Organic milk costs a good deal more than ordinary milk in most stores -- but some consumers believe that, for health reasons alone, it's worth paying extra for organic milk. There are certainly some advantages to organic milk, but they may or may not be enough to warrant shelling out extra cash.
Get Longer Shelf Life
One big advantage organic milk has over regular milk is its shelf life: most brands of organic milk are sterilized at very high temperatures (around 280 degrees F), so it can keep for up to two months.
Because regular pasteurized milk is heated to only 165 degrees F or lower, it doesn't have the same shelf life. On the other hand, high-temperature sterilization can make milk sweeter -- something that may be a plus or minus, depending upon your preferences.
If you're concerned about milk going bad in your refrigerator, organic milk might actually save you money. Alternatively, you can buy non-organic milk that has been sterilized at high temperatures (such as the European product, Parmalat, which sits on grocery shelves rather than in the dairy case).
Drink Up Extra Nutrition
While ultra-high-temperature processing can have a negative impact on some nutrients, researchers find that organic milk does have a high level of omega-3 fatty acid. Omega-3 can be found in many foods and taken as a supplement. Studies show that Omega-3 can reduce cardiovascular disease, improve neurological development and function, and strengthens immune function.
Feel Good About Possible Additives
Two products -- recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH, also known as BGH, recombinant bovine somatotropin or rBST) and antibiotics -- are said to be found in regular milk but not in organic milk.
It's quite true that organic milk comes from cows that have never been given these drugs, which means that organic milk is guaranteed to be free of any residue (except, of course, from cows that needed antibiotics to fight illness).
On the other hand, neither growth hormones nor antibiotics are as popular as they were (in part because consumers complained), so many regular dairies avoid these drugs). In addition, regular milk is tested to be sure there is little or no drug residue in products sent to market.
If you have any concerns whatever about possible residue from possible drug use, it certainly makes sense to buy organic. Alternatively, you can do a little research into the dairies that sell their regular milk products in your area. If it turns out that they don't use the drugs, you may be able to save a little money.
Organic Milk and Wide Open Spaces
In 2010, the USDA closed a loophole in their organic regulations, so all organic dairy cattle must now spend much of the year grazing in open pastures, as opposed to feedlots or indoor feeding pens. While this may seem more natural and healthy, there is some controversy over whether it makes the milk healthier.
Advocates claim that milk from cows that graze in pastures contains more conjugated linoleic acids (CLAs), which is a healthy fat that some research shows might have health benefits. There is not, however, any significant body of scientific evidence supporting the nutritional superiority of organic milk.
There's little argument, however, that organic farming and dairy practices are better for the environment, if only because of their reduced use of pesticides, antibiotics, hormones and other synthetic chemical compounds. When these benefits and the longer shelf life of organic milk are considered, it's easy to see why organic milk can be a good buy.