When you buy milk, you have the choice between regular milk and organic milk, different fat content and even different flavors. Whatever your choice, the quality standards are generally very high. In this article we will find out what specifically characterizes the production process that allows the use of the term "organic", the benefits of organic milk as well as the best organic milk brands available in the market today.
Because organic systems are based on the interdependence of soils, plants and animals, organic products must be certified according to specific conditions. Only certified organic dairy farms can produce organic milk, respecting the principles of organic farming and breeding, in addition to maintaining organic integrity at all stages of production.
Table of content:
1- THE FUNDAMENTALS OF ORGANIC FARMING
Organic milk is distinguished by a method of production and cows rearing conditions that meet the specifications of organic farming and whose main characteristics are as follows:
Dairy cows must be born and raised on organic farms. If the breeder is forced to introduce non-organic cows to the farm, they must be raised organically for at least 6 months before the milk can be marketed organically.
To prevent soil compaction, overgrazing, pollution and erosion, the number and density of cows are subject to limitations.
Pastures should be used as often as possible: cows should be able to graze there as soon as weather and soil conditions permit.
Stables must be fitted out to promote animal welfare (hygiene, ventilation, light, etc.).
Cow feed must be organic. Calves should preferably be fed breast milk for at least 3 months.
Cows cannot be tied up or isolated, except in exceptional circumstances.
To treat cows, antibiotics are strictly limited and alternative medicine is preferred.
2- HOW IS ORGANIC MILK PRODUCED?
Obviously, organic milk is milk certified as "organic". But what exactly does that represent? What makes the difference with conventional milk? We tell you all about how organic milk is produced, which is much more respectful of people, cows and the planet.
To produce certified organic milk, two things are absolutely essential: cows and meadows. And then, that these cows spend as much time as possible in the meadow, to feed themselves on the rich grass.
1: Organic cows need to be able to spend most of their time outdoors and have access to pasture as often as possible. Organic dairy cows spend around 267 days a year in the open air! What is also really good is that the grazed meadow is an immense reservoir of biodiversity: birds, butterflies, bees, earthworms… So much organic world!
2-On average, in an organic farm, there is only one cow per hectare of pasture! No risk of stepping on hooves: the number and density of cows are limited to prevent soil compaction, overgrazing, pollution and erosion.
3- In organic farming, stables must be fitted out with precise standards to promote animal welfare: minimum guaranteed surface area, light, ventilation, mulching are provided to improve the living conditions of the cows.
4- Cow feed must be 100% organic, produced without pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and GMOs. Most of their diet consists of grass (fresh, or possibly dried or ensiled): at least 60% of the dry matter composing the daily ration of herbivores must come from roughage, fresh, dried or ensiled.
5- One of the fundamentals of organic farming is respecting natural cycles. So obviously, a ban on "off-ground" farming, in which the food does not come from the farm itself: in organic terms, at least 60% of the food must come from the farm.
6- In order to ensure the well-being and good health of organic cows, it is first of all observation and preventive actions that are favored. To treat them, if necessary, antibiotics are strictly limited and the breeder will turn to alternative medicine.
Also note: an organic dairy cow produces around 8 to 10 liters of milk per milking, which is a little less than conventional production!
Organic milk is therefore produced on an organic farm, which complies with the precise rules set out in the specifications for organic farming. To obtain certification and display the words "product from organic farming", production must be controlled by an independent certification body approved by the State.
To obtain organic milk certification, their farm is subject to a thorough inspection visit. Concretely, when the controller arrives on the farm, he proceeds in two main phases: observation in the field and then data collection. It therefore begins with a major comprehensive visit: meadows, barn, storage areas ... It also takes various samples for compliance analysis. Then, the other part of the control concerns the accounting and the evidence and recording. The producer must be able to justify the raw materials bought and sold: nature, quantity, origin, use and recipients for the sale.
Organic farms are checked at least once a year, but organizations are free to also make “surprise” visits: a second unannounced visit is carried out for 50% of producers each year!
3- BENEFITS AND NUTRITIONAL QUALITIES OF ORGANIC MILK
First of all, before taking stock of the nutritional qualities of milk produced in organic farming, it is important to define what is meant by "nutritional qualities". It is about the qualitative and quantitative composition of nutrients. Of all the foods, milk is the most nutritionally complete. In fact, milk constitutes:
The main source of high bioavailability calcium
A high quality source of animal protein, containing all essential amino acids
A source of over 400 different fatty acids: 64% saturated fatty acids-36% unsaturated fatty acids (mono and polyunsaturated).
A source of carbohydrates, the main one being lactose.
The main source of phosphorus, iodine, magnesium, zinc and selenium.
A source of vitamins B, A and D.
An excellent means of hydration: milk contains 89% water.
Today, several large-scale studies have concluded that milk of organic origin enjoys higher nutritional quality than its counterpart produced conventionally. They therefore contradict previously published studies which concluded that the nutritional quality of organic milk was comparable to that of conventional milk.
Today, thanks to these studies, that is to say statistical studies which combine the results of a whole series of independent studies on the nutritional comparison of organic vs conventional milk, we now know that organic milk contains significantly higher levels of a whole series of polyunsaturated acids that are beneficial for health but also proteins. Among the fatty acids, there are notably significantly higher levels of omega-3. This difference is today mainly attributed to the diet of cows, with a predominance of grasses & roughage.
We also report lower levels of monounsaturated fatty acids in organic milk, known to have a negative impact on health. Finally, the omega-3 / omega-6 ratio is higher in organic products, although this ratio is considered too low in our diet. From the above, organic milk shows better nutritional quality.
Few studies are available on the difference in vitamin composition between the two production methods. However, there is often a tendency for higher levels of vitamins A and E in organic milk.
Regarding fatty acids, it should be noted that polyunsaturated fats are more recognized as beneficial to health thanks to their favorable action on the cardiovascular system, on cerebral function and thanks to their anti-inflammatory and anti-allergy action. Today, we very often hear about omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids which are very important for humans. However, our eating habits mean that our intake of omega-6 fatty acids is well above the daily recommendations. Conversely, our intake of omega-3 fatty acids is well below recommendations. Therefore, we show that the omega-3 / omega-6 ratio is too low in our diet.
A criticism very often advanced by detractors of organic is that the nutritional quality of milk varies with the seasons and that the "small" differences observed between conventional milk and organic milk are not visible throughout the year, especially in winter when the cows no longer go to the meadow. However, this argument is not valid given the newly available scientific results. Indeed, a study published in 2011 by the University of Cassel, Germany, shows that the nutritionally superior quality of organic milk is maintained throughout the seasons.
4- BEST ORGANIC MILK BRANDS
Brand: Maple Hill Creamery
Country of Origin: United States Of America
Flavors available: Chocolate Whole Milk | Reduced Sugar Chocolate | Whole White Milk
Sizes available: 8 Fl Oz (Pack of 12) | 8 Fl Oz (Pack of 16) | 32 Fl Oz (Pack of 6)
Great for: Coffee and Smooties | Snack Time | Workout Recovery
No preservatives | Chemical-free | Can be stored at room temperature for 50+ days after delivery.
Brand: Horizon Organic
Country of Origin: United States Of America
Flavors available: Chocolate with DHA | Strawberry | Vanilla with DHA | Whole Milk | Plain
Sizes available: 8 Fl Oz (Pack of 12)
Great for: Cooking, Baking, Cereal, Lunches, Puddings.
No GMOs | No antibiotics | No added hormones.
Lasts up to 6 to 9 months, unopened in a cool, dark, dry storage pantry. Once opened, should be consumed within 7 days.
Brand: Organic Valley
Country of Origin: United States Of America
Flavors available: Organic Whole Milk | Organic Whole Milk | Chocolate Milk Boxes
Sizes available: 6.75 fl oz (Two Packs of 12)
Great for: Lunch boxes, Snacks, and On the go.
Gluten-free | Non-GMO | Kosher | No preservatives.