Is Organic Milk Healthier?

The USDA’s National Organic Program regulates the standards, and accredited agents carry out inspections and review documentation to ensure organic farms are meeting the mark, says Heather Mangieri, MS, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

Those are excellent reasons to buy organic milk. But many organic-milk customers make the purchase because they think it’s healthier than the conventional stuff. That’s where the science says not so fast.

First, some background: In the mid-’90s the FDA approved the use of recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) in cattle. This practice resulted in greater milk production at less cost to the dairy farmer, a savings that has been passed on to you at your local supermarket. But it has also sparked much controversy, because rBGH boosts milk's concentration of insulin-like growth factor (IGF), a hormone that's been linked to cancer.

Nor is rBGH good for the cows. They suffer from a variety of problems because of it, including a persistent and painful udder infection. That’s why cows are given so many antibiotics.

But is rBGH dangerous to humans? Probably not. “Unlike steroid hormones, which can be taken orally, rBGH and IGF must be injected to have any effect,” says Men’s Health nutrition advisor Alan Aragon, M.S. “That's because the process of digestion destroys these ‘protein’ hormones. So drinking milk from hormone-treated cows doesn't transfer the active form of these chemicals to your body.” Just don’t inject it.

What’s more, all organic and conventional milk is tested for antibiotic residue, and any milk that contains it is removed from the food supply.

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