Organic Milk for Kids

Milk and your Child's Nutrition

Is organic milk better than regular milk?
Is organic milk a healthier option for your kids?. Photo by Thomas Northcut / Getty Images

Milk contains a lot of nutrients that are great for your kids, including vitamin D, calcium, and protein.

Unfortunately, it sometimes contains ingredients that may not be so good. These milk 'additives' are used to help cows produce more milk and can include antibiotics, pesticides (used on the feed the cows eat), and synthetic growth hormones. However, organic milk is free of these extras.

Organic milk is also supposed to be better for the cows, since they have access to pasture, instead of being stuck in a feedlot.

So why wouldn't you want to give your kids organic milk which is made without antibiotics, pesticides, and synthetic growth hormones?

Avoiding Additives in Milk

To avoid growth hormones in milk, you don't necessarily need to switch to organic milk.

Simply buy milk that is labeled as being rBST-free, which is fairly easy, as it is available in most chain grocery stores, including CostCo, Kroger, Safeway, and Wal-mart, etc. In fact, it is typically hard to find milk that isn't rBST-free.

And there are new voluntary rules from the FDA "to phase out the use of certain antibiotics for enhanced food production." This effort to reduce the use of antibiotics and help reduce the development of antibiotic resistance is  focused on antibiotics that "are added to the animal feed or drinking water of cattle, hogs, poultry and other food-producing animals to help them gain weight faster or use less food to gain weight."

Organic Milk

Still, there is nothing wrong with giving kids organic milk. While experts may debate whether or not organic milk is really better than regular non-organic milk, it is clear that there is no nutritional downside to drinking organic milk.

Organic milk even comes in the same types of milk as non-organic milk, including:

And like most brands of non-organic milk, organic milk is usually pasteurized, is fortified with vitamin D, and is an excellent source of calcium.

If there are no nutritional downsides, then why don't all parents buy organic milk?

Cost is a big factor.

Organic milk is usually about twice as expensive as non-organic milk.

For some people, the extra cost is worth it: Organic milk has grown to over 3% of milk sales.

Is Organic Milk Better?

When you buy organic milk, basically you are buying milk from a cow that:

  • was not given bovine growth hormone
  • did not eat feed that was treated with pesticides
  • was not given antibiotics
  • had some access to a pasture

Or at least it should be...

One problem with organic milk and organic foods in general is that you can't always be sure that you are really getting a truly organic product. A lot of organic milk is now produced by large corporations who may not really give their cows much time to feed on grass in a pasture, may buy and mix non-organic cows into their herds, and bypass other organic rules.

And there is no clear evidence that growth hormones, pesticide residues, or antibiotic residues are harmful or that organic milk is healthier.

Organic Milk Brands

In addition to many smaller, regional organic diaries, you can buy one of these larger, nationwide brands of organic milk:

  • Horizon Organic Milk
  • Stonyfield Farm Milk
  • Organic Valley Milk
  • Borden Organic Milk
  • Whole Foods Market 365 Organic Everyday Value Organic Milk

The Cornucopia Institute publishes a scorecard on organic milk brands that may be helpful for parents looking to buy organic milk.

What You Need To Know

Other things to know about milk include that:

  • Children should not drink raw milk that has not been pasteurized because of the risk of bacterial contamination and food poisoning.
  • Children should usually switch to reduced-fat or low-fat milk once they are two years old or younger if they are overweight.
  • Soy milk, almond milk, and rice milk, etc., are good alternatives to organic milk and conventional cow's milk for children with a milk allergy.

Most importantly, understand that the American Academy of Pediatrics, "There is no evidence of clinically relevant differences in organic and conventional milk."

Sources:

American Academy of Pediatrics Clinical Report: Organic Foods: Health and Environmental Advantages and Disadvantages. Pediatrics Pediatrics 2012; 130:5 e1406-e1415

Common foods and farming methods thought to promote health: what the data show. Chahbazi J - Prim Care - 01-DEC-2008; 35(4): 769-88.

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