘t used in its production. But the label fails to paint a complete picture of the conditions under which the spinach was grown; for instance, it says nothing about whether the workers were treated fairly.

In the case of organic dairy, the organic label may be especially inadequate.

Organic processors are currently paying milk producers far too little for real organic standards to be profitable. They are constrained by fierce competition at the retail level. Organic milk has gained popularity due to the consumer backlash against growth hormones, and large corporations, concerned more about profit margins than anything else, have barreled into the market.

These corporations buy "organic" milk from the cheapest sources possible -- including factory-style farms that confine thousands of dairy cows into pens year-round. This actually threatens the livelihoods of true organic farmers, who can’t compete with the deep-pocketed corporate giants.

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Last year, organic milk prices actually dropped because the market was so flooded with suppliers. This year, with organic feed costs soaring, some organic dairy farmers are leaving the industry altogether, and that means supplies are dropping.

Today you can expect to pay around $7.50 for a gallon of organic milk, up from about $6 last year. What a difference a year makes, but then of course, those of us in the United States are paying 50% more for gas. Amazing what happens when your native currency is dramatically devalued by its government through subsidizing subprime loans and spending trillions unnecessarily in foreign wars.

It is unfortunate that small farmers are bearing the burden of rising feed costs (organic corn prices jumped 59 percent this year) and rising prices of diesel fuel (up 60 percent) while their milk prices rose only 12 percent.

Some farmers are even losing 60 cents on every gallon of milk they sell.

One part of the problem is that small farmers often cannot afford the costly organic certification process required by the government. Yet, if they try to sell foods that are raised according to organic standards, but not certified as such, as organic, they can be fined or sent to jail.

In fact, Richard Bean, who runs Double H Farm in Charlottesville, Virginia, is facing the possibility of three years in jail for this very thing.

“We were trying to skirt the system. A small farm, making it work," Bean said. "We were able to earn a significant amount more per animal, and that's how we are able to compete with corporate agriculture."

If this type of income collapse migrates through the farming industry, you can bet that farmers will begin pulling out in record numbers. As it is, less than 2 percent of Americans farm, and if this percentage decreases, the United States will become even more dependent on imports for their food supply, which is not a good thing on so many levels.

Now, normally I am all in favor of small farmers with organic goods -- but organic milk is one exception. With food costs soaring the way they are, many people are looking for ways to trim their grocery bills, and if you are splurging on organic milk, you are wasting your money. But let me be more specific ...

Most Important Food to Purchase Organically

If you are strapped for funds and you simply must economize, your most important foods to purchase organically would be animal, not vegetable foods. This is because they tend to concentrate pesticides more. Non-organic meats will have up to five times more pesticides than non-organic vegetables.

But the major surprise is butter, which can have up to 20 times as much pesticides as non-organic vegetables. I don’t know about you but once I found that out I started taking my own raw, organic grass-fed butter to restaurants. It is now a NEW part of my traveling routine!

I simply will NOT use non-organic butter anymore. Ideally it should also be raw but the key here is to make sure it is organic. I actually will be making my own ghee and bringing that with me.

Organic milk is a completely different animal and far less important to consume organically because it is nowhere nearly as concentrated. Additionally, the pasteurization causes far more problems than the pesticides for most. This is because there is very little protein in butter relative to milk, and there could be far less if you made ghee out of the butter by gently heating it and skimming off the proteins that separate out when you clarify the butter.

Organic Incorporated

If you read last week’s article Will Success Destroy Organic Food, then you know that many of the most popular organic food processors in the United States are actually owned by gigantic food corporations like Kraft, Cadbury Schweppes, Kellogg, Pepsi and Heinz.

In the case of organic milk, 60 percent of the supplies come from Horizon, the largest organic-milk brand in the United States. Not surprisingly, Horizon is owned by the largest U.S. conventional milk processor, Dean Foods. Another major player in the organic-milk market is Aurora, which supplies milk to many supermarket organic brands.

The problem that almost universally occurs when corporate giants dip their hands into a project is that they begin looking for ways to maximize profits, and if that means cutting corners on quality, so be it. As a result, Horizon and Aurora buy much of their milk from factory-style farms that keep thousands of dairy cows cooped up all year.

These cows are not grazing on pasture, and many have been imported from conventional farms as calves. You can rest-assured that milk produced from these cows is low-quality, regardless of its organic label.

But the solution is not to seek out a small organic-milk farmer who still produces quality milk, because the real issue is not organic versus non-organic milk, it is raw versus pasteurized.

Good News: Raw Milk Dairies are Increasing

If you are new to this issue, please read through this past article to learn why raw milk is more superior for your health than pasteurized milk. The differences are so pronounced that I don’t recommend drinking pasteurized milk of any kind, even if it’s organic.

Fortunately, the demand for raw milk in the United States is going strong, and it is slowly becoming more available across the country through cow-share programs and food coops.

You can locate a raw milk source near you at the Campaign for Real Milk Web site. You can also look here to find out the legal status of raw milk in the U.S. state or country where you live.

You will still pay more for raw milk than you will a gallon of pasteurized milk, but in this case the price is well justified. Raw-milk dairies are still run by real people who care about the quality of their product, rather than corporate giants who care only about their bottom line. So if you are currently spending extra food money on organic milk, you can do your health and your family’s a great service by allocating that money to RAW milk instead.

[+] Sources and References

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