Benefits of Organic Milk vs. Regular MilkThis post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Please read my disclosure.
Is organic milk really healthier than regular milk? What are the benefits of organic milk? This guide outlines 4 reasons why you should always buy organic dairy, and why it’s worth it!
When it comes to buying organic, there are many different ways to prioritize. The Dirty Dozen is a great guide to produce, but there’s more to buying organic than just produce! When it comes to milk and dairy, organic milk is my milk of choice.
The reason I choose milk (instead of milk alternatives) is for a few reasons:
- I don’t have any digestive issues when it comes to milk or lactose
- Most milk alternatives have added sugars, preservatives and stabilizers, and I like the fact that milk just has one ingredient
- Most milk alternatives are very low in protein (except soy milk, but I try to avoid eating too much soy), so regular low fat organic milk is better protein wise for me.
But the most important thing I emphasize when I get questions about milk is the importance of choosing organic dairy/milk whenever you can!
What are the Organic Requirements for Milk?
Milk can be certified as “USDA Organic” only if:
- There are no synthetic fertilizers used on the farm
- Farmers avoid most synthetic pesticides
- Farmers do not use growth hormones or antibiotics
- Farmers never use genetically modified (GMO) crops or feed for their cows
Is organic milk really better for you?
Yes! There are 3 main benefits of organic milk:
- Organic milk has more healthy fats than regular milk, because when you feed cows more grass, you improve the fatty acid profile of the milk they produce
- Organic milk has no risk of exposure to hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, etc.
- Organic milk has been found to have higher concentrations of antioxidants and vitamins/minerals than some regular milk brands
What is the difference between organic and regular milk?
1. No artificial growth hormones. On some dairy farms, cows are given artificial hormones to help them to produce more milk. Organic milk is from cows free from growth hormones and antibiotics.
2. No synthetic pesticides. Most synthetic pesticides and herbicides (such as Roundup) are prohibited on the 100% organic feed that cows graze on that produce organic milk. I prefer buying milk where I know that the supply chain only uses organic-approved substances.
3. No GMOs. Cows that produce organic milk only eat 100% organic food, which prohibits GMOs (in the feed/on the farm).
Why does organic milk last longer than regular milk?
Not all organic milk lasts longer than regular milk. But some organic milk is pasteurized using UHT processing (ultrahigh temperature processing).
In this process, milk is heated to 280 degrees F for 2-4 seconds killing ALL bacteria in it. In regular pasteurization, milk is heated to 160 degrees for at least 15 seconds, which kills the harmful bacteria but not all of it.
So organic milk that is ultra-pasteurized will last longer than regular milk. Dairy Producers use this process for organic milk because it needs to stay fresh longer – since organic products are not produced throughout the country so it may have to travel farther from farm to store.
I actually recommend choosing organic milk that is not ultra-pasteurized since some bacteria is good for you. But if that’s not available in your store, I’d still choose ultra-pasteurized organic milk over regular milk.
One last reason to choose organic milk: It helps support small organic family farms, which are the primary producers of organic milk in America!
Have you heard about Cornucopia’s Institute? https://www.cornucopia.org/scorecard/dairy/
They actually have scoreboards with ratings on eggs, meat, dairy. On the site, I saw Whole Foods 365 dairy has a rating of 1 out of 5. Do you have any thoughts about this institution? I refer to them for eggs, meat, and recently dairy. I used Horizon Organic milk for a very long time for my kids but just switched to Organic Valley whole milk couple weeks ago- I should have checked the rating on their site for milk but it didn’t occur to me. They have a rating of 1 out of 5 for Horizon as well. I read in your response to one comment that you prefer the 365 brands so I was curious to know if you find the rating on Cornucopia valid?
Hi Priscilla! I have heard about Cornucopia and I think in general, their rankings/etc are super helpful and accurate. I typically always buy Organic Valley because I know they’re highly rated and are the best. But honestly, most of the highly rated options for dairy on Cornucopia’s website are pretty hard to find in most places in the US. The reason I recommended the Whole Foods 365 Organic Brand is because I have read that their farming practices are better than Horizon Organic – and I think Whole Foods 365 Organic is as easily found/readily available as Horizon Organic. So it’s more of an availability issue than anything else! Hope that helps and gives more context!
Hey Anjali, thank you for this post! Very helpful!!
Do you have any brand recommendations?? Like Horizon/Organic Valley etc?!
Hi Gayatri! So glad you found this post helpful! I LOVE Organic Valley. They are the best organic dairy brand that I have found. After Organic Valley, Whole Foods 365 Organic is the next best brand. I actually am not a fan of Horizon Organic because I have heard that they actually don’t follow the organic dairy standards as closely as Organic Valley or Whole Foods 365 does. Hope that helps!
Great post and so timely, this week, we just started home delivery of milk from a local farm and curious on your take since they’re not “certified organic “. https://www.crescentridge.com/ourmilk
Glad to see you’re well!
Hi Sri! Good to hear from you! So – to your question – I don’t know much about this farm in particular but farms that aren’t certified organic fall into two buckets typically:
1) The farm actually follows all organic practices (no hormones, no antibiotics, no GMO feed, a combination of organic feed + grass fed cows, no pesticides used on the farm, etc.) but just doesn’t want to spend the extra money to get the organic certification — because it’s expensive for smaller farms to do that. For farms like these, they basically are organic, so I’m in full support of them
2) The farm only follows some organic farming practices e.g. they don’t use hormones or antibiotics, but they still give their cows GMO feed primarily, and the cows may get to graze on pasture but the pasture itself is treated with pesticides or other chemicals — and in this case the farm isn’t organic and I probably wouldn’t buy dairy from them.
When I went to Crescent Ridge’s website it looks like they may be closer to bucket #2 — on their FAQs page this is what they said about being organic: “Our milk is not certified organic. We get raw milk from our friends at the St. Albans in Vermont. St. Alban’s aggregates milk from Vermont, New Hampshire, and eastern New York family farmers, and we purchase their highest quality milk. Any farmer working with the St. Alban’s signs and affidavit that they never treat any of their animals with growth hormones. Also, it’s important to note that ALL MILK is tested for the presence of antibiotics and therefore no milk sold in the US has any antibiotic residue present.”
My thoughts about this: raw milk doesn’t have anything to do with organic — you can have non-organic raw milk. No growth hormones is great, but on antibiotics it just says the milk is tested for antibiotics, not that antibiotics aren’t used. It also doesn’t say anything about the cows being pasture raised or non GMO feed, or the farms themselves not using pesticides, etc. So my guess is the milk you’re getting is fresh and local but not close to organic. But you can always reach out to the farm to ask to see which type of non-organic-certified farm they are (1 or 2 above) and then make a decision based on that! Hope that helps!
Nice article Anjali.You have very well explained the reasons to go for organic diary.Worth reading article.
Thanks Aanchal! Glad it was helpful!
These are great tips! Thanks for writing this post – super helpful!
As soon as I read this post on organic milk, it made me wonder of all the other food products that can also be bought organically. I think it’s interesting to note that people seem to be picky on what organic products they decide to consume. I think it’s also important that you noted that “there’s more to buying organic than just produce.” It seems like people go into grocery stores, see the fruits and vegetables and note that there is always an organic section. Whether you like it or not, organic produce seems to be a popular option for people as they fill up their grocery carts for the week. I personally do not purchase organic produce, but I think it’s important for people to recognize that milk and other dairy products can also be bought organically as well. Sometimes, its a more healthy and fulfilling option over choosing skim or 2%. Kind of like what you went over with digestive issues, people’s bodies respond differently to all kinds of food options. It’s important to try everything at least once and see how your body responds. And hey, you might find a new product that you never thought you’d actually like!
I completely agree Sierra!! Very well said! It’s important to think of organic foods as a whole – not just limited to produce. And while most people can’t afford to buy every ingredient organic, the dirty dozen, dairy, soy, corn and sugar should be on the priority list for sure 🙂
hi – I would love to be able to buy organic dairy products including cheese and yogurt but haven’t been able to find any in my area. Do you have any suggestions for locating organic dairy? thanks.
Hi Jacquie! If you don’t mind me asking, where do you live? Most large grocery stores will have organic dairy in their dairy section, and Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Sprouts, and all other natural foods stores will carry organic dairy. Even Costco has some organic dairy options! So my suggestion would be to go to a few local supermarkets in your area and ask them where the organic dairy is in their store – I’d be surprised if they didn’t have any. If you’d like to tell me what city you’re in I can also help you locate the best stores for organic dairy. Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any other questions!
If you have Trader Joe’s in your area, their organic yogurt is delicious and the quart size is very reasonably priced.
Agreed! Thanks Becca!
Thanks for the information. Unfortunately, I don’t have easy access to a Trader Joe’s and also have found them a bit to pricey for my budget. However, I have to admit I do occasionally “splurge” both in time and money in order to pick up their organic yogurt and I agree it is excellent!
Hi Anjali! Interesting post on what seems to be a hot topic these days. I actually grew up on a dairy farm in Allegan, Michigan (so only about 2 hours from Ann Arbor)! Small world! Anyways, I’d love to invite you to visit the farm if you find yourself in West Michigan. It’s not organic, but we only use the hormones sparingly (not like some farms that provide hormones and antibiotics for the heck of it, it seems) and it is a small farm with only about 50 milking cows. So, the animals are very well taken care of…my dad even knows each of them by name without even having to see the numbers that we have tagged in their ears just to make sure their safe if they were to somehow escape or one of the employees was looking for them when my dad is gone (which is very rarely these days). Definitely give me a shout via Twitter or email and I’d love to give you their address and a tour. We have a sweet corn stand in the summer so if you visit then, the first dozen is on me 🙂 Cheers! Julie, @julieverhage julie.verhage328(at)gmail.com
Hi Julie!! It’s so great to “meet” you. So cool that you grew up on a dairy farm pretty close to where we live! 🙂 It’s wonderful to hear how well the cows are treated on your family’s farm – sounds like they are part of your family vs. just “animals. which is lovely. I’d be curious to learn more about the rationale behind using hormones when you do (in which cases, etc.) And I’d love to visit the farm in the summer sometime! I’m following you on Twitter now so let’s definitely stay in touch and we can coordinate a visit maybe in June or July? Thanks for reaching out!!