Recently, after having purchased some organic milk from a local retailer, my wife informed me that she would prefer I not buy that again. I apologized and let her know that I had been in a hurry and just grabbed the best milk I could at one of our favorite “superstores” (it rhymes with “Rarget”). Normally, we get our milk from a local source in glass bottles or at the Farmer’s Market (raw, my favorite). However, because I forgot to get on the delivery for that week, I assumed that “organic” was the next best thing. She appreciated the effort, but let me know that it “tasted funny.” I checked the expiration, no problem there, it was about a month away. Then I had a sip. Much to my dismay and surprise, it did actually taste funny. This funny taste and seemingly futuristic expiration date led me to investigate a little. Talking to another family member, I was advised that all “organic” milk was radiated. Well, that just didn’t seem like fact, and turns out, it isn’t. However, the truth was only slightly less disappointing.
It seems that there are fewer “organic” dairies across the country, and as a result, organic milk often has to travel farther. According to Scientific American, in order for the milk to make these treks, the larger organic dairies heat the milk to “280 degree Fahrenheit for 2 to 4 seconds, killing any bacteria in it.” Typical pasteurization kills only a portion of the bacteria, just enough to allow it to be on the shelf for a week or so without going bad. The process used by many larger dairies is call ultrahigh temperature processing, or UHT. It not only kills some bacteria, it kills all of the bacteria, destroys some of the vitamins, changes the sugars, and alters the proteins. All of this adds up to a different tasting, and essentially sterile product. It’s not necessarily bad for you, but it’s not the best milk on the market. Once again the implication of a better “organic” product doesn’t insure a higher nutritional quality, and in this case, actually results in a product with lower nutritional value.
What’s the solution? If you have a choice between organic that has been processed using UHT (most national and regional milk, think “Horizon”), or just a locally produced, traditionally pasteurized milk, the local product will likely have higher counts of beneficial bacteria and proteins. If you want to go to the next level, look for raw milk from your local farmer’s market (our’s is Organic Pastures), or try organic milk from places like St. Benoit (sold at Whole Foods). The farm is based in Northern California, raises Jersey cows on pasture (higher cream content, healthy food source), and uses vat pasteurizing that process milk at 145 Fahrenheit, the lowest legal limit. This allows the milk to be sold regionally, is as close to raw while still being pasteurized, and insures a healthy nutritional content not found in either UHT or traditional pasteurization processes. It tastes delicious!
The takeaway? Organic is not a problem, in fact in can be good, but for optimal nutritional value, think of it like this: “it’s necessary, but not sufficient.”