Is Organic Milk Healthier?

The organic craze has left no grocery aisle untouched, including the dairy case. In the first half of 2011, sales of organic reduced-fat milk soared 18 percent compared to the same period last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Dairy Market News.

Meanwhile, conventional milk sales slumped nearly 3 percent. That made us wonder: Is organic milk worth the extra cash? (It’s roughly $3.88 per half gallon, or 57 percent more than a half-gallon of regular milk.)

There are differences between organic and conventional milk production, but they may not have the benefits you think, says Thomas Overton, Ph.D., associate professor of animal science at Cornell University. The distinction between organic and conventional milk is really a tale of two farms. Cows at organic dairies:

• Are fed only organic grains, free of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
• Get at least 30 percent of their feed from pasture.
• Aren’t treated with antibiotics, or with bovine growth hormone to increase milk production.

Many organic farms also treat the environment better as well, because they have a greater respect for water resources and healthy soils. But they don’t have to prove these eco-friendly practices to be certified as organic.

NEXT: Who Regulates Organic Farms? >>

DID YOU KNOW? The average American drinks 450 sugar-loaded calories a day. Replace half of what you drink with water and you'll save 23 pounds per year! Start by avoiding everything on this list of The 20 Worst Drinks in America.

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