|What's the deal with organic milk?|
|March 01, 2012 Jim Headley|
Jim Headley, Gering Citizen Founder
Some things just bother you until they have to be investigated.
For quite some time now I have been purchasing organic milk as I learned long ago it has the word “organic” in it so it has to be better for you.
I really have no idea what the term “organic” means when it comes to milk, but I do know that organic milk stays fresh in my fridge for up to a month while “normal” milk sours within a week.
As a person who lives alone, there is nothing more humbling than finding you are so alone that you don’t drink enough milk and it turns on you. I confess in a previous career I was actually a full-fledged milkman.
Sour milk is so disgusting that when it turns on me to this day, I see it as the universe’s way of slapping me across the face.
So the prospect that “organic” milk lasts a month is inviting to this lonely bachelor who really likes breakfast cereal in the morning. But it has bothered me for years as to why “organic” milk does not sours as easily.
Does is have more preservatives in it?
Will milk store for longer periods if cows are not given growth-hormones?
What the heck makes “organic” milk last so long?
Those questions plague my mind at night when I am trying to go to sleep.
I searched the Internet and found website after website about organic milk.
The brand of “organic” milk I buy locally is Horizon and I located their website horizondairy.com.
I found out, “All Horizon cows graze on certified organic pasture. When they are not on pasture, they are fed only organic, vegetarian feed that has been produced without the use of genetically modified grains or the use of toxic and persistent herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers.”
Awesome, I like that. Healthy cows mean a health me!
I am very concerned about growth hormones and antibiotics in the milk I drink.
Horizon’s website reads, “The use of antibiotics is strictly prohibited in organic dairy animals, including calves, at all stages of life. The first and best defense against illness is prevention. But when a calf or cow does become ill, we rely on natural and alternative methods as our preferred treatment. If a sick animal cannot be restored to full health with organic-approved treatments, we may administer antibiotics or other prescribed synthetic medicines to return a calf or cow to good health. However, when antibiotics or other prohibited materials are administered, the animal is no longer considered organic and is permanently removed from the herd."
“We always consider the well-being of our animals first and never allow an animal to suffer. The use of added growth hormones rBST and rBGH is strictly prohibited on Horizon Farms. The use of these substances is not allowed in any organic dairy.”
That is good and the “organic cow” designation bars cattle that were cloned, so I won’t be growing an extra arm or leg because I drink “organic” milk from a non-cloned bovine.
Kidding aside, I really want to know why “organic” milk lasts so long in my refrigerator, so I researched it in depth and finally discovered the answer, thanks to Scientific American Magazine’s website.
On June 6, 2008, Craig Baumrucker, professor of animal nutrition and physiology at Pennsylvania State University, published an article in the magazine and blew the doors off the milk-drinking community.
Milk doesn’t last longer because it is “organic.”
It lasts longer because it is not just pasturized, it is “treated” using ultrahigh temperature (UHT) processing in which milk is heated to 280 degrees Fahrenheit for two to four seconds, killing any bacteria in it.
Compare that to pasteurization, the standard preservation process. There are two types of pasteurization: “low temperature, long time,” in which milk is heated to 145 degrees F for at least 30 minutes, or the more common “high temperature, short time,” in which milk is heated to roughly 160 degrees F for at least 15 seconds.
The different temperatures hint at why UHT-treated milk lasts longer: Pasteurization doesn’t kill all bacteria in the milk, just enough so that you don’t get a disease with your milk mustache. UHT, on the other hand, kills everything.
The milk needs to stay fresh longer because organic products often have to travel farther to reach store shelves since it is not produced throughout the country.
So why isn’t all milk produced using UHT?
One reason is that UHT-treated milk tastes different. UHT sweetens the flavor of milk by burning some of its sugars (caramelization). A lot of Americans find this offensive—just as they are leery of buying non-refrigerated milk. Europeans, however, don’t seem to mind.
UHT also destroys some of the milk’s vitamin content—not a significant amount—and affects some proteins, making it unusable for cheese.
I like sweet milk and the long shelf life it offers so I’m going to stick with my “organic” milk purchases. I love moo juice.
Editor’s note: Jim Headley is Managing Editor of the Dakota County Star in South Sioux City, Neb.
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