Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What's In Your Milk?

Recently I was made aware of the presence of artificial growth hormones in much of America's milk. Thanks to friends who post interesting links and articles on Facebook, I found out something that most of you probably already knew: large dairy producers give chemicals to their milk cows that make them produce more milk. These chemical hormones, however are not good for the cows. And they're not good for us milk-drinkers.

A friend shared with me a list of 100 major dairy producers in the USA that do NOT use growth hormone in their products. Here's a link to that list. Now, some of the dairies are completely hormone-free; others are partially hormone-free.

The hormone used, called rBGH or rBST, is prohibited in Canada and all the countries of the European Union. Why does the FDA allow its use in America? More important, who was in charge of the FDA when this hormone-use was approved? Michael Taylor -- who before this post worked for Monsanto's legal arm, and after this post returned to Monsanto as a VP and lobbyist. Yes, THAT Monsanto -- the food giant that controls so much of what we eat, and makes a mint doing so.

If you want more about this topic, here's an article. I can hardly BELIEVE I'm linking to an article from the Huffington Post, but credit where credit is due.

So, you know me -- I've started looking for products in my stores, from dairies on that list. I was happy to find that the ice cream we normally buy at WalMart is made by Dean Foods. However, Dean is only "partially-hormone free." Wish I knew about the actual ice cream we're eating this week!

But what about milk? I was pleased to discover that the store-brand milk at both Food Lion and WalMart has this notice, right on the label: "Our farmers have pledged to not treat any of their cows with any artificial growth hormones." YAY!!!

The label continues: "According to the FDA, no significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rBST treated and non-rBST treated cows."

Yeah. Thanks, Mr. Taylor for that consideration of my health. Ha.

But ... I haven't been buying my milk at WalMart or Food Lion. I've been buying my milk at Aldi, and saving about 7¢ a gallon. That's 28¢ a week. $14.56 per year. Sidewalk change, considering that rBGH & rBST can cause breast and prostrate cancer.

I asked at Aldi, because some Aldi stores do post on their milk coolers that their milk is hormone-free, but not our local Aldi. Our Aldi gets their milk from Maola Milk, which is on that lovely list as Maryland/Virginia Milk Co-op. Partially hormone-free.

Sorry Aldi. Food Lion and WalMart sell milk that IS hormone-free. Bummer. And since I won't be buying my 4 gallons each week at Aldi anymore, it's almost not worth it to drive to their store for the other things I've been buying there.

Seriously, friends, I'm tired of these food producers thinking ONLY of their bottom lines, and NEVER of our health. I understand they must make good profits, BUT -- within reason. And that means they must take into account the health of their consumers.

Honestly, I'd prefer good, clean raw milk, but I don't have ANYWHERE locally to get it. And the gov't scares raw milk producers to death with threats of lawsuits and jailtime, so they're afraid to advertise it.

It's time for ordinary grocery shoppers like you and me to communicate effectively to our food providers that we want food that is good and healthy for us and our families. This is not unreasonable. So, go check. What's in your milk?


  1. Up on my soapbox!!! Being a dairy farmer.........I am TOTALLY 100% against BGH. I don't care how much the argument that it naturally is part of the bovine make-up. Synthetic is NOT natural. We ship our milk to DFA which is "P" according to the list. We signed an affidavit years ago that we would not use BGH. And although my DH has rescinded that agreement (just in case he wanted to use it on an occasional cow--and I could explain that but I won't go into it) and never informed me, we do not use it but on a very rare occasion. I believe the use of hormones in beef, pork, poultry, and dairy cows is NOT good and this is why our little girls are menstruating/developing at such an early age.

    We have drank/drunk raw milk all our lives. Never suffered any ill effects--ever!!! Now there are some dairy farms I wouldn't drink their milk! I see what their milk-houses and equipment look like and I'd like to gag. And just because a milk is organic, doesn't mean it comes from a nice clean farm. Believe me, the majority of organic farms around here are absolutely awful!! I wouldn't drink anything that come from their barn. I don't care what that piece of paper says. Organic doesn't necessarily mean clean! Same goes for fruit and veggies.

    If you were close to me, MK, I would gladly sell you raw milk. But not all raw milk is "equal". We've had people that work here and drink our milk and said it is so good compared to the neighbor's milk. It all comes down to what you feed a cow. I happen to know that neighbor feeds a liquid fertilizer to his cows for "mineral". Ick. Although it's all "natural", that is not what it is intended for. When I do buy milk, I look for the "BGH free" label and around here that is Kemps. Kemps is part of DFA. I cannot feed day care kids raw milk.

    Okay, stepping down from my soapbox.

    ~karen s.

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  3. MK, as you know, Howard has a PhD in ruminant nutrition and although some people say that's "Piled higher and Deeper", he does have more than a surface knowledge of feeding dairy cows and beef cattle.
    I heartily agree with much of Anonymous' comment, especially about the condition of some dairies. Howard was in many of them from time to time! We have long been aware of the testimonials about hormone-fed/raw milk and beef, so this is not a recent awareness and you know I have been entirely in favor of "health food" for at least 30 years in our home. That being said, let me direct you to a couple of articles on food cattle in America. http://www.beefmyths.org/beefmyths/cattlegrowthhormones/ and http://www.fda.gov/animalveterinary/newsevents/fdaveterinariannewsletter/ucm110712.htm
    Also, "The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Title 21, Parts 522, 556, and 558."
    MK, I do believe the bloggers you cited are sincere, but are, I think, unable to verify the claims they make. And Howard says drinking raw milk is safe only if you know and completely trust the producer. The dangers are diseases that for 15 years he was in the business of trying to eradicate - brucellosis and tuberculosis (they are rare, but still around).
    Much love, Hunter

    P.S. Your mama and Carolyn came over last night to watch a Poirot movie. We had tea and tarts. They're such fun.

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  5. I love when we are on the same soap box. :D

  6. Oh and I meant to ask. Do you have a Trader Joe's near you. I get most of my "alternative" groceries there, though find meat cheaper at Whole Foods...

  7. Hunter - I took our your "repeat." The only raw milk I'm familiar with is from Max's, and of course I know how they care for their animals and how they process their milk, so I do feel that milk is perfectly safe. And, if I ever did buy raw milk, I'd be sure it was from a farm where they would let me examine their barn(s) and see their cows and know how clean it was. I heard of one small dairyman who had friends into his barn for a meal -- that's how clean his was :)

    J - the nearest TJ's is in north Charlotte and just too much of a windy drive from here. The nearest Whole Foods is in Winston, about 45 min. away. This is one of my frustrations: that people who live in big cities like Philly typically have better access to farm-fresh foods, fresh markets & good groceries, than people who live in more "rural" towns, like I do. I've looked online for farm meat and raw milk, and it's not convenient for me at all. I'd have to basically drive to Charlotte (or the vicinity) to get these things.

  8. Oooooooo I, too,wish we could shop at "Max's"! Nothing like fresh food.

  9. MK--isn't that ironic!? (and an interesting point in and of itself) the whole city thing? I will say, Philadelphia is wonderful, because we have access to so much farmland in our vicinity between Lancaster and New Jersey.

  10. MK,

    As to Monsanto controlling the FDA: absolutely it does! Vanity Fair magazine ran an article which discusses that very fact in their 2008 Green Issue. Beyond hormones alone is the greater issue of decent animal treatment. Typically, the two things go hand-in-hand: hormone-and-pesticide-opposed ranchers and farmers (including at least one of your respondents above) usually try to treat their animals humanely, and they abhor the torture that is part and parcel of battery farming.

    I've tried repeatedly to settle and work in France and the UK (my personal tragedy is that I've failed with flying colors, and so have had to give up the fight.) Therefore I know from firsthand experience that since all western EU nations are social welfare states, healthful and humane ways of raising and slaughtering animals rank as a high government priority – along with mandated ample vacation time, generous maternity leave, heavily-subsidized education at all age levels, and nationalized health care (free at the time of service and heavily preventative: the idea of having to sell all your worldly possessions to afford cancer treatment is inconceivable and utterly horrifying to Europeans!) The British, French and Germans – to merely name Europe's three major players – consider humane government intervention in their lives to be a BASIC HUMAN RIGHT. They expect extensive cradle-to-grave benefits. I ask you: what exactly do our taxes get us in this country? An FDA controlled by a pesticide giant? A swollen military-industrial complex which squanders billions of said tax dollars? (Note that those two things are one and the same!)

    In short, stumbling across your blog post has inspired me to mention all the things our American tax dollars do NOT provide and/or guarantee, because somehow this has remained an every-man-for-himself nation to an unparalled extreme in the modern western world. Monsanto is purely about making big money (and always has been.) The FDA has historically been in the pocket of big money-grubbing corporations and their Washington lobbyists. The same people who militate for the sale of profitable new (and unnecessary) medications on TV – a practice illegal and also irrelevant in Europe, where medications are by definition generic and handed out as sparingly as possible – are also in favor of keeping the FDA and the USDA away from their megaprofits.

    The United States has a systemic disease and the legality of hormones and GMO crops (which are also illegal in Europe) is just
    a symptom.

    The main point I'm trying to make here? This country has created an appalling way of life for the majority of its citizens: just for example, no – or incredibly limited and restricted – basic health care, the preponderance of fat-making overprocessed foods and chain restaurants, and the obesity epidemic, are three intertwined phenomena.

    The United States is the western world's only 100% capitalist disaster, and this phenomenon is worsening day by day, but right-wing Republicanism will ensure that the status quo never budges. Resisting the inevitable is a truly daunting task. The never-ending and often futile struggle to promote common decency and education about America's ills leads me, time and again, to suicidal depression. Imagine: I tried more than once to get out of this society, and I failed. Thank goodness, then, that there exist middle class people like yourself who manage to get informed and then vote with their wallets and their feet!

    All other western nations have evolved a blend of capitalist and socialist principles, and therefore tax dollars are being spent on the improvement of their civilizations. Meanwhile Americans are being told by right-wingers that 'socialism' is a dirty word – and millions are buying it! No wonder I constantly want to give up.

    What a shame that the American experiment has failed so utterly, and that your neighbors and mine are generally so brainwashed as to be oblivious.

    Please continue to keep up the good fight!


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