Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Milk is Milk - The Comparison

This truck hauls milk from our farm to the processing plant





On a recent trip to the grocery store in Chardon, Ohio (near Cleveland) this week, I compared prices and labels of three milks in the dairy case. Following are the products I evaluated;






Great Value (store brand) milk = $2.48/gallon
Label: Our farmers have pledged to not treat any of their cows with any artificial growth hormones. According to the FDA, no significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rBST treated and non-rBST treated cows.
Plant where it was produced: Meadow Brook Dairy in Erie, PA ( Plant #4230)

Reiter Dairy (name brand) milk = $3.98/gallon
Label: Our farmers pledge not to use artificial growth hormones
Plant where it was produced: Meadow Brook Dairy in Erie, PA ( Plant #4230)

Horizon Organic milk = $7.00/gallon
Label: Our farms produced this milk without antibiotics, added growth hormone, pesticides or cloning
Plant where it was produced: Dairygold Inc. in Boise, Idaho (Plant #1604)

The Great Value store brand milk and Reiter Dairy milk were produced in the same plant and are the exact same milk. The only difference is the bottle they are packaged in. This milk probably came from dairy farms in Ohio and Pennsylvania. The organic milk was processed in Idaho and likely came from cows in that region of the U.S.

To determine where milk is processed, look for the plant code printed on the package then go to http://whereismymilkfrom.com/ and enter the code to determine its origin.

After looking at the price, I read the labels. All three claim the milk is from cows not supplemented with artificial or added hormones. The organic milk package also claims the milk was produced without antibiotics, pesticides or cloning.

Actually, all milk contains the same tiny amounts of hormones (regardless if the cow producing it was supplemented with rbST). All milk is tested for antibiotic residue and would be dumped if it contained trace amounts. Pesticides are used sparingly in crop production and don’t pose a health concern in any dairy products. Cloning cows isn’t a practice our farm or any dairy farmer I know is engaging in.

As a dairy farmer, I know that all milk is wholesome, safe and nutritious and there is no scientific evidence concluding that organic dairy products are safer or healthier than regular dairy products.

I prefer purchasing a local product with an excellent nutrition package that is a good value, so I purchased the Great Value milk for $2.48/gallon. Which milk would you purchase? 

31 comments:

  1. I buy GV all the time! My kids drink too much milk to waste my $ on the expensive stuff when the cheap stuff is just as nutritious! :)

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  2. Excellent post. It always bothers me that the 'free of antibiotics' is on the organic label. It's like false advertising because NO milk has antibiotics in it.

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  3. I'm with Amy! I always go for the store brand!

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  4. Nice article Brenda. We usually pasteurize 2 gallons at a time of milk from our dairy...which I have to say, is very fresh & yummy. But when making a store purchase, I buy the best valued brand.

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  5. You misunderstand, perhaps intentionally. It wouldn't matter if it were completely identical. There are people who choose organic not only for health reasons but also for ethical reasons. We don't want products of any kind of factory farms or from companies who support Monsanto and others like them. They force their products on the world by not checking cross pollination. They sue people who have been cross pollinated. Have you read about the problems in Africa and India where unsuspecting farmers were given Monsanto's seed? Look it up. All products should be labeled so that we have a free choice in what we buy and who we support. And you can do as you please.

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  6. Anonymous-

    Monsanto has been out of the dairy business completely for a couple years now. They no longer produce or sell net or anything dairy related.

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  7. Nice post and comments are very interesting also. I just usually grab the local brand...

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  8. What is the actual "cost" of the impact of the farming method used by the producer? What about the buying power of the Great Value milk buyer? How does that affect the price you, the farmer, get for your raw milk? These are points to consider when making a purchase as well.

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  9. This is an Excellent topic, one that is often misunderstood by the average consumer! While rBST is a management tool to be used at the discretion of the Manager of a specific dairy operation, it is not a tool used by all dairy producers.

    Milk produced by cows supplemented with rBST can not be tested and proved any different than milk produced by cows Not supplemented by rBST. Cattle raised on Organic farms are not treated Better or Worse than cattle raised on conventional farms, Organic is simply an additional management tool that is an option for dairy farmers. It provides a product to a specific consumer market, as our nation is full of consumer options.

    Milk from conventional (not Organic) farms, Organic farms, farms with cattle supplemented with rBST and farms with cattle Not supplemented with rBST all contains the same nutritional value and is equally healthy for you.

    As a California dairy producer on a conventional dairy farm with cattle not supplemented with rBST, I thank you for being milk and milk products consumers and taking an active role in the discussion of your food sources. Got Milk?

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  10. Props for whereismymilkfrom.com!

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  11. I buy Horizon chocolate milk (in southern California, packaged at the same Idaho dairy, 1604) not because it's organic, but because it's the cheapest chocolate milk I can find which doesn't have high fructose corn syrup or other funny ingredients (and yes, I can taste the difference). When I buy plain milk, it's the grocery store brand in a paper carton at less than half the price. If the grocery store brand of chocolate milk was made with cane sugar and the other ingredients seemed ok to me, I'd happily pay a little more and buy it.

    HW

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  12. Why are you purchasing Great Value store bought milk rather than drinking the milk from your own farm?

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  13. Good question. We prefer drinking pasteurized milk, so we purchase milk at the grocery store.

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    Replies
    1. That's weird. Unpasteurized milk is good for you when you trust the safety/cleanliness of the dairy farm...guess you must have some low standards.

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    2. Actually, we have very high standards. We operate a Grade A dairy that must pass quality inspections regularly. Our cows are clean and healthy, equipment is in good condition, facilities clean, and we follow protocols to achieve excellent milk quality.

      I grew up drinking raw milk and understand some people prefer it. I choose to buy pasteurized milk for me and my family. Things like salmonella and E.coli exist on the cleanest of farms. It’s possible for these germs to be present in raw milk. The simple step of pasteurization kills disease causing germs.

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    3. I had the same question. Couldn't you just take a small amount of your own milk and pasteurize (heat it) it on your stovetop to the desired temp and then refrigerate it? We have our own chickens for eggs and I can't imagine buying eggs from the store now for so many reasons!

      Also as for the organic question, the way the cow feed was grown (with or without petrochemical fertilizers and pesticides/herbicides/gmos) is an important aspect for the environment and corporatacracy as a whole, not just the final product (milk) and shows the level of importance one places on the bigger picture (clean environment, self sufficiency/reliance, local food sourcing).

      Since I live in an area that doesn't carry organic chicken feed, I look forward to eventually being able to grow my own feed for our chickens, for instance.

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    4. We are traditional dairy farmers who care about a clean environment, provide local food, produce quality products, and work to maintain a sustainable farm. We purchase many goods and services locally and strive to be good neighbors.

      There are environmental impacts of both traditional and organic farming, but the perception that organic methods are always better is not accurate. Actually, traditional dairy farming works to minimize their carbon footprint by raising efficient and productive cattle. Traditional dairy farming takes fewer cows eating less food, producing less manure and using fewer resources to produce the same amount of milk. That makes sense environmentally and economically.

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    5. To anonymous regarding the cleanliness/low standards of their farm: there's a difference between having a couple cows for personal use and mass producing milk. Cows are not sanitary animals. I grew up in Michigan in an area where cow milking farms are in abundance, & the farmers I knew either bought store milk, or if they drank raw milk from their farm, they had their own personal milking cows because even with all the sterile equipment, they were all aware that dangerous bacteria can still be present & did not trust drinking the raw milk unless they cleaned & milked the cow themselves.

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  14. http://www.whatsonmyfood.org/food.jsp?food=MK

    If pesticide residue can be found in breast milk from humans it surely can be found in cows' milk. From what I found pesiticide residue seems just as dangerous regardless of the medium in reaches our bodies in. Do you have research to support that pesticide residue in milk isn't dangerous to us? I certainly would like to save the extra money I spend on organic milk

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  15. Stringent government standards ensure that all milk, both regular and organic, is safe, pure and nutritious. The most recent government testing found that all of the milk samples tested were found to be virtually free from pesticide residue. Of the milk samples tested, the level of pesticides fell below one part per billion. The highest residue levels were, at most, one-quarter of the applicable EPA tolerance (the maximum allowable limit of a pesticide in a given food).

    We grow crops to feed our cows and don’t use pesticides because it’s not necessary on our farm. Chemicals, like pesticides, are used sparingly in crop production.

    Sources of accurate information about pesticides in food and food safety:
    http://www.bestfoodfacts.org/food-for-thought/dirty-dozen-truth
    http://findourcommonground.com/food-facts/food-safety/
    http://www.fooddialogues.com/foodsource

    Dairy products are one of the most regulated and tested foods in the grocery store. Dairy farmers and the dairy industry have a history of providing safe and healthy products. So you can feel good about consuming milk!

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  16. I have put in many calls to local dairies. My son is allergic to blue food dye, which is sometimes used for testing milk. It is not listed as an ingredient as it would be in trace amounts. Reiter Dairy does not perform a blue dye test. I don't know if the Great Value goes through the same process (they company rep did not mention that), so I stick with Reiter for his safety.

    All milk is not equal and you can't judge a product simply by it's label. Some milk companies that use clear bottles use blue dye to "whiten" their milk and it is NEVER listed on the bottle. Processing aids and incidental additives that have no functional or technical effect in the finished product are exempt from ingredient labeling according to the FDA.

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    1. I’ve never heard of processors using a blue dye test or using an ingredient to “whiten” milk. So I contacted a few other dairy farmers and some Ohio milk processors. Nobody has ever heard of using a whitening agent for milk.

      You might be thinking of the methylene blue reduction test (not whitener) which was used in the 1930s-1970s, but because of advances in testing equipment and methods, nothing like that is used today.

      All milk is tested for quality, but the tests are applied to a sample from a tanker or carton and tossed after running the test. No dye or other testing substance would be added to the milk that is packaged.

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  17. All milk is definitely not the same. I'm from Canada, and when I go to the US the milk tastes weird. If I had to describe it I would say it's slightly waterier and more sour tasting. Typical organic milk in Canada doesn't taste a ton different than its non-organic counterpart, but certain organic dairies only feed their cows grass (no grains) and that milk is a WORLD better. So creamy, so fresh tasting. Labels... labels can be dodgy and evade telling the truth. "Our farmers pledge to not to use artificial growth hormones." Does it say directly "The cows were not given any extra hormones?" Also note it says they weren't given 'artificial' hormones, so what about their 'natural' counterpart? My point is that clearly if the milk has a different flavour, then clearly something different is going on with either the cows or the processing.

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    Replies
    1. Milk can taste different, the most common reasons are;
      1) Packaging: milk in clear plastic containers and milk in cardboard cartons can have a different flavor.
      2) Pasteurization: Ultra high temperature, high temperature, or low temperature make a difference in the flavor.

      Feed can make a difference if you are drinking milk from one cow or one specific farm. If you are purchasing milk at the store, it's coming from a combination of dairy farms which can be feeding a variety of feeds.

      The amount of hormones, nutrients and antibiotics present in milk are the same.

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  18. What does being produced in the same plant have to do with anything?. The Lincoln MKZ and the Ford Focus can be produced in the same assembly plant. Aren't there different grades of dairy products?

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    1. Milk processing plants receive milk from many dairy farms and it's co-mingled when it arrives. So the milk from several farms goes into the same storage tanks, then it's pasteurized and processed into a finished product. All milk must meet the same standards, there are not different levels of standards for store brand milk and name brand milk. Milk processing plants private label products (milk, butter, cheese, etc.) for grocery stores. The milk that fills the Reiter Dairy bottle is the same milk that fills the Great Value bottle.

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  19. all milk is the same organic milk only cost more .
    43 years in the milk business.
    they all come from the same cows the only difference is the label.
    and the percent of milkfat you get.
    people that pay for a gorganic at 9 dollars a gallon are only paying for a label and peace of mind but keep buying as profit margin is higher for us milk guys. and we need do nothing more to it but change the label.
    thing is smart people already know this.

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    Replies
    1. A Jersey cow's milk is much different (way better IMO) than a Holstein! A cow's diet also makes a huge difference (ever had milk after a cow had eaten an onion?!). Milk (or YUM butter!) from cows straight off sweet meadow grass is heaven-sent and something most people drinking the crap Walmart calls milk nowadays will never experience or understand.

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  20. At Wal-Mart I buy Great Value 2% and Great Value Lactose - Free for my Nephew who suffers from Crones. My family loves both and actually prefer GV by comparison.

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  21. I buy GV at Wal-Mart both 2% and Lactose-free. My family prefers GV by comparison and it's a great savings. Interesting opinions here, thanks everyone.

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Thank you for reading my blog and taking the time to comment! I’m opening the doors of our farm to share with you and enjoy engaging in discussion. Please be respectful in your comments. I reserve the right to remove posts that include name calling, slander, and vulgar language or contain links to websites that assault animal agriculture.

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