Saturday, February 17, 2007

Organic or No?

We are getting close to the age that we can introduce milk to our babies. I have actually been thinking about this for the past couple months. I am not in a huge rush to push cow's milk on Avery, but someday I will be introducing it to her and I want to know what we're getting into...

It's obvious that girls today are entering puberty at a much quicker rate than we were a mere 10-15 years ago. And when we compare the size of girls today versus the size of girls in the early 1900's, the difference is staggering.

The Washington Post published an informative article a few years ago. This is actually where I first started reading and learning about the importance of eating/drinking organic. The article takes both points of view. It makes you think and causes you to choose which side of the fence you sit on.

The concern and main argument is over the hormone rBGH. While the WHO and the National Institute of Health conclude that the hormone does not show evidence of leading to cancer, they did not come back with significant data to demonstrate that it changes the way girls mature over time.

What makes me sad about this is that farmers are injecting cows with this hormone to increase the amount of milk a cow is producing. They want more milk at a quicker rate so their sales increase. I'm not willing to take the risk to give my daughter hormone-pumped milk in order to give a farmer more revenue.

I've spoken about females, but the article actually points out that boys are maturing at an accelerated rate as well. My mother-in-law is a high school teacher and has been for the past 16 years. I talked with her a while ago asking her if she noticed girls getting bigger over time. Incredibly was her response.

Why is this such a concern to me? Not only can early breast development lead to embarrasment among classmates (wearing a bra in 2nd grade?), but also the breast tissue has more time to develop breast cancer and the emotional aspects of puberty are nothing that a 9 year old should be faced with. Not to mention the size issue of growing large at a young age and only getting bigger over time (weight) could also lead to adult obesity.

Now, our budget does not allow us to go completely organic. Unfortunately there are not enough organic farmers out there. This drives the price up of all organic products, which leads to farmers being less willing to switch to organic. It's a Catch-22. What can we do? We, as a family, try to buy organic where we can and where we feel it matters most. Milk is one of those specialties, especially since having Avery.

For those living in California, Trader Joe's has an USDA certified organic milk for $1 less than the chain markets. Otherwise, Horizon Organic is a good brand. Just be sure to look for the USDA certified label on a carton. This ensures that your milk came from a cow that was NOT treated with hormones and fed on a grass and no-pesticide/insecticide diet. A grass-fed cow is much healthier than a grain-fed cow. This NY Times article is a good one about cows milk.

I won't get started on how the federal government will not offer organic milk on the WIC program. Ok, maybe a little bit. They consider it a luxury item and will not sponsor it because of the high cost. So, they offer the cheapest milk. The least they could do was sponsor a milk that was free of hormones, right?!

What are your thoughts?


  1. Lindsey Rutter (my sister), isn't this something you've reasearched quite a bit? Any information for us?

    I'm SO out of the loop on cow's milk. I'm a soy milk drinker, and even there...I've gotten picky. I always try to stick to organic with fruits and veggies and baby food (especially thin-skinned ones fruits&veggies) as well as meat (since we now are eating it..), but everything else I've tended to focus on "healthy", not always "organic." I'll have to read up. I'll let you know if I find anything.

  2. I totally agree Missy. I didn't start drinking organic milk until I got pregnant with Makena. I noticed that even before I was pregnant, reg milk made me break out so bad.It was horrible. Then, when I got preg It was worse and I figured out it was the milk. So I started thinking about this issue once Makena arrived because I initially had to supplement her with Formula (because f the pre term and being Juandiced and all). I chose to give her Earths best(organic)exactly because of the hormone issue. I'm like you, we can't afford to go totally organic either, but that is a "luxury" I'm willing to pay for because it's such a huge staple in our house!

  3. I have been giving my girls organic milk for awhile now. Now that they are off whole milk, you can get a good deal on 1% organic milk (USDA certified)at Costco. Three 1/2 gallon cartons for $8 something. If I am not going to Costco and need milk, I opt to buy the hormone free one from Trader Joes. I also like to buy organic eggs, but don't do it as consistently as the milk. As far as fruits and vegetables go, I buy organic whenever I can. Costco has a lot of bulk organic stuff. I buy their huge bag of organic, raw baby carrots (you can steam and puree them for Avery), their frozen organic green beans, their frozen organic mixed vegetables, organic frozen berries, organic apples juice (they don't always have this, though) and a couple other things. I can't remember right now. Their Foster Farms chicken is preservative and hormone free as well. Anyway, I think milk is probably the most important, especially because they are drinking so much of it for the first couple years. Actually, my girls still drink a ton of milk.

  4. Hm I was raised on regular milk and I don't feel particularly large. Does organic taste the same as regular milk?

  5. Heidi,

    There are more hormones in milk even today than was present in our milk growing up. If you compare your size in the 5th grade to girls today in the 5th grade or even high school, I think you would notice it as well. I used to teach and coach cross-country and I saw it. That was before I studied organic milk though.

    I'm not saying that the size of girls is ALL due to the milk they drink. But, I think it could be a contributing factor.

    The rBGH hormone wasn't studied until the late eighties and only after that are we beginning to see the after affects of it. The UK has actually banned the use of the bovine hormone.

    And regardless of weight, why would we want to drink something that could potentially cause lasting harm to our children (breast cancer) because farmers add a needless hormone into the cow to ensure him/her quicker milk production at greater quantities. I don't want to take that chance.

    My post was meant simply to make us think. You don't have to go organic, but I would maybe look into milk that wasn't added with rBGH.

  6. Oh, it tastes the same and the hormone can also be called rBST (Bovine somatotropin). It's usually on the label or on the milk cap if the cows were not treated with it.

  7. As I was feeding Cole breakfast this morning, I realized that not only is milk a concern (which we haven't faced yet since we are all drinking soy milk/formula), but yogurt and cheese as well.
    I did a LITTLE research. This site might be helpful: Non-rBGH dairy products...

  8. I think organic milk tastes a lot better. I can definitely tell the difference. And the non-hormone Trader Joes Milk is really good too.

  9. Thanks for the info! Dairy is my favorite food group ever (I am obsessed with cheese, yogurt and ice cream are good too) and I drink a TON of milk, so I guess I should look more into this before I have children and see if our budget can allow it.

  10. Here's what I heard...if you make a list of countries and their milk consumption, and a list of countries and their heart disease problem, by comparing a two, you'll see that there is a correlation. The more milk consumed, the bigger problem with heart disease. Missy has already addressed all the points about early-maturing females (I had numerous friends who started their periods in THIRD grade), so I don't think I even need to go there.

    We are the only mammal that once weaned, start drinking another kind of milk. I'm not making any judgements - I just think its interesting. I am still thinking about this. We drink antibiotic/hormone free milk, but sometimes I think that I shouldn't be drinking milk AT ALL. I read a book that promoted being vegan, and while I don't think that I could realistically go to this extreme, it had some very compelling points.

  11. Wow. So many comments.

    I really like this post. Organic is so accessible in England. We buy organic sometimes, but not strictly - mostly because it's sometimes twice as expensive. Alan has a thing about organic chicken though. Not purely for health, but also how they treat the chickens (and stick things in them). He's passionate about it and that's enough for me. I'm not into abusing animals either, even if they are just chickens.

    All of Izzy's baby food is organic. I want the best for her, so I pay a little more for them.

    Because organic is so expensive we've decided to pick what organic things are most important for us. Milk is such a staple. Thanks for the info. I didn't realize the potential consequences.

    People are just getting larger and larger. It makes me so sad, especially, to see young kids who are basically obese. SO sad.

  12. Hi! I'm Kelli's sister, Lindsey, and I've researched this topic quite a bit. I have read many articles that suggest sticking to hormone-free dairy, beef and poultry. Organic seafood is difficult as there is no federal labeling standard. Generally wild seafood is healthier than farm-raised, but not always. As far as fruits and vegetables go, there are 12 that retain more pesticide residue (even after washing) than others. These 12 are often referred to as the "dirty dozen". They include apples, peaches, nectarines, imported grapes (usually grown in Chile), raspberries, strawberries, pears, celery, bell peppers, potatoes and spinach. I buy these organically whenever possible. Much of this information comes from Consumer Reports, which published a study on the benefits of eating organically in 2006.

  13. AMEN to this post! As a WIC recipient, I am very frustrated that the only option are the cheapest, homone-filled milk (and eggs). I at least wish that they would allow me the option to pay the difference for the organic/hormone-free milk.


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