Let me first just say I love milk – and really all things dairy. Be it cheese, butter, yogurt, ICE CREAM - this girl loves her dairy. And I never knew how much dairy I actually consumed, until I had to give it up while nursing because my son appeared to be lactose intolerant. Giving up dairy was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. But if it meant I could keep nursing my son, I was going to at least give it a shot. It became easier, but I longed for the days I could devour a homemade bowl of mac and cheese.
That day has come and gone and I’m enjoying my REAL dairy foods again, but now there is all this hype in the media about how milk is bad for you and cows are being mistreated and everyone should boycott milk and dairy products. When you become a mother, it’s very easy to be swayed into thinking that the choices you make, means that you are a bad parent. And thus, I might be guilty of believing articles I’ve read, or at least second guessing what I know to be true and that is “Milk does a body good.” But as an athletic 32 year old woman who has never broken a bone, I’d like to think that statement remains a fact.
One of the biggest things you hear in the news about milk is that dairy farmers are injecting cows with a growth hormone and that these growth hormones are in our milk and causing things such as cancer and puberty in young children. So naturally as a concerned mother, I wanted to learn the truth about the safety of the milk we drink in our household. Hence why I signed up to be a part of the Illinois Farm Familes Field Mom tour where we recently toured a local dairy farm and were able to discuss these hot topics.
I belong to a “mom’s club” on facebook and the topic of the safety of dairy milk often comes up. You will hear these mothers ranting about these hormones that the cows are being given and the ill effects that supposedly cause – but I bet not one of them actually knows that name of that hormone. I didn’t. But I do now. That hormone is called recombinant bovine somatotropin or rbST. It’s the synthetic version of the protein; bovine somatotropin (bST) which is a naturally occurring protein found in all dairy cattle that helps produce milk. A cow will reach its peak in milk production at about 60 days after giving birth to a calf, so rbST is given to prolong the level of milk production.
So now that I know what rbST is and its purpose, but the bigger question I had was…Is it harming the health of my family. And guess what…IT’S NOT. In fact, several studies have been done and shown that it does not cause any health risk in humans. The reason why: though rbST is a hormone, it is a protein and not a steroid. This means that it is inactive when taken orally and just like insulin, is broken down in the digestive system and has absolutely no impact on our health.
Another myth I’d like to bust for concerned parents is that “Organic Milk is free from Hormones.” That is a false statement. Jim taught us that all milk contains hormones, and the level of hormones is not different between organic, rbST-free, and regular milk. bST is a hormone that appears naturally in milk in very small levels, but those levels don’t increase in the milk of rbST-supplemented cows. And because all three of these types of milks have the same composition, there is no difference in the products that could affect the age at which puberty begins. In fact, Jim pointed out that though we stand comparing milk on the shelves, the only real differences are indeed just the labels.
For those who are still concerned about the safety of milk, I’d like to challenge them to learn about all testing that milk must go through before it hits our tables and all of the federal and state regulations that dairy’s must abide by – all to ensure that consumers are. And really, if they knew the fine dairy’s had to pay if they didn’t follow the safety regulations, they would be shocked. If I were a dairy farmer, one could be sure I wouldn’t just be throwing that money away and at the risk of harming the consumer none the less. Dairy Farmers are not out to get us. They are not looking to harm cows or people. They are doing what is best and most efficient for their farms to keep up with the ever-growing demand.
Like any mother, I’ve been concerned about the possible harmful effects that milk may have on my family. But after being a part of the Field Moms Dairy tour and I now know that when I feed my son milk every night at dinner, my mind can rest easy knowing that the only way I’m affecting his health is by still providing him the most nutrient filled beverage on the market – cow’s milk. And now I can confidently give other mother’s a little 411 on milk safety – based on the facts.
Knowing what I know now about rbST and the safety of milk, I no longer feel guilty about my love for dairy - and will continue to drink milk until the cows come home.
Niki VanDuzer, GROWMARK