Sunday, 25 January 2015

Milk: Organic v. Non-organic

Let's talk milk! Y'know, the white stuff. You have it on your Corn Flakes in the morning, and in your elevensies cuppa. You may even have a glass of it before bedtime. Milk has featured quite a bit in the news recently, due to the lowering cost per pint that farmers are receiving.
Now I'm not here to preach at you all, and try to win you over to my way of thinking. I am simply writing and expressing an opinion about something that is close to my heart, and something which I believe we should be taking a bit more seriously.
In this blog post I will be discussing the benefits of choosing organic milk over non-organic milk, and addressing a few questions such as... What's the difference? And how do the farmers benefit from my decisions on which type of milk to drink?

Growing up in the countryside, I have come to understand how vital agricultural issues can be, and how these can have an effect on not just those living in the surrounding towns but, everyone across the country.

So, let's start at the very beginning...Why organic milk?

Our Health.
Let's start with the health benefits. It goes without saying really, that organic milk is higher in vitamins and minerals than it's non-organic counter part, and this is mainly due to the fact that the cows which produce it are fed on good old fashioned grass. This grass is left to just do it's thing, no pesticides involved which can filter through the milk (and eventually into our own bodies), it's just the way mother nature intended.

Recent research by Newcastle University has also shown that organic milk is 30-40% lower in saturated fat than non-organic milk. And it's also higher in Omega-3 than the non-organic stuff, which makes it good for your heart.

Now I know some of you may be thinking...allergies. You may be lactose intolerant, or have to avoid dairy products because it brings you out in patches of eczema. Now I'm definitely no doctor but, let me tell you a little story about one of my very close friends. She was born and raised on a dairy farm in Gloucestershire, and would drink raw, organic milk every day of her life. On her cereal, in her name it. Now this friend of mine, decided to go to Uni in the big city and of course, like most students when they head off to Uni, she moved away from home and into halls of residence and lived on a shoe string budget. Obviously her milk of choice was the bog-standard stuff she could get her hands on from her local corner shop, or the nearest express supermarket. The stuff that had been produced by cows that had been fed on grass treated with chemical fertilizers. As a result, she developed an intolerance to milk and dairy products, and now has to steer away from it completely. True story!
Which makes it no surprise that drinking organic milk has actually been proven by some doctors, to help with the effects of eczema, and to help suppress dairy intolerances.

Farmers & the Economy
Now, let's move onto agriculture and the economy. With producing organic milk come strict guidelines. There's no factory farming here, just wide open fields of lush green grass. Cows are very social animals, so the fact that they are kept out in the open and in larger social/family groups means they are much happier. And happy cows produce lots of milk. Happy cows also live longer, which means the longevity of organic farming is much better than that of non-organic. Happy days!

On an econmic side of things, producing organic milk does cost more money than producing non-organic. This means that essentially the cost gets passed down to us, the consumer. Farmland costs a certain amount to buy, and the farmers can only keep a certain amount of cows on that land in order for it to be free-range, throw into that the cost of organic feed etc and the price per litre goes up.

So what does that mean for us?
If you look at the current milk crisis that is being featured on the news recently, the argument is that supermarkets aren't paying enough per litre to the farmers. The price they receive per litre for the milk they sell to the supermarkets is actually lower that what it costs to keep the farm up-and-running. This in itself is an absolute outrage. Supermarkets think they are doing a good thing by passing on the low costs to their customers but, ultimately if farms go out of business, yet the demand for milk remains the same, then the price of milk will start to go up, at a massive rate.
If we were to buy organic milk, whereby the farmers receives more per litre than a non-organic farmer then we would be contributing to keeping the organic milk industry going. These organic farms would need to increase their flocks and buy more land to keep up with the demand from customers and supermarkets alike. Not only that but, we could, many years down the line, abolish non-organic farming altogether.

The Future
Now, I know there is a long way to go before this all comes into place. There are lots of big discussions in parliament at the moment about regulating the price which farmers receive from supermarkets for their produce, meaning they wouldn't be out of pocket. But, this goes hand-in-hand with organic farming too. If we can get a regular price per litre for both types of farmers, then this will make it more sustainable in the long run. In turn, this will also mean the likely hood of having to import milk from other countries will fall, and we can more money back into our own economy by buying solely organic milk from farms in the UK.

If, you've stuck with me this far, then, thank you. I hope I haven't bored you all to tears with my passionate rant. But, if I can change but only one person's opinion on this subject, and they in turn pass their knowledge onto someone else, then we can really start to work wonders for the British agricultural industry.

If you would like to read more on this subject then I've found a couple of good links you can take a look at. The first is from the Organic Milk website itself, there's an interesting piece in the Guardian, and also JohnWhaite (from GBBO) shares his views on the current milk crisis.

1 comment:

  1. I was looking for articles on Organic Cow Milk and I came across yours inspiring read. Great post!