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New Standards for Organic Milk

I recently read an article in a magazine that touched on some news standards that the government is imposing on organic milk. I looked up a little more information on the subject once I was done with the magazine, and I have some mixed feelings about these new standards.

Basically, the rules go into effect June 17 (this coming Thursday) are the goal of them is to standardize organic milk production and make it a little clearer to the consumer exactly what you are paying for. Already, to be labeled organic milk, the milk must come from cows that were not fed genetically modified seeds, food that was treated with pesticides, or food that was treated with chemical fertilizers. In addition "organic" cows can not be given any hormones or antibiotics.

The new rules aim to close the little loophole that allows milk producers to basically raise their organic cows in the same way that conventional cows are raised, minus the changes that I listed above. The new rules state that "organic milk" cows have to be in the pasture during the entire grazing season, and have to have 30% of their total diet come from grazing. In addition, farmers in regions with fairly temperate weather, such as the Southeast and California, are expected to have their cows out in the pasture for much longer than the mandatory 120 days.

The benefits of milk from grass fed cows is fairly substantial in my book. Some studies suggest that milk from grass fed cows has up to 60% more omega 3 fatty acids than conventional milk. This would be of particular interest to me, since I do not eat seafood, and am always looking for ways to up my omega 3 levels.

The biggest source of my mixed feelings about the new organic milk standards comes from the ways that some of the aspects of it are worded. I like that they put a minimum standard - at least 30% of their food must be from grazing, and they should be in the pasture for a minimum of 120 days. However, I worry a bit about things such as "access to pasture." One article I read said that livestock is exempt from the new standards during the finishing phase (no more than 120 days) but must have "access to pasture" during that time. From everything I've read about animals such as "free range" chickens, having access to pasture really doesn't mean a thing. Like I said though, the minimum standards don't seem to be as arbitrarily worded to me, which gives me hope. I would love to know that not only are we drinking organic milk, but that it is actually milk that was made in the way that cows are supposed to live, at least for 120 days of their lives.

What do you think? Do the new standards make you want to buy more organic milk, or does it not really affect your decision about whether or not to purchase organic?

LA Times Article
NPR article

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