Home Blog Is Dairy Healthy? The Whole Story – Part 1

Is Dairy Healthy? The Whole Story – Part 1

Written on September 9, 2011 at 3:35 am, by Eric Cressey

In light of the overwhelming popularity of a recent guest blog on the topic of sports nutrition and healthy food options, I wanted to keep the ball rolling with some regular nutrition content.  This week, Brian St. Pierre kicks off a three-part series on everything you want to know about dairy.  Enjoy!  -EC

Dairy: perhaps the most controversial food in history.

While some people would argue that we shouldn’t consume dairy at all, others recommend getting at least three servings per day. There is fat-free, 1%, 2%, whole, cream, butter, and more. There is also the pasteurization, ultra-pasteurized and raw debate.  Who is right?  What fat content is the best?  Should you eat raw dairy?

Let’s find out.

The History of Dairy Consumption

The fact of the matter is that humans have been consuming dairy in one form or another for 10,000 years. Many cultures (e.g., people of the Lotchenstal Valley, the Masai, Mongolians) have subsisted on tremendous amounts of dairy without any problems often associated with it. The difference is that traditional dairy was from cows that ate grass, got exercise, breathed fresh air, and enjoyed the sunshine. Their quality of life – and therefore quality of milk – was excellent.

Fast forward to today and things have changed.  Milk demand has increased greatly in the last hundred years, and so the industry responded.  Cows moved off family farms and onto Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO), which are essentially huge conglomerate farms where they:

a)      are fed tons of corn,

b)      stand in their own waste

c)       are given antiobiotics to prevent the illnesses from that corn consumption and the unsanitary living conditions

d)      are given copious amounts of growth hormones to speed their growth and increase their milk production.

Appetizing, I know.

Traditionally, cows were allowed a seasonal reproductive cycle and were milked for only six weeks after giving birth.  Today, conventional dairy farmers inseminate cows only a few months after giving birth, which can compromise the immune system and decrease milk quality. What’s worse, it will also cause a huge increase in estrogens in the milk.

These estrogens can fuel the growth of several tumors and are linked to prostate, breast and ovarian cancer.  Cows allowed to graze on grass and have seasonal reproductive cycles have significantly less estrogens in their milk, at levels that are not thought to be problematic.

Below is a table to give you a little perspective on the changes in the lives of milking cows brought about by the move off the family farm and onto the CAFOs.

Why Grass-Feeding Rules

While we have certainly made cows more efficient milk-producing machines – going from 336 lbs to 20,000 lbs of milk produced per year – this has had a tremendously negative impact on milk quality. Milk produced in this manner is not what I would consider a healthy food option, and I am definitely not a big fan of this conventional dairy due to the poor production, poor quality, high estrogen content, and loss of important fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins.  Fortunately, dairy from pasture-raised grass-fed cows is an entirely different animal.

Since these cows are actually allowed to eat what they were designed to eat, their milk quality is vastly superior – containing more actual nutrition like increased levels of vitamin A, vitamin K (in the more powerful form of K2), omega-3s, and CLA.  In fact, grass-fed cows have been found to contain up to 500% more CLA than their conventionally fed brethren!

In addition to grass-fed dairy being far superior to conventional grain-fed dairy, full-fat dairy is also superior to low-fat or fat-free, contrary to popular belief or recommendations – but we will get to that in Part 2!

About the Author

Brian St. Pierre is a Certified Sports Nutritionist (CISSN) and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). He received his degree in Food Science and Human Nutrition with a focus in Human Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Maine, and he is currently pursuing his Master’s degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics from the same institution. He was the Nutritionist and a Strength and Conditioning Coach at Cressey Performance in Hudson, MA for three years. He is also the author of the Show and Go Nutrition Guide, the accompanying nutrition manual to Eric Cressey’s Show and Go Training System.

With his passion for seeing his clients succeed, Brian is able to use his knowledge, experience, and energy to create highly effective training and nutrition programs for clients of any age and background. For more information, check out his website.

References

Malekinejad H, Scherpenisse P, Bergwerff A. Naturally Occurring Estrogens in Processed Milk and in Raw Milk (from Gestated Cows). J. Agric. Food Chem., 2006, 54 (26), pp 9785–9791

Qin LQ, et al. Estrogen: one of the risk factors in milk for prostate cancer. Med Hypotheses. 2004;62(1):133-42.

Ganmaa D, Sato A. The possible role of female sex hormones in milk from pregnant cows in the development of breast, ovarian and corpus uteri cancers. Med Hypotheses. 2005;65(6):1028-37.

Dhiman TR, Anand GR, et al. Conjugated linoleic acid content of milk from cows fed different diets. J Dairy Sci. 1999;82(10):2146-56.

Related Posts

Healthy Food Options: Why You Should Never Take Nutrition Advice from Your Government
Metabolic Cooking: Making It Easy to Eat Clean

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  • Great article. My family has been getting their milk from a local dairy for years. The cows are grass fed, no antibiotics, no hormones and they are given the winter “off.” Lots of places around where you can get into a milk co-op and get your milk this way if you choose to drink it.

  • Bird

    I consume grass fed, raw, unpasteurized milk. Commercial milk used to give me bloating and lactose intolerance issues. Not raw milk.

  • WxHerk

    I thought I was lactose intolerant until I finally tried milk from a nearby small, family owned dairy in South Mississippi. The cows are grass fed and the milk isn’t homogenized. Not only is the taste superb, but there is no nasty coating in my mouth and NO problems digesting the milk.

    Talking the the father and one of the sons who own & run the dairy, they told me that they get many people who were supposedly lactose intolerant having no problems with their milk. If you THINK you’re lactose intolerant I strongly suggest finding locally produced NON-homogenized milk. It truly is a “different animal!”

  • Great piece and totally agree. I try to avoid dairy when I can and try eat grass fed when ever I can! Looking forward to the second part…

  • CSOleson

    Where does one find these natural milk vendors?

  • It is great to see you talk about a topic that is very controversial. Milk is another example of how we have strayed so far away from tradition, respect to mother nature and have allowed money to influence our food supply. Great job guys. I look forward to part 2, if it was not for people like Ancel Keys and the bogus “lipid hypothesis” people would not be so afraid of saturated fats, especially whole milk. The book The Untold Story of Milk is a must read on this topic.

  • Phil

    I am looking forward to the rest of this series. I grew up on a farm and have also been fortunate to establish a relationship with a dairy scientist at Michigan State U. who has been a big help. I have found that a persons blood type is also a key indicator of how well dairy is digested and assimilated. Type B’s tolerate dairy very well and A’s do not! Personal experience has reinforced this in my mind. Also there is A1 milk and A2 milk. A2 milk is the better choice and comes from Jersey, Brown Swiss and Guernsey cows. The most popular cow in the US is the Holstein which produces A1 milk. Raw milk is superior because it retains the digestive enzymes such as lactase that are destroyed/altered with pasteurization and homogenization.

    If anybody wants more details or has questions I would be happy to get more in-depth on these topics.

  • levi

    A cow in 1850 was only milked 6 days out of the year? HOLY!

    good info.

  • R Smith

    Brian,

    I don’t drink milk, but I follow from the Show & Go nutrition manual to a “T,” including making the switch to grass-fed beef.

    RS

  • Good information Brian. We have started buying milk for our 2 todlers at a local farm in Maine and it comes in a glass container. All the cows are grass fed and spend most of their day living like cows should. Drinking and eating foods that don’t live in cheap plastic is also important! Glass containers preserve any of the “life” that is left in the food source, where plastic cannot. The plastic also leaches into the milk as well, so buy milk locally and in glass containers where ever possible.

  • Corey

    Great article, very informative. What is your take on raw milk and it’s benefits? Do you think it is worthwhile to advise people to seek out the availability of this food?

  • john

    Note the very nice teeth of the cultures that rely heavily on dairy.

  • Dr Seth Burke

    If anyone likes this post and likes to cook, check out Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. Great information on how traditional food preparations- including the use of lacto-fermentation increases the bio-availability of nutrients, vitamins, and fatty acids. I dropped soy milk and get raw grass fed milk from 20 min away. Sooo good!! Did you know pasteurization actually kills the enzymes that help break down lactose?!! As bird said above, no bloating!! You also forgot to mention mastitis which occurs from the over-milking with machinery. Did you know there’s an acceptable level of pus in milk?!! This got me so thirsty I’m going to make a raw milk latte. Cheers!!

  • Nice article Brian (and great blog you have going).

    I would like to see some information of pasteurization and what that does to the nutritional content of dairy for the future posts if possible.

    As well, perhaps general information about the quality of whey protein out there?

    Paul Chek covers it in depth (http://www.ppssuccess.com/FoodforThought/ArticlesbyPaul/ArticlesbyPaulChekDetailPage/tabid/496/smid/2144/ArticleID/90/reftab/104/t/WHEY%20PRODUCTS%20%20Supplement%20or%20Detriment/Default.aspx) but I wanted to hear your thoughts too since whey consumption is very prevalent for most weight trainees.

    As for a personal note, I believe conventional dairy was a trigger for acne for me. In my mid twenties I was consuming a lot of whey and some cheese up until last year, once I cut these out my ace cleared up 95% and skin is much better. I believe I’d developed an intolerance from years of whey consumption.

  • john twinem

    I agree with the content on the nutritional level, and was one of those kids who was fortunate enough to grow up in a rural area, with our own cow, where this was possible–raw milk, homemade ice cream, butter, whip cream, sherbet etc. Fact is though, urbanization makes both pasteurization (so that milk has a refrigeration life of more than three days) and bulk production necessary financial realities for much of the population.

  • Alex

    Levi hit on the problem I saw in the table.

    If the cows of old produced 56lbs per day for six weeks, either they produced 56 x 7 x 6 = 2,352 pounds of mile per year or the calves got to drink all the milk on six days of each week!

    Other than that “nit” (which doesn’t change the gist of the article), a great and disturbing article. Thanks.

  • Natalie

    Ok, can’t help noticing that here Brian is trashing the conventional dairy industry. Then click over to his website articles, and he’s writing for T-nation promoting the whey supplement of the day. Which I doubt was produced from adorable, healthy grass-fed cows. I know there are no easy answers in life and nutrition, but usually hypocrisy is a little less obvious.

  • @CSOlsen:

    Go to www “dot” realmilk “dot” com and click on the “where” button.

    I could never tolerate processed dairy very well, (GOMAD was not an option!) but I’ve been absolutely fine with drinking raw milk almost every day for the past 3-1/2 years.

    It’s disgusting how the FDA is protecting corporate dairy interests by trying to criminalize the production of a natural, healthy whole food, yet we can legally get our daily dose of feces and ammonia from any fast-food burger joint.

    Looking forward to Part 2!

  • Jeff

    I totally agree. I use this chart for where to find local farms:
    http://www.realmilk.com/where3.html#ma

  • @CSOlsen:

    Go to www “dot” realmilk “dot” com and click on the “where” link.

    I could never tolerate processed dairy very well, but I can drink raw milk, and have done so almost every day for the past 3-1/2 years.

    It’s disgusting how the FDA is protecting corporate dairy interests by trying to criminalize the production of a natural, healthy whole food. Meanwhile, you can legally obtain your daily dose of feces and ammonia from any fast food burger joint.

    Looking forward to Part 2!

  • Rsquest

    I would like to see you address the issues that Loren Cordain mentions. He talks about the various problems with milk apart from estrogen, antibiotics and pasteurization — increased insulin being one of the most significant. Yes, man has consumed milk for 10,000 years, but that is a blink of an eye in the 2.5 million years of our evolution … and so I don’t believe that we have evolved to consume cows’ milk — of any kind (virtually no evolution has happened in humans since the beginning of agriculture 10,000 years ago.

  • The actual science says that you are right and that milk does NOT do the body good.

    The pattern on the statistical analyses of MANY countries that drink milk and are ‘correlated’ to numerous diseases is NOT just by chance:

    http://GordonWatts.com/consumer.html

    or

    http://GordonWayneWatts.com/consumer.html

    Scroll down to the scary cancer & fertility problem graphs. In fact, THIS research is a chief reason why I’d sooner eat unclean meat (such as pork) that’s improperly cooked before I’d drink a glass of milk.

    Gordon Wayne Watts
    BS, The Florida State University, Biological & Chemical Sciences, double major with honors
    AS, United Electronics Institute, valedictorian

  • Markus

    While I sometimes drink grass-fed raw milk, too, some of the health claims are a bit overblown. Brian has included one of them in his blurb here, and that is the purportedly huge CLA content.

    Yes, grass-fed milk may have as much as 500% of the amount of CLA in grain-fed milkfat (depending on the exact sources of feed), but the latter has an average of only 4 mg of CLA per gram. Even at the maximum multipliers, then, one cup of grass-fed whole milk would have only about 160 mg of CLA, which is a puny amount.

    A roughly similar situation applies to the omega-3 content of grass-fed milk.

  • Nick

    Milk gives me a huge mess

  • Jeff Violette

    So, what about Soy and/or Organic milk? I’m ignorant in this nutritional area. Is one of those two a good alternative??

  • ben

    Really the whole point of this article is quality vs. quantity. For all we complain about how unhealthy and nutritionally raped our food is these days, the fact is it’s a consequence of producing this much food. I don’t think it is possible to feed the current world population only with farming methods that produce nutritionally superior food.

    This is one of the Unfortunate Truths.

  • James Maloney

    Asked what single change in the American diet would produce the greatest health benefit, Washington DC based pediatrician Russell Bunai, says “Eliminating dairy products out of the diet.”

    We were raised to think of cow’s milk as a perfect food. The National Dairy Council advertises that “milk is natural” and If you don’t drink milk, the council will tell you that your bones will become brittle and your strength will fade due to a lack of calcium. Many Americans out of fear make dairy products a staple of their diets. Knowledge is a killer of fear. The more you know the less you fear. Drinking milk will not make you big and strong, nor will it prevent osteoporosis.

    Cows do not drink cow’s milk. Calves stop drinking cow’s milk between the ages of six to eight months. Humans are the only species that drink the milk of another animal. You will never see a kitten drink milk from a goat, or a doe drink milk from a bear. However, we have been conditioned to think that we must drink milk from cows. We are told that we must drink milk from cows. We are told that we must drink cow’s milk for the rest of our lives. No adult animal continues to drink milk after they are weaned. We, as humans, drink milk from an adult animal that do not drink their own milk after they reach 7 months of age. Would you drink milk from lactating women? To my surprise when I ask this question, many people frown in disgust. Human milk is made for human consumption for a specific period of time. It has the appropriate nutrients dedicated to building and maintaining our bodies. After 22-24 months, humans no longer need their mother’s milk. So why are we still drinking cow’s milk as adults? Not to mention giving it to our children. Cow’s milk is meant to turn a 200-puound calf in to a 2,000-pound cow. This reason alone is why America is the leading country in the world of obesity.

    The Biggest problem with cow’s milk is that the protein in the cow’s milk damages the human immune system. Amino acids, the units that make up proteins, are building blocks for all living cells. When amino acids in our food are properly broken down by the digestive system into protein, it does no harm to the immune system. Protein from milk, however, is absorbed into the blood fully indigested, provoking an immune response. Repeated exposure to these proteins disrupts normal immune functions and may eventually lead to diseases.

    Here are some of the disease that milk can cause.

    Crohn’s Disease
    Asthma
    Early Sexual Maturation
    Early Breast Growth
    Diabetes
    Breast Cancer
    Colon Cancer
    Leukemia
    ADD or ADHD
    Prostate Cancer
    Osteoporosis
    Arthritis
    Sinuses
    Autoimmune Disease
    Lung Cancer
    Childhood Anemia
    Diarrhea & Constipation

    Every child that has an ear infection drinks some form of cow’s milk. Children who are breast fed only do not have ear infections. Also know that antibiotic does not cure ear infections. The average American drinks milk and eat cheese containing new strains of bacteria, immune to the 52 different antibiotics, which are also, present in milk. Therefore, no matter how many painful shots you subject your child to…………it’s all in vain because it will not work.

    If you or anyone in your family is experiencing health problems of almost any kind and dairy is apart of your diet, it makes sense to completely eliminate the dairy for at least a month and observe the results. You would be surprise at the outcome.

  • good article but i find it hard to believe milk was 5 bucka a gallon in 1850

  • Markus

    Wow. James Maloney sure has been reading a lot of Joseph Mercola propaganda lately.

    In fact, there is almost no clinical evidence of milk solely “causing” all of those diseases and conditions. People who blindly repeat all of this alt-med fiction need to read a few medical studies once in a while, in order to get a sanity check.

    The claim that every child who has an ear infection is a cow-milk drinker is ignorant beyond belief. Apparently Maloney has never traveled to the parts of the world where childhood ear infections occur despite the only nonhuman milk source being goats or water buffaloes or even sheep.

    And I’ll be sure to pass along to other parents Maloney’s unique medical insight that their solely breast-fed children’s ear infections, just like my son’s, actually never happened. After all, Maloney read that this is impossible from some alt-med site, so it must be true.

  • Mark

    The dairy industry also has a darker side that many people are never made aware. Cows, like most other mammals produce milk through lactation. Females lactate when they are in calf. So in order for cows to produce milk they are in a permanent state of pregnancy through insemination and also a state of post birth, where the calves are taken from them and put immediately onto a formula to be put back on the production line or made into dog food (if male). Dairy cows never get to care for a nurture their calves or form a natural bonds with their offspring. This is the dark side of the nice green pastures and cows that automatically wonder in to get milk extracted from them. Very unnatural and cruel.

  • Great article Brian. I am in full agreement that we should not be drinking milk and this is a suggestion I put forth to my clients when they begin training with me. The ones who are the most successful are the ones that follow my advice and as an added bonus they feel much better overall. Cant wait for the second part!

  • Mike Donato

    I believe that the situation in Australia is slightly different as our cows are primarily grass fed with grain supplementation. But pregnancy cycle times are the same. I have a master’s degree sports dietitian and a dairy farmer friend I will get a local Aussie update from.

    With high fructose corn syrup used as food sweeteners in the US, we are a little better off here as our sugar is primarily sucrose from sugar cane – not that either are great!

    So be aware that the dairy situation in your country (or even local region) may be quite different as portrayed here for the US.

  • Paul Berube

    This article is misleading on several things.
    “grass-fed cows” are not inherently healthier than “corn-fed” cows, nor are primitive agricultural methods superior to modern ones. If livestock are only able to feed on the grasses and plants in the fields, they will not receive optimal nutrition. The past 50 years of agricultural research has found what animals need to be healthy and productive, and carefully supplementing their diet with grains at different stages of life drastically improves them.
    Anyone who attends local Fairs in New England can see the difference between farmers who use old methods and those who use modern methods. Our rocky soil does not offer all that the cows need to grow and develop. The animals are vastly different in size, health, and productivity. The differences in the meat and milk are drastic as well.
    Yes, the life of a cow in 1850 was vastly different than that of one in 2005. They were smaller due to malnutrition and therefore unable to produce the quantity (or quality) of today’s cows.
    Do additional research. Speak to actual dairy or beef farmers. GO to a farm. Wander down into your university’s veterinary science’s department.

  • Mike

    Brian,

    Do you have a citation for your table, because the math is falling a little short.
    You’re either milking the 1850 cow for 6 DAYS (instead of weeks), or some other error, because the “pounds of milk per year” should be much, much closer.

  • Levi,

    I apologize for not catching the math mistake.

    Corey & Mitch,

    It’s coming! This is a 3-part series.

    Natalie,

    When you write for sites like that it is the nature of the beast. Your article is not just printed as written, it goes through the editors. Same thing when writing for Men’s Health and any other top publication. Unless you self-publish everything, some modification is going to happen.

    Gordon,

    There are just as many correlations with milk and dairy consumption and health benefits. The door swings both ways. Epidemiology is designed to generate hypothesis, not answer them. While they can provide a tremendous amount of info, using them as a SOLE source of info is misleading and poor science.

    Rsquest,

    Homo sapiens have not been on the earth for 2.5 million years. In fact to my knowledge, modern humans have only been around for about 50,000-200,000 years. Humans are constantly evolving, and we can adapt to our environment and evolve in much less than 10,000 years, hence why many humans can tolerate lactose and gluten. They have adapted to do so. Now that doesn’t mean that everyone has adapted to lactose and gluten (clearly). If you don’t tolerate dairy, don’t consume it, but don’t extrapolate that to everyone else.

    Markus,

    While the total amount may not be huge, there is quite a bit of interesting data on CLA consumption. People with the highest intakes from diet are linked to (but not directly proven to have) decreased risk of breast cancer and myocardial infarction. Not claiming it is a panacea, just a healthful component of grass-fed animals.

    Jeff,

    Not a huge fan of soy milk. Would encourage almond if you prefer not to consume cow’s milk. Organic milk can be grass-fed, just depends on the company. We will get to that in the series as well!

    Ben,

    No one here is claiming that all milk or food production can or should be produced using just these methods. The point is if you have a choice, choose the nutritionally superior option. I understand the realities of world-wide food production, but that is far outside of the scope of this article. This is about individual choice.

    James,

    Certainly an…interesting compilation of theories. Do you have any data to back that up? I can provide you a long list of diseases that dairy consumption is inversely associated with. Again, useful for generating a hypothesis, and the relationships are worth investigating, but not definitive data.

    Lisa,

    I am certainly not advocating that people should not consume dairy. If it doesn’t agree with you, or you choose not to consume it for other reasons, that is fine, it is your choice. However, in and of itself dairy is not some dangerous or inherently fattening food group. More than likely your clients feel better because they are reducing calories, increasing physical activity and eating more fruits and vegetables, not because they are not consuming dairy.

    Paul,

    I am aware that even most grass-fed cows also receive some grain, but I think you made an important distinction – supplemented. Ideal feeding provides supplementation with grain, not the majority of the intake. I was not claiming that we need to go back to 1850, I was simply making a comparison. Living in Maine I have gone to small farms, I talk to farmers at farmer’s markets and see all around me how cows are eating. Clearly there is no feasible way to just feed cows grass in Maine year round, but it still should make up the majority of their intake, and is supplemented with grain as needed. To me that is an ideal intake. I understand a lot has been learned about dairy farming, and I am all for incorporating new ideas (which many grass-feeding farms successfully do), I am simply against the CAFOs and other mass-production methods.

    Brian

  • Markus

    Brian, there is indeed some interesting preliminary research on CLA, although not all of it is favorable. The point here, though, is that no one is going to get a significant amount of it from grass-fed milk. And grain-supplemented cattle diets reduce this puny amount even further.

    Your valid and bigger point is that milk can be a healthy and productive part of a person’s diet, as seen by its consumption for thousands of years. Omnivorous humans have evolved to consume many different sources of nutrition, from other animals’ milk to insects. The anti-milk crowd ignores the science of this issue and just repeats the emotional rants from the alt-med contrarians.

  • Natalie

    Brian, thanks for your follow up comment.

  • jayson

    nobody should be drinking cows milk. Caucasians are the only people that drink milk and dont get sick, but even them…this new milk is nasty

  • Markus

    Jayson, you really need to read a science book about human milk digestion, since you clearly don’t know what you’re talking about. There are plenty of Africans, for example, who digest cow’s milk just fine.

  • Mike

    I don’t eat or drink any dairy products, and then I get the usual “where do you get your calcium from” western conditioning statements – but when I ask them what physical or health complaint of mine they were referring to, they go all quiet.

    If you want to drink milk, that’s completely up to the individual but what I can’t tolerate is the multi billion pound dairy industry blackmailing mothers by asking if their children are getting enough calcium and then selling them a dairy product laced with sugar and chemicals.

  • Christy

    It would be interesting to see where you got your information in the chart.

    In the 1850’s nearly every home had at least one cow. The cows were milked 9 months out of the year. This was to feed both the calf as well as the family. The calf would drink ~1/2 to 1 gallon and the family would be left with the remainder to consume and produce butter and cheese. The cow only stopped milking for the final three months of her pregnancy to prepare for the birth of the new calf. This is very similar to how humans did it back then, the mother breast fed her baby until her subsequent pregnancy forced her milk supply to “dry up” shortly before the birth of the next baby.

    The average dairy cow back then produced 7-10,000 lbs of milk, the average dairy cow now produces 25-30,000lbs of milk. The average cow produces 86lbs/day only during the highest period of milk production (generally less than 1 month). 86lbs/day times 10 months = 77,000lbs milk which is higher than the world record for a cow’s production set in 2010.

    you can look it the same way that the average lifespan of a human has increased 30 plus years over the last 100 years, or how the average height for people has grown 4-5 inches in the same time period. It is access to better food and nutrition. Better health care. The same can be said for the dairy cow.

    The cows were fed mainly a grass or hay diet, but this remains true today. Grass and hay are much cheaper than corn and the only animals that are fed a strictly corn diet are those being fed for “high end” highly marbled fatty cuts of beef (like Kobe beef or other Prime graded beef). This does not happen with cows used to provide milk as they need both the corn and grass/hay to be able to milk efficiently. Feeding too much corn actually causes a significant drop in milk production.

    The cost of milk is near or higher than 3/gallon now, however in 1850 it was $0.60 a gallon. However, refrigeration didn’t become common and widespread until after the 1930’s so this price for milk home delivery often only paid for by the wealthy in large cities because most other families had their own cow to milk.

    The only thing I agree with you about is the lifespan of the cows and they way the most sickly cows are slaughtered for meat often used in hamburger and other cheap cuts of meat. It’s something that shopping at a small family farm for your milk would alleviate.

    Family farms often have animals that live upwards of 10 years. I have been on a farm with several animals over 15 and one who has reached 18 years. (even with the very best care and pampered life cows very rarely reach 20 years old now or then).

  • I am a raw milk dairy farmer for 5 years and have studied milk and the dairy industry of over 8 years. The article is basically very good but there is some discrepancy and some incorrect comments.
    1. It was mention that the cow was only milked for 6 weeks that is incorrect. In the past the cow as tied to mother nature’s grass cycle. Very little if any grain was feed. As long as there is grass available and the cow is asked to produce milk she will continue to produce milk. Her milk production curve goes up until three month and then goes down till she dries off. In the past when the grass season would end and winter was coming she would stop milking.

    2. A Holstein cow on grass only is around 56 lbs of milk but in a confinement dairy with a high production grain mix the milk production is over 100 lbs per day (23000 lb of milk for 305 days).

    3. Someone made the comment that people should not drink milk, that is incorrect but it must be raw milk. Human breast milk and raw milk are the same. Calf should drink raw milk for as short as 4 month to near a year, human should drink raw milk breast to close to two years and then continue on raw milk. Pasteurized milk brings on many health problems that someone mention about milk. Raw and Pasteurized is very different.

  • Adam McConnell

    This is a great topic! I was wondering if you could cover the topic of getting around the law to get good dairy products in places like Maryland where unpasteurized dairy is illegal to buy or sell.

  • I DRINK MILK EVEY DAY. 781 891 0621 AND I HAVE NO TROUBLE WITH MY HEALTH. DR SAID IT IS GOOD FOR THE BONES!! ALSO I TAKE SOME VITAMINS AND TRY TO RUN THE GOOD LIFE. SOME OF THE PEOPLE THAT I GREW UP WITH ARE ALREADY 6 FEET UNDER. HOT CARS AND FAST WOMEN!!

  • Amber

    I’m glad you’re broaching this topic. I grew up on a dairy farm drinking whole unpasteurized milk straight from the tank in the barn. Our cows were grass and corn fed from our land. We have never had any digestive problems and doctors tell us we have strong bones and healthy teeth. Unfortunately, like most small farms these days, we went out of business. I cringe knowing that the milk I drink now comes from a “corporate farm” as we call it. Most people didn’t get the quality of dairy I did growing up so maybe that’s why my body handles it so much better than some others. I look forward to learning more from your series about better options in the grocery store. I pains me to see people staying away from dairy because poor quality is making them sick!


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