It's important to truly know where your food comes from
Recently the Washington Post did an investigative story about what they learned while visiting Aurora Organic Dairy, one of the largest organic dairy producers in the United States. You can read their article that also includes a short video, but to sum it up, when cows are fed mostly grass out in pasture the profile of their milk is healthier. The conjugated linoleic acid and omega-3 fatty acid are at higher levels, whereas with feedlot cows that get mostly corn, grains and other feed mixtures, the profile is different and those healthy fatty acids are lower and omega-6 fatty acid is higher. This leads to long-term health problems like obesity and cardiovascular disease.
There are two major takeaways from this article that I hope you might learn from:
Organics are now a big business so we need to be educated about who is producing these products. From all the stories I've read over the years, it's clear to me that farmers cannot always be trusted to make sure the food they produce is done so ethically. From inhumane treatment to poor hygiene to cheating the systems - which is made easier through self-inspection, something that endlessly mystifies me - you can't trust some farmers to care more about you than about their own profit. Take it upon yourself to find out who is producing the products you buy and learn about their practices.
Even when following the best organic practices, there is still a limit as to how much cows can be grass fed. There is a grazing season for most cows, winter comes and they're moved to feedlots and given grains. So some months of the year you're getting milk with a great fatty acid profile and some months you're getting milk that is no better for your long-term health than conventional milk. At least one producer tries to correct this with fortification, which is not always ideal either, as outlined in this article. At the end of the day it seems, as with fruits and vegetables, milk is also a seasonal food. If you want to be a conscientious dairy consumer, maybe consider drinking fresh milk in the summer and limit your dairy consumption to aged cheeses in the winter or look for non-dairy options.
If you want your dairy to come from a place that looks like this:
...and not a place that looks like this:
then it's worth the time and effort to find out who the best farmers are in the area where you live and when their grazing season ends. I personally wish I could buy raw milk from Amish farmers, but things are complicated for them too, as outlined in this follow up article in the Post.
Be an educated consumer and make the planet a better, healthier place to live. Share this with others you care about.