Hormone Free Milk

For a treat today the family went out to enjoy some delicious frozen yogurt from Menchie’s. As a dairy farmer I couldn’t help but notice the California Milk logo on the bowls and had to investigate.

I thought it was fascinating that one sole farm supplied all of their stores.

While I knew what they meant when they referred to “hormone free” milk I still think it was a little misleading. They meant there were no added hormones, specifically rBST, given to their cows.

I adore this Yoplait commercial, and yet they also have to add in the fact that it comes from cows not given any hormones.

All milk, and I mean all milk, has hormones. Hormones occur naturally in food including milk, broccoli, spinach, etc. Hormones, generally speaking, are not bad for us, either.

I think it was around 1990 when some dairy farmers began using rBST on their cows. It is a synthetic hormone made to be exactly like one they already produce. When given to cows it can help them to make slightly more milk. We tested it for a brief period and saw no economic benefit fit versus the cost and work involved and stopped.

rBST was tested and retested before being brought to market. In fact milk from cows given it can not be distinguished from cows not given it. As cited in a post from Nurse Loves Farmer a study found that you would indeed have to give a cow six times the recommended dose to even find a minute difference. Even the FDA, as labeled on this milk jug, says there is no difference.

Explaining the facts to consumers proved to be an uphill battle. No, actually what I should say is that we failed. The dairy industry from top to bottom failed in assuring consumers, families, moms, dads, and children that the milk is safe.

People became afraid of milk. Practically every processor, including the dairy cooperative that sells our milk, asked farmers to sign an agreement not to use rBST. They did this not because there are any dangers to this milk, but because people said, “We don’t trust it. Please don’t use it.”  If you look on most milk jugs you’ll see this disclaimer or one similar to it.

As a dairy farmer I’m not sure which saddens me more, the fact that a safe farm practice has been removed for no scientific reason, or that we dented consumer trust in our product so much that we have to use a reassuring label that still doesn’t reassure everyone.

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