Battle Against 'Artificial' Hormones Misguided on Many Levels

Kansas Viewpoint

Concerns about beef, dairy hormones given to animals largely irrelevant

Published on: July 7, 2009
I had an interesting conversation today with a young woman who seemed convinced that the current problems in the dairy industry are self-induced.

The July Kansas Farmer looked into low prices in the dairy industry and what should be done to combat them and she seemed to think the answer would be to just stop using what she called "artificial hormones."

It appears that most of her information came from the particularly inaccurate and politically motivated  web site of the "Center for Food Safety" dot org. Be sure not to confuse that with dot gov. At dot org, you find a particularly virulent, totally non-scientific plethora of misinformation cranked out by a propaganda machine populated by media manipulation gurus, borderline crazy environmentalists, eager-to-sue-somebody lawyers and a few pseudo-scientists.

The idea, apparently, is that we feed cows huge amounts of hormones forcing them to produce vast amounts of unhealthy milk which subsequently kills them, and us. If we just stopped, they would all produce less milk, be happier and we'd all be just delighted to see the price of milk double. (For proof, just look at all the positive publicity from last year's increase in milk prices.)

Never mind that the milk inducing hormone BST is hardly used at all in any Kansas dairy, is not "artificial" but is rather a natural hormone produced by every mammal to induce lactation. She seemed convinced that it not only is killing dairy cows but causing fish to change sex and might be seriously harmful to fetuses, small babies and growing children.

I had to break it to her that there is not only no such thing as "BST free" milk because the cows produce it in their own bodies and would not lactate without it. Ditto goats, humans, guinea pigs and cats. I also had to deliver the disturbing news that fish have been changing sex when conditions warrant it for thousands, maybe millions, of years. They are one of those lucky species that don't even need to contact a surgeon when they decide they want to switch sides.

Of course, she didn't believe me. But I think I might have shaken her faith just a little. I told her to contact the Dairy Farmers of America cooperative, the nation's largest buyer of milk from U.S. producers, and ask them about added hormones and she'd learn that they didn't buy milk from dairies that used added hormones.

To her credit, she e-mailed me and said she did call and they did tell her that all DFA milk is "added hormone free." She was very surprised. Not only by that, but to learn that they represent about 40 percent of all the dairies in the U.S.

You don't need to look for labels or buy organic at extravagant prices. The plain, old ordinary milk at two gallons for $5 is the same thing.

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  1. p. griekspoor says:

    I won’t get into a battle over which studies show what nutrient levels in which samples of milk, especially those collected in foreign countries.


    My experience has been that studies often show what the people who paid for them wanted them to show.


    Your stats, by the way, are a bit deceptive because they are way more about the milk from cows that have spring calves and graze on pasture during lactation than about organic milk. Many conventional dairies pasture their cows in summer and the nutritional numbers come out about the same.


    Of course, it wouldn’t be exactly “beneficial” to the milk supply to limit availability only to the time that cattle can be on pasture.


    But I will, for the sake of higher argument, just pretend that your “studies” are factual and that what we have here are “adequate” conventional products and “superior” organic products.


    Now I will pose this philosophical question: Is it in the interest of the greater good of society to have an ample, affordable supply of “adequate” nutrition to all of the population all of the time or a limited, very expensive supply of “superior” nutrition available only to those of ample means?


    In the interest of the general population, which system should government support?


    Let’s just say I won’t dispute your right to spend your money on whatever you think has superior benefits to you. In exchange, you agree not to fight to destroy the system that provides adequate, safe nutrition to the multitudes at a price they can afford to pay.





  2. Lyle says:

    According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there is supposedly no difference between regular milk and organic milk, aside from how the cows are raised and an obvious difference in price. For some, the environmental benefits of organic farming are enough justification to pay the premium, but many others need to know they're paying more for a better product. Now the studies showing that organic milk is indeed better are building up.

    Let's count the reasons why...
    1. Organic milk has fewer pesticide residues. The USDA Pesticide Data Program (PDP) regularly checks food for pesticide residues. For many years the milk studies showed the same level of pesticide residues in both regular and organic milk (some residues of banned pesticides are so persistent they are still found in water and soil, thus the entire food chain). In 2004, the PDP used more sensitive testing equipment and found synthetic pyrethroids in 24 percent of conventional samples, and in no organic sample. They also discovered a breakdown product of the insecticide carbofuran in 8.8 percent of the conventional milk samples, but in no organic sample.
    2. Organic milk has more vitamins. Organically reared cows, which eat high levels of fresh grass, clover pasture and grass clover silage, produce milk which is on average 50% higher in Vitamin E (alpha tocopherol) and 75% higher in beta carotene (which our bodies convert to Vitamin A).
    3. Organic milk has more antioxidants. Studies show organic milk has two to three times more of the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthine than non-organic milk. These antioxidants are extremely important for eye health and are effective in preventing numerous eye diseases.
    4. Organic milk has more omega-3s. Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid required for healthy growth. Regular intake of Omega-3 helps reduce incidences of heart disease, inflammations (in skin diseases such as eczema), cancer, arthritis, etc. One particular type of omega-3 that is higher in organic milk is DHA, which is important for brain development.
    5. Organic milk has more CLA. Cows that are grazed on pastures have 500% more CLA in their milk. Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) increases metabolism, immunity, and muscle growth. It also reduces abdominal fat, cholesterol, and allergic reactions. Recent animal studies have also shown that CLA may be beneficial in cancer treatment. Since the human body cannot produce CLA, we get most of it through the milk and dairy products that we consume.
    6. Drinking organic milk helps improve the quality of breast milk. European scientists have found that mothers who consumed mostly organic meat and milk had around 50 percent higher levels of rumenic acid in their breast milk. This acid protects against cancer and inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, heart disease and asthma.
    7. Drinking organic milk protects young children against asthma and eczema. Researchers found that children of breastfeeding mothers who ate organic dairy products and who were weaned on organic milk, cheese and yogurts were a third less likely to suffer from allergies. Dr. Machteld Huber, one of the authors of the study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, said: "The difference was significant, but only for children exclusively eating organic dairy products. We didn't find a relationship if they had organic and conventional dairy products." Almost all the children eating organic dai