Organic and conventional milk differences 'not so straightforward': Review

By Mark ASTLEY contact

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Organic and conventional milk differences 'not so straightforward'

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Differences between organic and conventionally produced milk are not as "straightforward" as they are perceived, researchers in New Zealand claim. 

After a review of nearly 200 publications, researchers from Fonterra, AgResearch, and Massey University concluded that studies investigating the differences between organic and conventionally-produced milk "have so far been largely equivocal."

In their review, Organic and conventionally produced milk - An evaluation of factors influencing milk composition​, the New Zealand-based investigators attributed this to "the complexity of the research question and the number of factors that can influence milk composition."

"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," ​said lead investigator, Don Otter, senior scientist, AgResearch Grasslands Research Centre.

"The differences in milk composition observed are actually due to the different diets of the cows (i.e. pasture versus concentrate feeding) rather than organic versus conventional farming systems," ​Otter added.

One "complication"​ is that organic dairy farming regulations "vary in detail"​ from country-to-country.

In New Zealand, for example, cows producing organic milk must graze throughout the 150 day grazing season, according to the study.

Meanwhile, in the US, the same cows have to graze for just 120 days, it said.

This, the study concluded, does "not allow for a distinct separation from conventionally produced milk."

"In other words, no 'organic effect' exists that can be credited to a holistic combination of factors affected by the organic system."

"If animal genetics, health, breed, diet, management, or environment differs, then so will the composition of the milk produced,"​ it added.

Source: The Journal of Dairy Science doi:10.3168/jds.2014-8389
Title: Organic and conventionally produced milk - An evaluation of factors influencing milk composition
Authors: B Schwendel, T Wester, P Morel, M Tavendale, C Deadman, N Shadbolt, D Otter

Related topics: R&D, Fresh Milk

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2 comments

Pesticide, Antibiotics, heavy metals residues in Milk

Posted by Ivan Pedro J,Schiffer,

The above mentioned factors are the ones important to compare on "organic" or "Conventional Milk", of course Pasture, movement, quality of feed and all environmental factors have influence in Nutritional Composition and taste, the article clearly tries to distract the reader from the "real" issues when comparing Organic to Conventional.

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The Term "Organic" is Just a Marketing Ploy

Posted by Jerry,

"Organic" and it's program description by USA standards and definitions in the Federal Register by Congressional action is all about a "Marketing" program. It also states that it has "NO" bearing on "health promotion" nor "food safety". Milk components are feed quality in and milk out. To feed grass fed animals (organic or not)dry hay only during the winter / non grazing period without additional nutrients (vitamins/minerals)could be considered substandard practices for the animals.

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