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Science just in! What is the difference between organic and regular milk?

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What is the difference between organic and regular milk? If someone asked you to outline what defines each of those, would you be able to? Well, thanks to a study, researchers have been able to dispel a few myths surrounding the debate. A team of 200 researchers from New Zealand studied and analysed both kinds of milk, hoping to put the discussion to rest, and published the results in the Journal of Dairy Science.

strawberry and diary, delicious
strawberry and dairy, delicious…

Far from unearthing some ground breaking figures or conclusions, the team of scientists from AgResearch, New Zealand’s largest research institute, might have confirmed what many had thought all along, as lead investigator Don Otter told the press:

“When comparing organic and conventional milk composition (especially milk fatty acids), previous studies have generally compared organic dairying with milk produced from grass-fed cows to conventional dairying with milk produced from concentrate-fed cows. The differences in milk composition [we] observed are actually due to the different diets of the cows rather than organic versus conventional farming systems,”

However, Otter’s study focused mostly on New Zealand dairy cows, and he explained that there is a different standard for overseas dairy farms and how they define ‘organic’ and ‘natural’. The team of scientists pointed out that regulations surrounding cattle feed would be the determining factor as to the previous definition. In New Zealand, most dairy cows are fed in pastures, whilst in other countries like the United States, non-organic dairy cows can be fed a large amount of grain, which, considering the amount of fertilizer and other pesticides used in cattle feed, could result in a different taste and quality.

cows feeding on grass
cows feeding on grass

Another part of the argument, namely the Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) that are part of livestock feel, was not touched by the research team. This was understandable considering the amount of bad press and poor reputation GMOs get, with many scientists believing it is largely undeserved. However there is no denying that the GMO label on regular milk has pushed a lot of consumers towards organic products.

organic product section
organic product section

Whilst this debate continues to rage, there are still many who believe that humans shouldn’t consume cow milk, pointing towards a rising rate of people diagnosed with lactose intolerance. Whether or not that discussion will enter the larger debate on GMOs is a story for another day, but one thing is sure, the debate between organic and regular milk may have just been finally put to rest.

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