What’s NOT In Your Organic Milk That Should Be

I always justified spending twice as much for organic milk because of what’s not in it -  no hormones, no antibiotics.

But then I learned something disturbing.  There’s something we want in it,that’s not there- bacteria.  Most organic milk has had the majority of the beneficial bacteria eliminated with the collateral damage being nutritional degradation.

It’s called ultra high temperature pasteurization (“UP”).  Milk is heated at such high temperatures-over 300 degrees, 2x the temperature of basic pasteurization- that 100% of bacteria (including the good kind) is killed. Basic pasteurization is required by law in most states, UP is not.

Why is this done?  No living bacteria means milk can be shipped long distances and then sit in a warehouse or grocer’s shelf for months without spoiling.  You’ve likely noticed that some organic milk has a best-before-date that’s far later than other cartons, and you’ve assumed that means “fresher”. All this extended date tells you is that it’s UP milk and is therefore less fresh (or certainly less alive) than the organic milk with a shorter life expectancy.

So what exactly is the downside of UP milk?

1. For starters, a later date on the carton is not the date when the milk will go bad once you open it (ie once air-born bacteria enters), it’s simply the date when it would go bad if it were un-opened, though you might get an extra 10 days with opened UP vs non-UP.

2. UP kills all the bacteria and that’s not a good thing.  The good bacteria found in milk is vital to keeping your digestive track healthy; it’s why yogurt (with live cultures) is so good for digestive health. See post on probiotics.

3. The UP process compromises the proteins and enzymes. At very high heat, the protein structure is changed meaning that the body absorbs less of the protein in UP milk. The enzyme lactase which helps your digest the lactose in milk appears to also be compromised.

4. Flavor is more bland (while some say it tastes “burned”).

So you want to buy organic but you don’t want UP?  You can!  But it requires good eyesight. Manufactures must note on the carton if the  milk is UP, but it will not be prominent.  Look for the words “ultra pasteurized”, “UP” or “UHT”, and don’t assume that if you bought a brand that was not UP that it will always not be – some brands sell both, depending on the geographic market and grocer’s demands. Here’s a snapshot of a few brands:

Stonyfield: all are UP
Organic Valley: UP and non-UP (read label)
Whole Foods 365 Organic: UP and non-UP (read label)
Horizon: UP and non-UP (read label)
Natural By Nature: all are non-UP

If in doubt, head straight to a farmer’s market and buy your milk from a responsible, bacteria-loving farmer. (My personal favorite in NYC, RonnyBrook,who pasteurizes at very low temperatures and allow their cows to graze in pastures.  You can now get their products at WholeFoods.)

Any favorite brands? What’s your personal experience been with UP and non-UP milk? Any raw-milkies out there want to chime in?

Related Posts
What Children Get From Milk That You Don’t
Soy Milk: A Bowl of Froot Loops In Every Glass?

Photo: Deliciously bacteria-rich milk from Ronnybrook Farm.  Copyright © Michelle Madden

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  • Sonya

    Wondering what http://www.NRDC.org has to say about this trend? If anything…

  • Lisa

    I’m a big proponent of raw milk and if you live in CA (where I do) you can actually buy it right off the shelf at WholeFoods…

    • Natasha

      As long as you are well aware of the risks, keep drinking. I prefer not gambling with the possibility of getting a life-threatening disease.

      • Michelle

        It’s a really interesting and thorny issue. Wholefoods this spring stopped selling raw milk in all their stores. They may start up again but at present, they are too afraid of lawsuits. My advice: if it’s a small dairy that you know and trust, and can have a personal dialogue w/the farmer, go raw. If not, I would stick with pasteurized – but would still avoid UP, since its unnecessary from a health perspective.

        • Natasha

          I agree. I think its important to highlight the dangers of raw milk. I was not aware that there were different degrees of pasteurization however and that this is labeled somewhere on the milk container. Very enlightening post!

        • Jim Young

          The risks related to drinking raw milk are not just theoretical but very real. The Minneapolis paper reported on a case this past summer of a number of people sickened by raw milk. (http://www.startribune.com/local/106089223.html?elr=KArksUUUoDEy3LGDiO7aiU) On farm sales of raw milk is legal in Minnesota, no retail sales are allowed so in theory, everyone who bought raw milk from this particular farmer had visited his farm and could have a “personal dialogue” with him. The farmer is denying that any problems exist in spite of genetic evidence connecting the pathogens in the sick people with pathogens in his products.

          This question takes on a whole different dimension when you consider that some of the people hospitalized earlier this year were children whose parents gave them the milk. It’s one thing if an adult makes a decision, knowing the risks and then has to face the consequences but when it’s your child that pays the price – I can only imagine how awful those parents must feel.

          • Michelle

            You are right that a lot of illness can result from raw milk and “buyer beware” is critical. I am very torn on this issue, as I believe the nutritional benefits of raw milk are enormous, but I agree that the risks are also high.

      • nat

        Do you know for centuries people had raw milk and would drink it daily and you would think that if they got sick all the time they would stop, but no they just kept drinking. Just becasue cows are now in factory farms, in conditions that are disgusting and bacteria reidden they have to pasteurized. That does not make the milk bad it makes the living conditions and the way they are milked bad, get it from a farm you trust and no problem. I mean they find traces for blood, puss and fecal matter in the factory farm milk. I do not know why this is rocket science for some, I mean people have been drinking raw milk forever and just now in a few decades raw milk is bad, it is not the milk. So for that matter all you are drinking now is gross over cooked, dead milk, full of bad dead bacteria, with added milk powder so it can look less dead, oh and no cream for you! lets just homogenize all milk so people can not buy the milk with the most cream any more. Yum!!

  • Jillian

    Wow! I had no idea about this. No wonder the manufacturers don’t want to print the UP label any bigger! It’s clearly not something they want to highlight given it’s of negative value to the consumer.

  • Sonya

    Has anyone had any experience with “boxed” milk? I take it that this is also “UP” milk?

    • Michelle

      Boxed milk is def UP milk but it’s been taken one step further and packaged in aseptic packaging which allows no light and no air to get in. B/c of this, the milk can be kept on a shelf unrefrigerated for over a year! Once opened though (and bacteria enters) you of course have to refrig this kind too.

      I find it tastes far less “milky” than fresh milk, and if given the option would always buy “fresh”, but if you’re in a pinch and its all you’ve got, it’ll still whiten your coffee :)

  • Brandon

    My favorite brand that I can get around here is Stonyfield. I try to make it to the farmer’s market at least every other week, but I’ve never purchased my milk from there. Thanks for the information.

    http://brandonburke.com

    • http://www.thesweetbeet.com Michelle

      Brandon, the only thing that you wont get in farmers mkt milk that you will get in commercial milk is vitamin D. Milk is not naturally high in it. It’s all added. So as long as you don’t think you’re vit D deficient, then drink farmers mkt milk! (It’s all I drink!)

  • Audrey

    I try to minimize my milk intake because of lactose intolerance, and have seen some milks labeled “lactose free”. Anyone know anything about these?

    • Fred

      I’m lactose intolerant and have tried lactose-free milk. Perhaps I could adjust, but I really don’t like the flavor. I drink raw milk from a local organic market. I find that I have far less digestive upset; I suspect it’s because the natural lactase in the milk assists my system. I’ve never gotten sick – that I know of – from raw milk. It’s a little disconcerting as it’s marked “for veterinary use only”!

      • Michelle

        There is no doubt that your ability to tolerate raw milk is because the naturally occurring lactase is present (it gets destroyed with pasteurization). I agree it’s a shame that raw is not more widely available – I had it last summer for the first time and it was extraordinary.

        • aletheia33

          i’ve always wondered why my system can handle raw and non-UP milk just fine but i have problems digesting homo. and UP. i don’t think anyone i’ve ever mentioned this to has believed me! now i know why it’s true. thanks for putting out this info!
          wish it was easier to get hold of, but you’ve inspired me to get to the farmer’s market.

  • Heather

    Thank you, I am often so confused about “good” and “bad” milk. Can you elaborate on this and explain the good benefits (and healthy brands) and drawbacks to consuming noon-organic milk? Great site!

    • admin

      Hey Heather — The main drawbacks to non-organic is that it’s from cows that have lived their entire lives inside a concrete stall, never moving, and eating low quality grains (cows ideally move around and eat grass). As such they are often sick hence routine antibiotics give to ALL cows, continually. They are often given growth hormones to increase milk production. Organic means no antibiotics are given, no hormones and the grain they eat is organic, so the cows are generally healthier and hence the milk you drink is coming from a healthier animal and no trace amounts of hormones or antibiotics are passed to you. But…organic does not mean cows roaming outdoors eating grass (which is ideal for them and makes their milk even more nutritious). For grass-fed cow’s milk, you’ll likely have to go to a farmers mkt where the milk will come from smaller scale dairies selling more locally. (Some of these dairies are now selling to places like Whole Foods.) Email me directly if you want even MORE details !

    • http://www.thesweetbeet.com Michelle

      Hey Heather — The main drawbacks to non-organic is that it’s from cows that have lived their entire lives inside a concrete stall, never moving, and eating low quality grains (cows ideally move around and eat grass). As such they are often sick hence routine antibiotics give to ALL cows, continually. They are often given growth hormones to increase milk production. Organic means no antibiotics are given, no hormones and the grain they eat is organic, so the cows are generally healthier and hence the milk you drink is coming from a healthier animal and no trace amounts of hormones or antibiotics are passed to you. But…organic does not mean cows roaming outdoors eating grass (which is ideal for them and makes their milk even more nutritious). For grass-fed cow’s milk, you’ll likely have to go to a farmers mkt where the milk will come from smaller scale dairies selling more locally. (Some of these dairies are now selling to places like Whole Foods.) Email me directly if you want even MORE details !

  • Sabrina

    I was introduced to Ronnybrook a couple of years ago and it’s the only milk I drink. (I especially love their coffee drink and chocolate milk. Oh, their chocolate melts in your mouth – the creamiest you’ll ever taste. And their Chocolate Raspberry ice cream – OMG – the BEST EVER!!!)

    Many of my friends and family seem to think “organic” means “bourgeois” and that I needlessly spend extra money on organic products. But once they tasted Ronnybrook’s Low Fat Milk, they all agreed it tastes great and tastes like real milk; not watered down and pumped full of hormones.

    The added bonus about Ronnybrook Farms, for me, is that they sell their milk in glass bottles. (Each bottle is worth $1.50 in NYC and you get that taken off your next purchase for each bottle you bring back.) Returnable glass bottles means less garbage in my home and in landfills because I’m not throwing away empty containers of milk every week!

    But you really have to do your research and ask questions when you shop for organic products. Just because I shop at Union Square Market doesn’t mean that everyone’s products are organic. Just ask the sellers and they’ll tell you if they use sprays and what they use.

    This is a really good article; thanks for recommending Ronnybrook, they really are one of the best!

  • Clara Pang

    I have been wondering for years how organic milk has such a long shelf life, so thank you so answering this! I have been wondering the same thing about organic eggs and their long shelf life (for industrial organic companies) – can you please post an entry on this? ;-) Thanks!

    • http://wwww.thesweetbeet.com Michelle

      Clara, most eggs are actually not pasteurized (even the organic ones)and eggs in general (organic or not) can last up to 2 mos in the fridge! If eggs are pasteurized the carton has to be marked with a red “P” in a circle. I would avoid these if given the choice, since I feel that the less heating done to foods the greater integrity of the nutrients.

      • Natasha

        “since I feel that the less heating done to foods the greater integrity of the nutrients.”

        Would you not cook the eggs anyway? I understand with milk, one usually does not heat it for consumption, but eggs?

        • http://www.thesweetbeet.com/ Michelle

          It’s a great question. There are some raw foodies that believe that the protein is marginally higher in raw eggs, but the trade-off for me (the yuck quotient) is not worth it.

          Moreover, unless you’re buying your eggs from a farmer or farmers mkt vendor that you trust, then the salmonella risk is too high for me to comfortably consume raw eggs.

          One interesting thing to note: if you buy liquid eggs (liquid egg whites are popular), these are almost all pasteurized, since the “spoiling” and contamination risk is higher once the shell is cracked. I personally don’t want my eggs to be commercially pasteurized, so I avoid liquid eggs.

  • Leah

    This may be a really silly question, but I use both Stoneyfield and Whole Foods 365 Organic yogurt. You mentioned that the milk is always or sometimes UP with these brands. The yogurt is not, correct? The reason I eat it is for the good bacteria!

    • http://www.thesweetbeet.com/ Michelle

      Not silly at all! Yogurt is not made with UP milk since yogurt keeps for a long time on the grocers shelf .. this is b/c its fermented (which slows bacterial growth). Making yogurt from UP milk is also much harder to do b/c of this lack of “good” bacteria.

  • Alissa

    I used to consume a lot of milk and ice cream until I realized that when I stopped both, my skin would clear up. Having battled acne forever, I was thrilled. Then I realized when I added probiotics into my diet, whether in the pill form or in yogurt or kefir, my skin stayed clear even if I had a little bit of milk or ice cream. I always assumed it was the good bacteria that helped my skin. But after reading your post and learning that milk has good bacteria in it, Im totally lost. Does milk have the same amount of good bacteria in it as yogurt? Also, I’ve never tried organic milk. I’m wondering now if it is the antibiotics and hormones in the milk that cause my acne to flare up. Does anyone have any ideas?

    • Michelle

      Yogurt has FAR more good bacteria than milk ! When the milk gets cultured/fermented and turned into yogurt, billions of “good” bacteria are created. Probiotics (in the form of kefir or in capsule form) are like “uber-yogurt” as they have even MORE good bacteria, and more varied strains of bacteria, than yogurt.

      If you found a correlation between lowering your consumption of milk and ice cream and cleared up acne, then my guess is it might be the sugar in the icecream that was adding to the flare ups Sugar causes inflammation, see post on this here, so I would stick to a low sugar diet and see if works for you.

      As for non-organic milk contributing to the acne flare-ups, perhaps, but I would think that’s not the main culprit. (Though there are plenty of other reasons TO drink organic milk!)

  • Juliana

    I have four different yogurt cultures living in my kitchen (in milk, not crawling around on the counters or anything) and I found that they lost their special tastes after a while of using raw milk. The instructions say to boil raw milk before using it with cultures, which sort of defeats the purpose. It was still good yogurt, just didn’t have the flavors I liked (I have FilMjolk, Viili, Matsuri, and Piima + the mushroom, of course).

    • Michelle

      Ah, the boiling part might have been the problem — when I made yogurt with raw milk I let it get to room temp simply by sitting it on the counter. I then added culture, let it sit overnight in a warm part of the kitchen. Next day I gave it a hit of very low heat from the oven, turned oven off, let it sit for another few hours, stuck it in fridge to set it….and it was divine. My guess is it was the heating that killed the flavors in yours.

  • Juliana

    No no, it’s the opposite. Consistently using raw milk with a yogurt culture is what makes the yogurt’s flavor go away. Using pasteurized milk keeps the flavor (12 hours no a kitchen counter, no warming) as is. Go figure.

    • Michelle

      Then I can only think that perhaps the deeper flavor of the raw milk itself is the cause of the diminished flavors of the actual yogurt/cultures. But sounds like you’re the yogurt expert !

  • Shari

    I just looked in my fridge and the Trader Joe’s brand organic milk just says “pasturized”, so can we add that to the list of “non UP milk”? Great post!

    • Michelle

      Great! Only tiny caveat I would add is that the UP vs non-UP milk CAN be geographic market dependent, ie. there may be stores where TJ does sell UP milk. I am not suggesting they do, but can’t say for sure they don’t (their website does not discuss this). So if someone is buying TJ milk for the first time, just look at the carton to be sure that is says “Pasteurized” and not “Ultra Pasteurized”.

  • Maggie

    I was told by Organic Valley that their UP IS done at a higher temperature, but for less time so it kills LESS bacteria. This is how they are able to produce raw cheese that’s still pasteurized. It’s on their website.
    I buy only truly raw milk from Organic Pastures. They actually test their milk for pathogens before sending it out to stores to ensure there is no harmful bacteria present. Their cows are 100% grass-fed.
    But yea! Be careful of raw milk from farms you don’t know! Raw milk from a big commercial dairy where the cows stand in manure all day could give you TB or some other horrible disease. Traditional milk relies solely on pasteurization to kill all the harmful bacteria, it’s never tested, and then you drink all those pieces of dead bacteria bodies! Yuck.
    As for Vitamin D, go out I’m the sun for 15 mins a day without sunscreen and your body will produce plenty of it’s own.
    Lactose free milk is not lactose free, they just artificially add the lactase- the enyme that allows you to digest lactose- back infinite milk after it’s been destroyed by the pasteurization.
    Look up the history of pasteurization!
    It wasn’t until dairy farmers started cramming cows into barns to be more profitable, where they were grain fed and standing in manure with no access to pasture, that we started dying from diseases like TB in the milk. Lobbyists for the dairy industry are very powerful.

  • Maggie

    Ahhhh! So much misinformation going around.
    I was told by Organic Valley that their UP IS done at a higher temperature, but for less time so it kills LESS bacteria. This is how they are able to produce raw cheese that’s still pasteurized. It’s on their website.
    I buy only truly raw milk from Organic Pastures. They actually test their milk for pathogens before sending it out to stores to ensure there is no harmful bacteria present. Their cows are 100% grass-fed.
    But yea! Be careful of raw milk from farms you don’t know! Raw milk from a big commercial dairy where the cows stand in manure all day could give you TB or some other horrible disease. Traditional milk relies solely on pasteurization to kill all the harmful bacteria, it’s never tested, and then you drink all those pieces of dead bacteria bodies! Yuck.
    As for Vitamin D, go out I’m the sun for 15 mins a day without sunscreen and your body will produce plenty of it’s own.
    Lactose free milk is not lactose free, they just artificially add the lactase- the enyme that allows you to digest lactose- back into the milk after it’s been destroyed by the pasteurization.
    Look up the history of pasteurization!
    It wasn’t until dairy farmers started cramming cows into barns to be more profitable, where they were grain fed and standing in manure with no access to pasture, that we started dying from diseases like TB in the milk. Lobbyists for the dairy industry are very powerful.

  • Sandy

    Came to this post via an article on the Huffington Post. Great site, I will be back!

    I love milk and always have. Give me the choice between a glass of milk, liquor, a milkshake, or chocolate and I’ll take milk any time. It’s a treat to me.

    I first became familiar with UHT milk in Europe. Previous to the first UHT experience, I had used regular milk products in Britain and France. A favorite is clotted cream in England, and I remember the first time I accidentally had UHT clotted cream. I just about spat it out, thinking it had gone bad or something. (Keep in mind that I was normally used to fresh clotted cream made locally.) The UHT cream tasted sour and stale to me. But I didn’t know what UHT meant at that time. I don’t even think it was spelled out.

    I’m more aware of the UHT/UP milk now since accidentally buying Horizon Organic milk. I drank Horizon for years until organic pasteurized milk became available at a cheaper price, and so didn’t think when I was in a different city and bought Horizon. Again, I thought the milk was bad and then realized that Horizon had gone UP. And then I did it again by accident over Thanksgiving, buying UP Horizon whipping cream. Needless to say, it remains sealed in the fridge. $3.50 down the drain if I can’t find a way to use it where the taste is masked.

    I’ve had great luck with Trader Joe’s products here in Southern California. They have a reasonably priced regular pasteurized organic milk and related products (half-and-half, whipping cream, etc.). If they decide to go UP, I don’t know what I’ll do. Maybe I will check out raw milk sources if they’re available in my area. But the upshot is — I can’t stand the taste of UHT! It makes me think of instant milk. Hideous, hideous! I’d sooner go without milk than drink that swill.

    • Char

      I, too, came to this great blog via HuffPost. My husband has been suspicious of the term “organic” and didn’t wish to pay more for that label. However, he spotted Kirkland organic milk at Costco–he was willing to buy it there. But we were suspicious that the “drink by” date seemed to be so far into the future. Just opened our frig to look at advertising on the container–yikes–there it was, proudly displayed, “Ultra pasteurized”! Next to the milk was an Organic Valley container of half/and/half–it, too, had “UP” on the container–but hopefully it wasn’t blasted with such high heat that maybe there’s a tad of good bacteria left. Hope more people can be exposed to this informational blog.

  • http://www.hartzlerfamilydairy.com/oh-hormone-free-milk/low-temp-vat-pasteurized Cindy

    Hartzler in NE Ohio uses lowest possible temps and grass fed cows. I also visited an Amish farmer who offers raw through herd shares and I am considering it. It tasted great. Farm looked clean and people have been drinking it for years. Just can’t seem to get past the fear factor though..

    • Michelle

      I can totally relate to being a bit squeamish the first time you try raw milk. I had it last summer (bought a gallon) and LOVED it! It tasted like I milk I get from my farmers mkt, only richer. My feeling is if you know the farm, have been there, spoken to to them, trust them and they use only THEIR cows for the milk (that’s a key one as it means they have total control AND accountability), then I don’t think you need to worry. But it’s good to go in with some level of wariness and dont be afraid to ask them questions until you are comfortable.

      • rawralph

        If they do not homogenize either, you are also getting the cream, which you can make into butter, whipped cream and OMG the best ice cream.

  • joe

    i still don’t get the desire to drink another animal’s bodily fluids and steal from calves (who then get sent off to be veal). to each her/his own, but cow milk is no more appealing to me than rat’s milk, monkey milk, or dog milk.

    • rawralph

      Not quite. Cows can and do produce enough to feed their calves AND us. It is mainly the male calves that become veal.

      • joe

        Maybe organic cows or whatever…but it seems industrial farming practices have dairy cows support the veal industry–feeding the males calves other things to keep them anemic so the meat is sweeter, etc. I could see what your saying–you can ramp up production by demanding more (like how my wife breast feeds twins).
        To maximize production, we also pump them with stuff like growth hormones, etc…which is why most non-organic dairy cows have mastitis (giant, swollen, infected utters), which is why there are so many blood and pus cells in every delicious glass of milk.
        I grew up on milk, but have found that cold carton almond milk by blue diamond (?) is just as smooth and creamy and delicious without supporting an industry of death and abuse and pus and blood and hormones. now if i could just eliminate all cheeses! :o(

  • http://www.russianbites.com Elina (Russian Bites)

    Hmm, I wonder how Stonyfield justifies this. I may shoot them an email to get the other side of the story :)

  • megan

    I found this link through huffingtonpost.com I learned something new today! After reading I checked my milk and it doesn’t have the UHT/UP label. It is central market organics from HEB in Texas.

  • The Dairy Mom

    You say you “justified spending twice as much for organic milk because of what’s not in it-no hormones, no antibiotics.” The fact is that ALL milk is antibiotic-free and ALL milk contains the same level of hormones. As you point out, conventional milk is fresher and more likely to come from local farms. So save money and buy conventional milk. Milk is milk! To learn more see my blog @
    http://thedairymom.blogspot.com/2010/06/whats-difference-between-traditional.html

    • Michelle

      Actually, I have to respectfully disagree … you are correct that all milk does have to go through testing for antibiotic residuals in the milk, but I am quite certain that a very small amount ARE allowed to still be present. (If you are able to find any data on the exact amount that is allowed I would love to see this data.) Same for the hormones. They can test for hormones, but when a cow has been given routine hormone treatment, I do NOT believe that that milk is 100% clear of it. Moreover, even if the amounts of antibiotics and hormones are very tiny in each glass you drink – over the years it adds up in your body. Many conventional dairies are now NOT used rGBHT because of the publics strong voice against it.

      As for conventional milk coming from local farms. That is not the case at all. Conventional milk that you buy at a store comes from huge dairy operations. Many organic milks do as well though. The only milk that comes from small scale farms is the milk you buy at a farmers market (although in some cases these dairies are increasingly selling to larger retailers). One way to know for sure if the milk is from a smaller (and in most cases organic) dairy – it will be in a glass bottle.

      It IS true that conventional milk may be “fresher” meaning that it came from the cow more recently (since most conventional milk has a shorter life than organic b/c most is not UP processed), but this does not mean that it came from a healthier cow or comes from a cow who lives closer to your front door.

      • The Dairy Mom

        Thanks for the response and your love of dairy products. As a 3rd generation dairy producer, I also love dairy products and choose to eat and feed my family conventional dairy products because I know they are safe and nutritious. They many not contain all the labels that organic products contain, but I know to pay attending to the ingredients on the back of the package not the marketing hype on the front of the package.

        Milk and dairy products are among the most tested and regulated foods in this country. Sometimes a cow gets sick and it might be necessary to treat her with antibiotics, just as humans sometimes take antibiotics when they are sick. If a cow is being treated with antibiotics, that cow is separated from the herd and her milk doesn’t go into the tank. If milk from one treated cow accidently gets into our 6,000 gallon milk tank the entire tank of milk would test positive, would be discarded and we would not be paid for that milk. The antibiotic test tolerance level if extremely low. It’s important to know that every tank load of milk delivered from every dairy farm to every processing plant in the U.S. is always tested for antibiotic residue.

        Hormone levels in ALL milk are very low and do not pose a health risk. Science shows that there are no significant differences in hormone levels between organic and regular milk. Hormones are digested in humans just like any other protein you eat.

        If you want to know the origin of the milk you purchase, go to http://whereismymilkfrom.com/. The reality is that there are 9 million dairy cows in the U.S. and only about 200,000 are organic. Organic milk must travel further from farm to processor and then to retailer. Thus the need for UT for a longer shelf life.

        Conventional milk you purchase at the store comes from dairy farms of all sizes. 99% of all 55,000 dairy farms in the U.S. are family owned and operated.

        As dairy producers, my husband and I are proud to provide excellent care for our cows. We have a nutritionist that prepares a balanced ration of high quality feed and provide free-choice filtered water. Our cows eat better than most humans.

        Organic and conventional dairy products both contain the same combination of nutrients. Whichever you choose, you can feel good about consuming all varieties of milk, cheese and yogurt. There is no scientific evidence concluding that organic dairy products are safer or healthier than regular dairy products.

        We are lucky to have so many food choices. If you choose to buy milk at Walmart or Whole Foods it’s important to know you are getting the same safe, healthy product. Please don’t put down conventional producers by saying the milk they produce is somehow inferior or they don’t treat cows well. That is not fair or accurate.

        • rawralph

          I would argue that it is quite accurate. HOw would you like to be inside 24/7. Unable to move around and graze. Served the same thing every day.

          You haven’t addressed the CLA/DHA and Omegas in your milk. Grassfeeding increases the beneficial omegas while decreasing the bad. Not grassfeeding is merely a convenience shortcut for the farmer I’m being polite here) and against every tenet of good animal husbandry.

        • Joni

          Thanks for posting info on conventional dairy products! After reading the article and all of the posts, I was beginning to feel guilty because we can not afford to offer my child organic milk. My son has a genetic disorder and I would like nothing more than to feed him only organic foods including milk. It is just so expensive! Thank again for making me feel less guilty and more comfortable with conventional dairy!

          • Michelle

            Joni, I’m very sorry to hear about your son’s condition – one thing you might consider is seeing if there is a local farmers market near you who sells organic milk. I buy all my organic milk from my farmers mkt and the prices are about 50% less (sometimes more) than organic milk at the store. I buy it in bottles and return the bottles for a $1.50 deposit.

            I do think if one has the option to drink organic and can afford a slight price premium, it is preferred over conventional. The other thing you might want to check out if there is NOT a f-mkt near you, is whether there is a food cooperative near you … that would be another place that is likely to carry organic milk at much lower prices than large retailers.

      • rawralph

        Not true about the glass bottles, Michelle. Oberweiss non-organic non BGH milk comes in glass bottles, but compared to my Amish herdshare milk in plastic jugs, Oberweiss is much, much larger.

        • Michelle

          Thanks for that correction. Good to be aware that not all glass bottles deliver superior milk. I bought a gallon of raw milk last summer from a farmer who handed it to be in a big ol’ plastic jug. Best milk I have ever tasted.

  • Heidi

    I have looked and looked for milk that is not UP, not homogenized, and IS organic and grass-fed, but this seems to be a difficult combination to find. I will always buy the best milk that I can, and I always buy organic.
    I will say this for organic (no addition hormone) milk; when I switched to it, my system got back in balance. The extra hormones in conventional milk may be low, but they WERE affecting me.

  • Katie

    Trader’s Point Creamery in Indiana! Their milk is fantastic.

  • Brad

    This is not fair. I started drinking organic milk about 2 yrs ago because I felt good about it. The flavor is wonderful. I also felt very good about giving it my children. I thought I was doing so good for them. My wife is not a big milk drinker, so it’s basically up to me to make sure they drink it. And now I read that I might as well have been giving them water for all the nutrition that is in UP milk. We have 2 choices here at Naval Air Station Sigonella, Sicily. Organic UP, and Armed Forces Milk – fresh pasteurized. Should I give up organic to get the nutrients necessary for kids?

    • Michelle

      If the choice is non-UP conventional vs UP-organic, I personally would choose the UP organic. Increasingly there is a choice of non UP and UP organic. But if no choice, I’d go organic – the fact that the cows were given antibiotics and hormones is of greater concern to me than the fact that additional nutrients are diminished.

  • Ed Cerni

    Michelle, I am SO impressed with your extensive knowledge and posting. Best of good fortune to you.

    • Michelle

      Thanks Ed. I am continually fascinating by what I learn and can’t help but write about it, and LOVE following the discussion that always results.

  • Srisanj4

    Related but off topic question.

    Children who go to public school get milk from school lunch vendor. They serve milk to kids. How do you avoid unhealthy milk for your kids in such situations? I know my kids drink milk from school cafeteria. Any suggestions is appreciated

    • Michelle

      If by “unhealthy” you mean not organic (which I’m guessing is what you mean), then the biggest challenge is going to be a question of cost (it can be 2x the price) as well as ingrained contracts with food vendors that supply the school, which are dictated by government. I would raise the issue with the principal and/or any parent groups at the school as well find out exactly who has control over this decision and write them a letter (as well as get other parents who might be concerned to write). See if you can find out who has some influence and which elected figures in your city or state might be worth contacting.

      The issue of poorly nutritious school food is huge at the moment and goes well beyond any issues with milk. In fact I think you might get more attention from the school and other elected officials, if you include the broader “school lunch” problem rather than focus just on “non organic” milk.

      Good luck!

      • Srisanj4

        Yes, I meant non-organic milk. Thanks for your comment and suggestions

  • Joy

    Trader Joe’s brand organic milk is NOT UP if I’m reading the label correctly – and definitely less expensive! :)

  • Toni

    Thanks so much for this info. My toddler has tummy troubles (has only ever had organic milk) and I was about to try goat’s milk, or perhaps dairy free- but now I’m wondering if UP might be part of the problem.
    What I’m wondering about now, though, is organic cheese and other dairy products (cottage cheese, cream cheese, etc). Are these UP? Would they be marked as well? She eats a fair amount of dairy, so changing only her milk may not be enough..

    Thanks! I’m not a new subscriber to your site!

    • Michelle

      Cheese and other milk products do not have to be labeled UP as milk does. But my hunch is that if your child has tummy troubles from milk, that UP is unlikely to blame. Basic pasteurization, however, MAY be to blame (which is harder to get around unless you can access raw milk) as even lower temperature pasteurization kills much of the lactase, the enzyme that helps the body digest the lactose. Goats milk is lower in lactose than cows so that’s a good one to try. Yogurt may also be less problematic for your toddler, as the culture process eliminates much of the lactose, which for most people make it much easier to digest.

  • Blair

    I switched to raw milk and will NOT go back. I am so blessed to live in a state it is legal to sell and have a local farmer make deliveries to me in downtown Kansas City. Its so great, and I make my own yogurt and some cheeses with it. (thanks Sweet Beet for the ideas!). If anyone is interested http://www.realmilk.com can give you names of suppliers in your area (in some states you can get around it by “buying” farm eggs at a hefty price and they “give” you the raw milk . . .thats a win win ;-). Thanks Sweet Beet for such an awsome website, I really appriate you and your fallowers info!

  • Laurie

    Throwing a monkey wrench in the works for me on the raw milk movement is the question of borrelia bacteria, which cause lyme disease. I have chronic lyme, and it’s a potentially devastating disease. Studies have found borrelia bacteria in human breast milk (infected mothers) and, although not confirmed, it may be possible that children can be infected this way. If it is carried in human milk, I think it likely that it could be carried in cow milk. For me, in Santa Cruz, California, where one in five ticks carry lyme, it has given me great pause. I don’t drink local organic raw cow’s milk for this reason.

    Perhaps I’m over-senstive, but I’m working to cut milk out of my diet entirely. Health issues are so complicated and it’s challenging to know when or how, or even right, the ‘right thing’ may be.

  • Susan

    I am from Colorado via Wyoming, but now live in the state of Jalisco, México, a large ranching state. Having a friend who is a rancher, I have been drinking delicious milk straight from the cow, sometimes while it is still warm, for several months, and have had no ill effects. Huge amounts of fresh cheeses are made on the ranches with this milk, usually by the rancher’s wife, and I can truthfully say that these cheeses are not only the best I have ever eaten, but they have not caused me to become ill either. In Jalisco, cows are raised in open, high-mountain pastures, where they are allowed to graze and roam naturally, and are hand-milked daily. Calves are allowed to stay with their moms until they wean naturally. These animals are clean and healthy. One of the best things I have ever had to drink is a drink that is indigenous to Jalisco. No, it is not Tequila, although Tequila is also indigenous to Jalisco, but is a drink called a Pajarete made only in Jalisco and only on the ranches, early in the cold, Méxican-morning air while you are milking cows. You take any reasonably-sized container you can drink out of, usually found in the barn, crumble a tablet of Méxican chocolate into it, then add a glug of some kind of alcohol (could be Tequila, could be Amaretto, could be whatever), then milk the cow directly into the container, swirl it around and drink. I guarantee this will keep you happy, warm, and energized throughout the entire morning’s milking. Salud!!

    • Michelle

      I want some now !!! I loved reading every word you wrote … from the raw cows milk to the milking the cow yourself to the chocolate, and tequila and milk all in one!!! I could not agree more with you about the raw cows milk. I firmly believe that 90% of the problems most people have with milk is due to the fact that it’s pasteurized (and the enzyme lactase that we need to digest it is killed). It so unfortunate that for most people, raw is not even an option, but at least don’t buy the ULTRA pasteurized kind! I’ve read a lot too about the fact that raw milk lasts much longer than pasteurized, b/c the natural bacteria will actually kill much of the bacteria that spoils pasteurized milk.

      Happy drinking!

  • Robin

    I buy Alabama’s Organic Milk from Working Cows Dairy at local farmers market and Whole Foods. Low-temp pasteurized, cream on top, grass-fed. Yum!

    • Michelle

      Is that from Alabama? Sadly, Whole Foods has stopped selling raw milk even in states where it is legal for them to do so (liability issues) … so, ya, these days at Whole Foods, the closest one can come to it is unhomogenized (cream on the top) and low temp pasteurized. Fortunately WF is stocking a lot more dairy prods from local farms …

      • Robin

        They’re in south Alabama. They sell in Alabama and a few locations in Georgia and Florida, according to their website, http://www.workingcowsdairy.com.

  • Gamiaof3

    The Dairy Association is a powerful lobby!  They are going to highlight and paint raw milk as a “bad” food whenever they can. Mankind has been eating and drinking raw milk products for thousands of years. At one time raw milk dairies were more highly scrutinized than regular dairies. If you are buying raw milk from some farmer where you don’t know his cleanliness practices chances are you might get sick. Look at all the “dead” food we are bombard with to eat!! Fancy packaging, inticing photos, hiding all of the nasty additives!
    Raw milk products are healthy, good for you foods!

  • Ruby

    Thank you so much for this post! I live in Middletown in NJ and there is a Whole Foods store there. I have passed this milk brand several times because I wasn’t sure.  I was getting Sky Top Farms unhomogenized milk and I wanted another brand to try.

  • TO

    What’s the difference between Braums Vitamid milk and walmart organic milk

    • http://www.thesweetbeet.com Michelle Madden

      I dont know those brands specifically, but if walmart labels theirs “organic” then you can assume it is. Sounds like the other is NOT organic. The vitamin D claim simply means that Vit D has been added but almost ALL milk has vitamin D added, so even the walmart milk most likely has vit D added … check the ingredient list – bet it does.

  • Nathan Brown

    In Ohio the best in my opinion = Snowville Creamery http://www.snowvillecreamery.com
    They use HTST Pasteurization. 

    • akrav

      This milk is incredible. I believe it is the best of both worlds. No hormones, antibiotics, all the cows are grass fed, non-UHT and they pasturize at the legal limit. So that means you eliminate the risk of getting sick from raw milk, AND it is not highly processed or have any of the “bad stuff” in there.

      Here is another thing to think about: When I buy milk such as Snowville I get whole milk (even though I watch my figure). If the cows are fattening up on grass (as they are supposed to) their cream is filled with these good fats, which promote weight loss such as nuts, avacados, etc. When I have to drink bad milk that is all grain fed, I go for the skim.

  • Raj

    How do they reach their desired temperature of 135 degrees for this kinda process od uht pasteurisation as water can only be reached at 100 degrees ?

  • Dennis

    For anyone out there who has tried raw milk, I’m very really curious about the health implications. What is your advice for what to consider before buying it …

  • http://www.thesweetbeet.com/ Michelle

    Thanks Sabrina for pointing out the returnable bottle element to RonnyBrook. There’s is nothing like a financial incentive (cash back) to get you to actually bring it back!

    And I agree 100% about asking vendors about their practices – learning about whether they use pesticides or not, whether the pesticides are organic, which foods grow in which season etc etc. I am a big believe (and it sounds like you are too) that the more you know about your food the easier it is to then make personal choices that feel right for YOU.

  • http://wwww.thesweetbeet.com Michelle

    Clara, most eggs are actually not pasteurized (even the organic ones)and eggs in general (organic or not) can last up to 2 mos in the fridge! If eggs are pasteurized the carton has to be marked with a red “P” in a circle. I would avoid these if given the choice, since I feel that the less heating done to foods the greater integrity of the nutrients.

  • Michelle

    My advice is buy it only from a dairy farm you personally are comfortable with. Meaning you have been to the farm or have met them at a farmers mkt. Otherwise the health risks are, sadly, too high. It is unfortunate, as I strongly believe that raw milk does have higher levels of ALL the nutrients, but unless you can get to a farm and meet the cows, I’d stick to pasteurized.

  • OOk

    Hmm, there is some good info in this post but it also seems a little misleading… if I read it correctly. The title jolts people into thinking all organic milk *may* be deficient yet in reality your issue is specific to the UP process. This is because you infer that UP milk only occures under the “organic” label by saying, “What’s NOT in your organic milk that should be.”
    I have seen non organic UP milk and I’ve seen non UP organic milk. So your issue is with the UP process, not organic.
    I bring this up as its possible some people may take from this article that all organic milk is UP. So they may shy away from the “ORGANIC” labeling when they should be shying away from the “UP” labeling.
    :)

  • Michelle

    Excellent clarification. Since so many organic milks now ARE done with UP process it’s important that people are particularly aware of this issue when they buy organic. But you are correct to point out, that there ARE organic milk brands that are NOT UP and this is what one should look for.

  • Juliana

    So here’s news: 3 old milks in my fridge, all opened about 10 days ago. I threw out the pasteurized and the ultra pasteurized, but the raw one is still just fine. Nature is amazing. Too bad I can’t figure out a decent way to make yogurt with raw milk!

  • Michelle

    Very interesting! Was your raw milk in a glass container and the others in cardboard or plastic? Glass is less permeable to air so that may be part of it, but raw milk from grass-fed cows contains loads of “good” bacteria that nature builds right in, to decrease its succeptability to the “bad” bacteria that makes it go bad! Brilliant! (Pasteurization, however, kills this good bacteria.)

    Moreover, when raw milk does start to turn, instead of spoiling and turning rancid, it simply sours and becomes “sour milk”/ buttermilk, which you can use for baking.

    As for the yogurt, I actually made delicious yogurt from raw milk this summer! What were the specific probs you found when you tried?

  • rawralph

    Nonsense. Your longterm bad health effects from drinking dead milk (or BGH adulterated milk) AND the ick factors/bad hygience/bad animal husbandry that pasteurization allows and covers up are much more certain.

    Certainly try to visit the farm at least once, but the convenience of a co-op, not to mention less environmental impact and time consumption for the farmer of everyone insisting on visiting the farm for every gallon would be insane. Some co-ops do farm tours annually.

  • Michelle

    Agree. If it’s a co-op and you’re confident in the vendors in the co-op then yes, I agree that meeting the cows is unnecessary. Thanks for clarifying.