The term ‘organic’ is becoming more and more prevalent in our local stores and supermarkets. While we can usually understand what it means to be ‘organic’, working out if it’s better than the conventional, or ‘regular’, option can sometimes be challenging.
So, when it comes to milk, what’s the difference between organic and regular milk?
What Does ‘Organic’ Mean?
"Organic" has been defined by the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) as ‘avoiding or excluding the use of synthetic fertilisers, pesticides, antibiotics, growth modification and irradiation.’
BioGro NZ (which is the certifying body we operate under), provides a more detailed view for what is organic, using 8 key principles that all farms must meet each year to retain their organic certification:
Traceability: understanding where all the inputs originate from, and what’s in them.
Animal welfare: maintain the highest level of animal welfare, this means happier and healthier animals. Provide them with plenty of space and a clean diet.
Climate change: work towards a green NZ by working with nature, avoiding synthetic fertilisers and pesticides, and promoting overall environmental health.
Biodiversity: organic farms provide a haven for local wildlife to flourish, in particular local bird populations and bees.
Packaging: packaging must be chosen to minimise environmental impact, such as recycled or reusable packaging.
Care for workers: organic standards will not allow for violation of human rights.
Health and wellbeing: As BioGro themselves state, “organic food is real food. It is not genetically engineered or altered in any way. It is made without synthetic colourings, preservatives or additives.”
Advertising: certified organic producers must get all packaging, labels and marketing materials approved before it is used. Strict rules are in place to ensure transparency and honesty in marketing.
What is Organic Milk?
So, just what is organic milk? Essentially, organic milk is named so due to the methods the farmer uses to grow and feed the cows, maintain the land, and process the milk. It is done to strict regulations, as outlined above.
What is Regular Milk?
Regular milk, on the other hand, is still subject to rules and regulations to ensure quality and the health of drinkers, but the overall process of obtaining it is not as closely regulated.
Is Organic Milk Better For You?
From a health standpoint, there certainly are a number of factors that point to organic being the better option, which we'll outline below.
Overall, though, there's no clear answer to this question. Usually, the choice between organic or regular, in almost every product and not just milk, comes down to personal preference. Organic products are produced in a way that is usually more sustainable, places an emphasis on animal welfare, and uses fewer external inputs such as synthetic fertilisers. However, these benefits do come at a cost.
Organic Milk vs Regular Milk: What’s the Difference?
When it comes to identifying the main differences between organic and regular milk, the biggest, perhaps most important difference to note is that it all comes down to the way in which the milk is collected, the way the cows are raised, and how the land is maintained.
Essentially, it boils down to the organic farming process vs the conventional farming process.
Longer Shelf Life
At Jersey Girl Organics we pasteurise our milk at 75 degrees Celsius for 30 seconds, then cool it down to 2 degrees Celsius over a 5 second period.
By using this process, our milk has a shelf life of around 2.5 weeks.
No Antibiotics and Hormones Used
Organic cows are given no antibiotics or hormones. Regular cows are sometimes given these, although not in every case. To be certified organic, dairy farmers must refrain from using these, so you are guaranteed to be hormone-free with organic cows
Antibiotics are usually given to cows to treat mastitis, an infection in the tissue of the mammary glands that can occur during lactation. A common misconception is that they are given as a way to increase milk production or aid in growth, but this is not the case.
Even though conventional farming does allow for antibiotics, the majority of farmers will keep these cows away from the herd, therefore removing their milk from the overall supply, until there are no trace amounts of antibiotics left.
There is some debate over whether antibiotics still make it into the milk supply, but organic milk guarantees they don’t since they simply aren’t used at all.
The Healthier Option
Emphasis on Animal Welfare
Cows spend the majority of their day in the open fields, free to graze in paddocks that have not been treated with synthetic fertilisers, which guarantees they can’t make their way into the supply chain.
To be a certified organic farm, you must pass yearly audits that inspect the quality of life of the animals in your care. Organic farmers go ‘the extra mile' to ensure their cows live happy, stress-free, healthy lives.
It is true that organic milk comes at a higher cost, and this can be off-putting to some consumers.
The higher prices are required as the cost of production is higher for organic farms. By supporting organic farmers you are signalling your desire to see animals treated fairly and humanely.
The Choice is Yours
The decision to choose organic or regular milk is an individual one. Once you know the facts behind the argument, you can make the choice that best suits you and your family.
If that choice happens to be Jersey Girl Organics, be sure to check out our interactive map to find your nearest stockist.