Food Safety milk1

Published on February 11th, 2009 | by Amy Bell

6

Dairy – The Udder Truth

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Gooey melted cheese on pizza, a glass of cold milk with freshly baked cookies, ice cream on a hot summer day… who hasn’t at one time or another enjoyed something made from milk?

Dairy products are part of most American diets on a daily basis, but what is the health and environmental impact of this high demand for milk?

The production of much of the milk in this country is done in large scale-operations, some having thousands of cows.

That’s a lot of manure to be dealt with, this reduces the air quality (especially for people living near the dairy operation), and consistently finds its way into our rivers, streams, and groundwater.

How about the huge amounts of methane being released by cows?  Methane gas makes the second biggest contribution to global warming (carbon dioxide is number one).  The digestive process of cattle is one of the major sources of methane emissions.

Unless you eat and drink only organic dairy products, odds are the cows who produced the milk you’re consuming were given recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH).  For over ten years rBGH (also known as rBST – recombinant bovine somatotropin) has been a staple in American dairy products.  Companies are not required to label products containing this hormone, so most consumers have no idea they’re consuming it.

The intent of rBGH (which is manufactured by the Monsanto Company…aka public enemy #1), is to make dairy cows more productive, but it often leads to significant health problems.  The most common problem is severe udder infections (mastitis).  Because of this, dairy farmers must use more antibiotics to combat these infections.  These antibiotic residues contribute to the growing number of antibiotic resistant bacteria, making it more and more difficult for some antibiotics to fight infections in humans.

Some studies have also shown that rBGH residue in dairy products can increase the risk of certain cancers such as breast, prostate, and colon.  Because of this, rBGH has been banned in European nations and Canada.

These are just a few of the many problems associated with dairy production and consumption.

What we, as consumers, need to ask ourselves is this:

  • Why are we letting the FDA and companies like Monsanto put these potentially hazardous biotech food production “tools” into our food?
  • Are we ok with global warming, reduced air quality, and manure spills?
  • And really…when you think about it, why are we drinking the breast milk of an entirely different species in the first place?

Image credit: striatic on flickr creative commons.

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About the Author

Amy is a vegan, working mother of one with a degree in Nutrition Education. She has had a longtime interest in natural health, animal rights, human rights, and environmental issues. She shares her Midwestern home with her husband and son, as well as with what many would consider to be a lot of pets.



  • Terry Klumb

    Dear Amy Bell,
    First of all you need to get your facts straight, Monsanto no longer owns the rights to BST, they sold it off months ago. We live in a small community and personally know of at least five dairies that do not use BST in their milking operations. Most farmers do their best to raise safe food. Many times it goes wrong when the big processors get ahold of the raw product. Good example peanut butter. The raw peanuts was not contaminated on the farm!!!

  • Veg Head

    Amy,

    Thank you very much for your post. I would urge you (and your readers) to check out the Cool Foods Campaign at http://www.coolfoodscampaign.org – there is a lot of great information about the connections between agriculture and global warming that I think would be great to get out there. Also FYI, Monsanto divested control of Posilac (rBGH) this past fall. Now rBGH is owned and manufactured by Eli Lilly and Co. Cheers!

  • Amy Bell

    Thanks for your comments! Yes, I should have worded that differently, Monsanto was originally to thank for rBGH, and now they have passed it on to another company. Either way, it’s a potentially dangerous and unnecessary product.

    Terry, that’s great that you have several dairies in your community that do not use it, I hope you’re doing your best to support them!

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