Mixed signals on organic milk

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/micamonkey/ Some rights reserved.

Photo: Mica Monkey, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

A new study out this week in the journal PLOS one finds organic milk has more omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for your heart, than does conventional milk. As NPR's Allison Aubrey reported on All Things Considered Tuesday night:

The researchers compared organic and conventional milk head-to-head. They analyzed about 400 samples over an 18-month period, to account for seasonal differences. And the samples were taken from, you know, all different parts of the country. And they found that organic milk had about 62 percent more of the heart healthy omega-3s, compared to conventional milk.

And the lead researcher at Washington State University, who I talked to about the study, said – you know, he was quite surprised. He didn't expect such a big difference.

The study also says that whole milk is better for you than skim milk, too.

And it says the big reason organic milk has more omega-3s is that cows that produce organic milk spend more time on pasture, so they're eating more grasses that contain omega-3s.

But here's the thing. The current USDA regulations on organic milk are loose enough that those "organic milk" cows may have been living in a conventional feedlot and/or eating grasses contaminated with pesticides as recently as a year ago.

According to Politico's  Jenny Hopkinson, the USDA is considering tightening those regulations as early as next spring:

The department says a proposed rule could be released as early as April that would revise the organic dairy livestock rule to specify that farmers are allowed to convert a conventional herd to organic production only once, and that once that has happened, all dairy animals at the facility must be treated organically from before birth.

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One Comment

  1. I haven't read the report, but, in my humble opinion the amounts of omega 3 and the ratios have nothing at all to do with whether or not the milk is produced organically. It is because they are fed primarily grass. Grass fed animals are more likely to have higher levels of these good fats.