Understanding Organics: Dairy & Dairy Substitutes
Q. Which dairy products are organic?
A. Milk from all dairy animals, including cows, goats, and
sheep, may be certified organic. Certified
organic products cover nearly the full dairy spectrum, including milk, cheese, yoghurt,
butter, cottage cheese, sour cream, ice cream, and more. Dairy products that are certified
organic cannot be blended or otherwise come into contact with nonorganic milk. Look for the
words “Certified Organic” on the label to be sure you are getting truly organic
Q. What makes dairy products organic?
A. To produce organic dairy products, standard hygiene and
dairy safety procedures are followed, including pasteurisation. Organic certification requires
the accommodation of an animal’s health and natural behaviour, which includes access to
the outdoors for pasture, exercise, and fresh air. To qualify for organic certification, a
dairy farmer must feed 100% certified organic feed produced on land untreated with synthetic
fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides for at least three seasons prior to
harvesting the crop. The farm on which the herd is pastured must be certified organic as well.
In addition, organic dairy products must be free of drugs, including growth hormones and
Q. What is rBGH?
A. Recombinant bovine growth hormone (also known as recombinant
bovine somatotropin, or rBST) is a synthetic hormone developed to boost milk production in
dairy cows. The World Health Organization, the US Food and Drug Administration, and numerous
medical associations have concluded that milk and meat from rBGH-treated cows is safe for
human consumption. However, as it has been associated with cancer and other health risks, many
people choose to avoid it due to concerns on the behalf of consumers and livestock. Though
organic farmers are the only group required to not use the hormone, many conventional dairy
farmers now choose to produce their products without using rBGH, and will state so on their
packaging. Governments in Canada, Europe, and elsewhere have blocked the sale of rBGH, and
some large retailers have made the decision not to carry rBGH-containing products.
Q. What choices do consumers have?
A. If you prefer to avoid hormones, antibiotics, and other such
additives, here are some simple steps you can take:
- Go organic. Besides being hormone-free and antibiotic-free, milk, yoghurt, butter, and
cheese displaying “USDA Organic” or “Certified Organic” labels come
from herds that eat grass or organic feed that is free of pesticides and genetically modified
- Go dairy-free. Store shelves are now stocked with non-dairy options such as rice, almond,
and soya milks; yoghurts; cheeses; and more.
- Select rBGH-free products. Read the label to find milk with no added hormones.
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The information presented in the Food Guide is for informational purposes
only and was created by a team of US–registered dietitians and food experts. Consult
your doctor, practitioner, and/or chemist for any health problem and before using any
supplements, making dietary changes, or before making any changes in prescribed medications.