Antibiotics in our food supply…

pink pggThere have been a few occasions, over the course of this blog, that I have been accused of writing too much “fear based content”.  Hmm… okay.  Well, I’ve never really looked at it that way… I’ve always thought I was just sharing tips, ideas and the things I have learned or have come to “know” in helping others live greener, healthier lives…

So, for those who don’t like that type of information, I’ll preface this by saying that you’re probably not going to like what I’m about to share.

Nonetheless, I find this next bit of information really bothersome and I happen to think it’s worthy of sharing.  Okay, now you’ve been lovingly warned…

Here goes…

The FDA recently released the fact that 80% of the antibiotics sold and used in 2009 were actually administered to livestock used for our food supply.  Of the 35 million pounds used, 28 million pounds were used for agricultural animals and only 7 million pounds were used on humans.

The concern is this… evidence shows that the ever increasing use of antibiotics on agricultural animals (used for food) is contributing to the growth of bacteria that is resistant to the antibiotics we use to treat human illnesses.

Most often, they are not used for therapeutic reasons either. They are used to increase the growth, weight and size of animals more rapidly, and also attempt to control diseases when the animals are raised in such cramped confinement quarters.  There is also the need cow2to maintain the animal’s illnesses because they are fed with things that are unnatural to their digestive systems.  (Regular readers might recall a previous post about agricultural animals actually being fed junk food!)

I could go on and on about this topic but, suffice it to say, this is the exact reason all of the meats, eggs and milk I purchase for my family are antibiotic-free, steroid-free and growth hormone-free…

While I hope you don’t think my advice is fear-based, I have to be honest and say this information does scare me…

Your thoughts?

How does your organic milk “rate”?

We’ve been exclusively organic milk drinkers since our daughter was old enough to drink milk (8+ years and counting!).  I’ve written about milk numerous times on topics that include the benefits of organic milk, comparing organic to natural milk, as well as reading beyond the organic label.

milkWhile I believe that the benefits of organic milk are indisputable, I recently learned that there is yet another side of the story.  Do you ever wonder how ethical those organic dairy farms are (in terms of everything from how they treat their milk producing cows, to how they acquire the milk, to their overall business practices)?

Well, The Cornucopia Institute set out to find the answers.  I was surprised to learn that our “former” milk of choice (Horizon) chose not to participate (hmm?), but I was happy to learn that our current milk of choice (Organic Valley) rated “four cows” out of a possible five.  It’s great to know that while we’re consuming our organic milk, we’ve also made a smart choice in supporting a trustworthy brand that rates high on the “cow scorecard”.cow

Want to know how your organic milk rates? You can find the scorecard by clicking here (best to worst, or alphabetically).  If you want a full explanation about the ratings you can find more information by clicking here.

I hope you’re not disappointed by what you find, but if you are, now you know how to truly find a happy cow farm!

Got milk?… well, now you can GET MILK with peace of mind.

Simple food tip: read beyond the “organic” label…

horizn mlkOrganic foods are always a hot topic… everything from the controversy over the benefits of organic, to which fruits and veggies are organic ‘necessities’… the list goes on and on.

One thing I have been guilty of is putting organic products on a pedestal when they sometimes don’t deserve it. Now don’t get me wrong, I still recommend organics with my whole heart and soul, and will continue to buy organic produce and products, but my guilt comes from reading the word “organic” and making assumptions about the rest of the ingredients.

Case in point: While we were out-and-about, my kids asked for “a milk”.  I knew they were asking for a Horizon Organic Milk Box, so immediately my answer was, “Sure!”  I mean, why not?  It’s organic milk after all.  But then this caught my eye:

So, I looked closer at some of my other purchases and here is what I found:stnyfld peach yog

This extra sugar is something NONE of us needs, so my point is this… always look beyond the “organic” label.  It’s not necessarily the perfect product just because it has the “magical ‘o’-word!”  Sometimes it has what you want, but sometimes there is an “extra” that you don’t.

Be a label reader and read beyond “organic”…

(* To compute the number of teaspoons of sugar in any food product simply divide the number of sugar grams by 4!)

Organic vs. “natural” milk: adding to the confusion

As if there wasn’t enough debate (and yes, confusion) about the benefit of organic vs. non-organic milk, now “natural” milk is being introduced on grocery store shelves.

milk-glassI’ve never wavered in my preference for organic milk.  It is higher quality; contains more nutrients; does NOT contain high residues of pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics or hormones; and it comes from cows that have an overall better quality of life and receive organic feed.

Now enter: natural milk. What this essentially means is that the milk cannot contain artificial ingredients and additives like sweeteners, colors, flavors, preservatives or high fructose corn syrup, but it CANNOT make any of the claims of organic milk or the absence of all the harmful residues.

The pricing for natural milk will be somewhere between organic and non-organic. And with organic milk being high priced in comparison, some shoppers may be misled into believing that they’re buyinbottle-mlkg a product that is less expensive than organic but getting all the benefits of organic milk.  This simply isn’t true. The difference is simply in the processing after it comes from the cow, not in the quality of the milk itself.

There is already so much confusion about organic milk and its beneficial qualities, and now natural milk will serve only to create more confusion. But be advised that natural milk is not better than organic milk (despite how it sounds), and giving a product the term “natural” is not regulated like the use of the term “organic”.

Just like non-organic milk, natural milk is like a box of chocolates… “you never know what you’re gonna get!”

Does organic milk REALLY matter?

glass-of-milk2Well, there’s plenty of debate over this question.  There are oodles of research and sites with opinions and discussions and disagreements over what is real, what is embellished and what is pure fiction.  It’s mind boggling, to say the least.

I will first say ‘yes’, I do buy only organic milk.  It costs a lot more and that is a price I am, personally, willing to pay because I have children that drink it daily (although I have debated, in my own mind, whether cow’s milk is necessary at all).  Organic milk does give me a greater peace of mind for many reasons.  These are the things I have learned that have helped me reach this decision:

Naturally-fed cows, with a better quality of life, produce a higher quality of milk – it is shown to contain more antioxidants, vitamin E, omega-3 and beta carotene.
Organic milk cows cannot have bovine growth hormone (BGH) administered, which is used to increase milk production.  By forcing cows to produce an abnormally high volume of milk, they are prone to painful udder infections.  Bacteria from the infection flows right along with the milk and pasteurization does NOT remove it (this nauseates me)… and then isn’t the hormone still cowpresent too?…
Some research also shows that consumption of non-organic milk, that may contain hormones, can cause early puberty in children (this scares me to no end… again, I have children drinking it. I was most effected by studies of Hispanic homes, where the consumption of milk is not nearly as prevalent, and this evidence of early puberty does not exist).
Organic milk cows do not have high residues of pesticides and fertilizers transferred to the milk from genetically modified feed, as does milk from non-organic cows.
Organic diary farming requires a higher standard for the well-being of the cows and they must receive time “at pasture” instead of a lifetime of confinement (the animal-loving part of me has a hard time overlooking this as well… look at that face!).

Let’s presume that all of the facts are false… what have I lost?  Some extra money, that’s it.  But then… what if some or ALL of them are true?  The consequences for that seem a lot more costly than money to me.

If the price were the same, wouldn’t you choose organic?  You decide.