Mooove over organic milk! Conventional milk is just as good

Mooove over organic milk! Conventional milk is just as good

Organic has become all the rage for grocery shoppers. More and more consumers are spending big bucks to get products that don’t contain pesticides, especially milk, but is it really worth it?

New research published in the Journal of Dairy Science finds there are no added nutritional benefits from drinking organic cow’s milk versus non-organic milk.

New Zealand researchers reviewed 200 separate studies on the differences between organic and conventional milk for their conclusions.

The studies showed that it all comes down to how and where cows are fed.

“The differences in milk composition observed are actually due to the different diets of the cows (i.e. pasture versus concentrate feeding) rather than organic versus conventional farming systems,” said lead investigator Don Otter in a press release.

Study leaders said that when it comes to nutrition, there’s just not a lot of differences between organic and non-organic.

“Therefore in terms of nutrients in milk, there is nothing distinct about organic milk that makes it unique from conventionally produced milk once the different factors that influence milk production are compared or adjusted for,” study leaders said.

According to researchers, the term ‘organic’ dairy is defined simply by regulations that differ from one country to the next. Cows that produce organic milk are tied to pasture and forage feeding, they encounter lower amounts of fertilization and they use mixed or minority breeds.

On the other hand, ‘conventional’ basically means anything that is not ‘organic.’ There are three factors that constitute conventional milk: the cows are given high levels of grain feed, the type of breed that characteristically produces high milk volumes and the amount of fertilizer on the grass.

Catherine LaBella, registered dietician at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill., believes you can benefit from drinking milk regardless if it’s organic or not.

“Milk is a great source of calcium, Vitamin K, potassium and other nutrients,” she says. “It’s a significant source of protein.”

Related Posts



  1. Information from a DAIRY INDUSTRY publication is not a reliable source for an article about about milk. It cannnot be considered objective information. Of course they will find no difference betweeen organic and conventional, they just want you to drink MORE milk… Conventional is cheaper for the DAIRY INDUSTRY to produce and with either the animals live in misery.
    Poorly researched article

  2. What’s the difference between organic milk and regular milk? About $3 per gallon in most stores — but smart consumers are realizing that for health reasons alone, it’s worth paying extra for organic milk.
    One big advantage organic milk has over regular milk is its shelf life: most brands of organic milk are sterilized at very high temperatures (around 280 degrees F), so it can keep for up to two months. Because regular pasteurized milk is heated to only 165 degrees F or lower, it doesn’t have the same shelf life. So if you’re concerned about milk going bad in your refrigerator, organic milk might actually save you money.
    Organic Milk: A Healthy Choice
    Organic milk also shines in comparison to regular milk when you consider what’s left out — artificial hormones in milk, for instance. Before the U.S. Department of Agriculture gives its coveted “USDA Organic” label to milk, the USDA certifies that cows are not given the synthetic hormone known as recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH, also known as BGH, recombinant bovine somatotropin or rBST). Farmers often give rBGH to dairy cows to make them more productive.
    But rBGH also makes these cows more sickly, causing mastitis (inflammation of the udders, often caused by infection). And it’s not just cows that are getting sick: rBGH has also been associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer in humans. The additive has been banned in Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Australia and the entire European Union — many are calling for a U.S. ban on rBGH, too.
    But hormones aren’t the only problem with regular milk: the overuse of antibiotics in milk is rampant among dairy farmers, just like it is on most factory farms. These antibiotics are given routinely to cattle (and many other livestock) and the drugs show up in the milk the cows produce. Pesticides, too, are also present in the feed of dairy cattle, and these too can show up in milk. Organic milk, however, has none of these ingredients, since their use is forbidden in USDA-certified dairy cows, who can only eat certified organic feed.

  3. Not only is it what the conventional cows eat (most of the grains fed to them are Genetically Modified) it is also that the conventional cows are given Bovine Growth Hormones (BGH). Ever wonder why your 9 year old daughter is having her period and growing breasts!?

  4. Most everyone I know chooses organic milk over conventional milk because of the difference in hormones, not nutritional value.

  5. I agree with what others have posted. I’m most worried about the hormones in the milk. We’ve always spent the extra $$ to ensure that our kids are only drinking organic milk — same reasons as posted by others and agree w/ Rich above about girls maturing too early. Also, we try to buy as much organic / hormone free / antibioltic free groceries as available. Be very careful of strawberries and spinich — only organic for those items. In the warmer weather, we grow our own veggies in raised beds with organic material.

  6. Does Catherine LaBella, registered dietician at Advocate have a reply to the push-back comments???

  7. Wow…what a smattering of replies with very little useful/correct information.
    To Julie Ruff- To your pasteurization point, buy a half galleon, or even a quart, if you’re not drinking it regularly. This would be a common sense issue. To your point that rBGH is given to industry animals is that you are correct, but you are extremely misleading in stating that it has been shown to increase risk of cancers in humans. This is absurdly false. Zero, absolutely zero reputable studies indicate that consuming milk, to any applicable human ability, containing and because of rBGH increases any form of cancers. I will grant that drinking milk in general has been shown to increase colon cancers, but that is because of the protein content increasing in one’s diet, leading to additional inflammation of the colon, thus more likely hood of cancers. However, that includes all sources of milk and requires a lifetime of drinking it. To your point about antibiotics…while I agree the industry needs to rethink its strategy of using these drugs, it’s for entirely different reasons. Not only do they use them to combat infections in a general way, but many times they introduce the drugs to increase milk production. In either case I am worried about the adaptation of bacteria to become resistant and eventually we run out of these pools of useful antibiotics in cases of a real emergency. You think they are in our milk….that is again false. Again I am unaware of any reputable data that concludes humans or ingesting abnormal amounts of medical grade antibiotics in a diet including milk. If you have such a study on hand, you could win awards and possibly change the world. As it is, the cow metabolizes the hormones to undetectable levels by the time it reaches the mammary glands. The only point of concern I will agree with you on is the conditions of the animals. Many times in factory style production lines animals are treated inhumanly. I would love to see progress made in this arena.
    To Rich Hermann- Your nine year old daughter is having her period because humans have evolved to begin puberty at a range of ages. Science, data, and studies are pesky things. Data show the range of individual age variation of normal pubertal events. Puberty may begin from age 8.0 to 14.9 years for females and from age 9.7 to 14.1 years for males and is complete by age 12.4 to 16.8 years for females and by age 13.7 to 17.9 years for males. Don’t be scared of your daughter. She won’t stay young forever, she is just growing up.
    To Lisa-My minimal understanding of the endocrine system is that hormones latch on to specific receptors in order to induce a cell to create a certain protein or undergo a specific chemical change (Like an additional cascade of protein and hormone release). Some hormones and protein in nature are similar across the board, like insulin, but not all. If one could identify appreciable foreign hormones in the blood of children then they need additional research grants. To date I’m unaware of such studies. And if you want to worry about additional hormones in one’s diet, I advise everyone to watch out for food items containing soy! Now that actually has been studied and increases levels of estrogen in both males and females both young and old.
    While I enjoy milk as a drink, have for over 25 years, it’s not something I would defend. What I do defend is the idea that people in a forum discussing a topic with reliable evidence and not just conjecture. I can care less what the president of some organization said, but rather I would trust a study which I can read and interpret the data from. Things are scary which we yet to understand, but that doesn’t mean that just because you hear the word “hormone” that everything is wrong with the world. In the end it’s everyone’s own money, but If I could save those $3 every week then at the end of the month I would rather buy my wife flowers whilst knowing our children and each other are going to be alright.
    Wow that was long…apologize for the length.

  8. I think the reason people go to organic are the toxins in the product and not necessarily hormones (rGBH) which I believe has been banned. Right now, in Chicago, all the milk cartons I see are marked “no hormones, no antibiotics, no RGH), but toxins on farms are still an issue. Glycophosphates, GMO’s and other toxins are creeping into farmland at amazing rates, including fertilizers containing fluoride (a knows neurotoxin) and other chemicals.
    I would hope before she published on organic vs nonorganic she would have obtained a good sampling of milk products across the nation and tested the milk samples for toxins and not just protein and fat content. It should be a “blind” study also, where one person designs, the study, another person reviews the parameters, another carries it out, selecting the product, and another entity does the testing, and yet another analyzes the results.
    There is little I see that is scientific from what she wrote. Scientists follow definitive guidelines in designing, implementing, analyzing and then reporting upon results. It would appear she followed none of the normal criteria in reporting upon this “study” which seems more like an “I wish” study or a fictional novel than anything else.

  9. Further, a whole lot more people are going raw milk due to the health benefits. It turns out, as any nursing mother will tell you, milk is a living breathing substance, much like your cutting board. A cutting board, even with all its cracks and chips, in the long run, is far more sanitary than plastic cutting boards. The reason lies in the fact that wood, as a natural substance, will actually kill off harmful bacteria over a few minutes, leaving only good or probacterias, or none at all. In such a manner, a board can last for decades, if not 100 years or more. Plastic only relies on someone washing or rinsing away bacteria, and the moment that is done, heat and humidity and dust and dirt in the air can bring it right back.
    Same for milk. Once pasteurized, milk becomes “dead” like plastice. Bad bacteria added to it quickly grow and multiply in it feasting on the sugars and proteins. But living, raw milk, if you squirt in some bad bacteria, the living milk actually can attack the unwanted bacteria, encapsulate it and prevent further growth. In the long run, it turns out living milk is better for you than pasteurized. Raw milk is considered so heathy in Europe it is actually sold in vending machines.

  10. In terms of Organic people really need to look at the bigger picture. Nutrition wise there might not be a big difference, but what organic means is that we aren’t putting harmful things like pesticides/herbicides into our soil/water. 10 years down the road I don’t want to be told I can’t drink the water from the tap because pesticide they’ve been using for years now are at a toxic level.

  11. Dr. Ashwani Garg
    Ashwani Garg MD May 19, 2015 at 9:53 am · Reply

    The right question isn’t whether organic or conventional milk is better, but why are you drinking milk at all? The hormones that are in milk are the pregnancy hormones from the cow, which are present because cows are milked while pregnant. Also the research on milk’s benefits are fading fast. See this informative article for more information:

Subscribe to health enews newsletter

About the Author

health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.