I have wavered back and forth on the organic milk issue for years. For the most part, I did not buy organic milk because the cost is more than twice that of regular milk. But in the last few months of 2015, I switched the family over to a more organic based diet and that included organic milk. And wowzers! Did my grocery budget scream in pain. With four growing children and two grown men in the house, the milk consumption, at times, is unreal and as we rolled into 2016 with the increasing food prices, I have had to re-evaluate my choices somewhat.
Yesterday afternoon, I was speaking with a friend, who feeds her young family more organically than I, and she said that she has never bothered with organic milk in Canada because regulations in Ontario dictate that our dairy farmers are not permitted to give our bodicious Ontarian bovines hormones or antibiotics. If medications are necessary then the cow in question is removed from the production line for a period of time until an ‘all clear’ sample is obtained. Hmmmmm. This makes a difference in my assessment of the situation (and may make a BIG difference to my grocery budget).
So much of the information we receive is American, where they have different laws and food safety standards. Here in Ontario, there is a wealth of information available on the Dairy Farmers of Ontario website. Links to provincial regulations, standards and farming-related issues are published for all to read.
A few things to keep in mind, when deciding if you’re going to purchase regular or organic milk (at least in Ontario), are:
1. Milk is the most heavily safety-tested food in the Canadian food supply system. Ontario dairy farms are inspected regularly under Dairy Farmers of Ontario Raw Milk Quality Program to ensure that Ontario milk meets provincial standards. Inspectors ensure that all surfaces and equipment are clean and that milk is cooled efficiently. Inspectors also look for Grade A management practices such as good cow housing, sufficient pasture area and exclusion of milk from cows that are being treated for illness with drugs or antibiotics. (DFofON website)
Other jurisdictions permit the use of synthetic hormones to meet market needs [which is not allowed under Canadian regulations]. Instead, Ontario’s dairy system meets the highest safety and quality standards in the world, while ensuring farmers can reinvest in safety to produce efficient, high-quality dairy products that other dairy systems simply do not provide. (DFofON website)
In dairy farming, medication is only used if it is required to treat a specific illness. When dairy animals become ill, the problem is diagnosed and, with the help of a veterinarian, a treatment program is established. Her milk is discarded since it is illegal to sell or offer for sale any milk that contains antibiotics or other pharmaceuticals, and she is milked separately from the rest of the herd until she has complied with strict withdrawal periods for her specific medication.
In Canada, there is a stringent dairy inspection program in place to test milk. Samples are taken at each farm for quality and composition. As well, each truckload is tested for antibiotics at the dairy. Any milk that does not pass the test is discarded immediately and any producer whose milk is found to contain antibiotics faces heavy financial penalties. (Facts and Figures on the DFofON website)
So, right now (and this could change tomorrow because – over thinking issues and then changing my mind is my speciality) I am going to return to buying regular Ontario produced milk, bypass the organic milk option and expense and not purchase (the much less expensive) milk next time we grocery shop in the U.S.