The Truth About Organic Milk

Strict Federal Standards Determine When Milk Is Labeled Organic


Look at the dairy case and you’ll see many different milk choices — organic milk, reduced fat, lowfat or skim milk. But what makes milk organic? There’s a lot behind the label. Strict farming practices defined by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) set the organic standards for organic dairy farms to produce organic cow’s milk. From what cows eat to how farmers care for their cows governs organic milk production.
Get the facts to better understand what makes milk organic.

What Is Organic Milk?

Organic milk comes from organic dairy farms that follow strict standards set by the USDA. Organic dairy farmers can only use organic specific approved practices to care for their crops and cows. Organic standards ensure farmers do not use synthetic fertilizers. They also may not use growth hormones or antibiotics, and they are not allowed to use genetically modified (GMO) crops or feed for their cows.

What Are Organic Milk Standards?

The USDA certified agents inspect organic milk farms yearly to ensure these farmers follow established organic farming practices — that’s what makes milk organic. When you drink organic dairy milk, you can be sure farmers don’t use GMOs or fertilize their crops using synthetic fertilizers. It also means organic cows only eat organic feed. USDA organic milk standards include how cows are cared for — farmers do not use growth hormones or antibiotics.

How Is Organic Milk Produced?

USDA organic guidelines stipulate that farmers only can use organic-approved substances to care for their crops and livestock. That means no synthetic fertilizers and avoiding most synthetic pesticides. They also can not use growth hormones or antibiotics, and they never use genetically modified (GMO) crops or feed for their cows. Read more about the National Organic Program.

How Can You Tell If Milk Is Organic?

Organic milk displays will state “certified-organic” on the label and may also display the USDA organic seal on the packaging. This indicates that a farm is inspected to ensure farmers adhere the USDA organic standards.

Where Can I Buy Organic Milk?

Look for organic milk in the dairy case at your local grocery store.

Is the Expiration Date the Same As Milk That Is Not Organic?

Organic milk uses the same traditional pasteurization methods (or simple heat treatment) as traditional milk to ensure your milk’s safety and wholesomeness. Some organic milk, like some traditional milk, has a longer shelf life. This simply means the milk has been pasteurized at a higher temperature (called Ultra High Temperature, or UHT) which allows the milk to stay fresh longer (a practice commonly used for milk in Europe). Be sure to check your individual milk brand for your milk’s expiration date.

What Is The Difference Between Organic Milk Vs. Alternative Milks?

Not all organic beverages with the name “milk” are the same. Like traditional milk, organic cow’s milk offers a powerhouse of naturally occurring nutrients, including protein, calcium and potassium. Compare that to other plant-based milks, like almond milk, which provides no nutrients naturally.

For example, an 8-ounce glass of organic cow’s milk has 8 times more protein than a glass of almond milk. Make sure you check the label when selecting your milk in the organic dairy case.

What Are the Benefits of Organic Milk?

Organic milk is produced following strict organic standards with methods that integrate farming practices to foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance and conserve biodiversity. Milk – whether conventional or traditional – provides nine essential nutrients, including high quality protein along with calcium, potassium and vitamin D — three nutrients of concern as outlined by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report. Keep reading facts about milk.



SEE ALSO

Organic Food Standards and Labels: The Facts

What is organic food? Here are the facts on how organic food is produced in the United States.

What is the National Organic Program?

Organic is a labeling term to indicate how agricultural products are produced through USDA-approved and regulated methods.

Certified USDA Organic Operations Database

Only certified operations may sell, label, or represent their product as organic unless exempt or excluded from certification.