Organic milk has all the nutritional goodness of non-organic milk but, due to the cows' more natural diet,
it also has some additional health benefits.
Organic milk is naturally higher in certain nutrients than non-organic milk and one such nutrient is Omega 3 essential fatty acid.
In 2003 Dr Richard Dewhurst, Joint Leader of the Nutrition and Microbiology Team at the Institute of Grassland and Environmental
Research, carried out a peer reviewed study that confirmed that organic milk naturally contains much more Omega 3
fatty acid than non-organic milk. This is due to the fact that organic cows are fed higher levels of natural red
clover than non-organic cows.
Further research carried out at the University of Aberdeen in 2004 found yet higher levels of Omega 3 in
organic milk. The research, which compared the Omega 3 content of organic and non-organic milk showed that
organic milk can contain up to 71% more Omega 3 than non-organic milk and has a better ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6
than non-organic milk.
In 2002, OMSCo funded a three year PhD study into organic milk which was carried out by Dr. Kathryn
Ellis at the Universities of Liverpool and Glasgow. The study looked into the compositional differences between
organic and non-organic milk and in May 2006 the results of Dr. Ellis's work were published in the Journal of Dairy Science.
Her study found that the organic farming system produces milk that is on average 68% higher in total Omega 3 fatty acids than
non-organic milk. The results were issued to the media in September 2006 and secured widespread national press
coverage. As a result of this study, the FSA has acknowledged the compositional difference between organic and non-organic milk.
This is great news as most people in the UK are deficient in Omega 3 fatty acids, which are essential for maintaining a
healthy heart, supple and flexible joints, healthy growth and strong bones and teeth.
Vitamin E, Vitamin A and Antioxidants
Research has also established that organic milk has higher levels of vitamin E, vitamin A and antioxidants. The research
was carried out by Jacob Holm, a senior biochemist at the Danish Institute of Agricultural Sciences, in conjunction with the
University of Newcastle's Quality Low Impact Food (QLIF) programme.
Organically reared cows, which eat high levels of fresh grass, clover pasture and grass clover silage, produced milk which is on
average 50% higher in Vitamin E (alpha tocopherol), 75% higher in beta carotene (which our bodies convert to
Vitamin A) and two to three times higher in the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthine than non-organic milk.
Drinking a pint of organic milk a day provides 17.5% of the required intake of vitamin E (alpha tocopherol) for women
and 14% of that for men, and as much beta carotene as a portion of some vegetables such as Brussels sprouts.
All milk contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which is believed to boost immune function and reduce the growth of tumours.
Pesticide Residues and Other Contaminants
As well as having tangible health benefits, drinking organic milk minimises the risk of consuming chemical residues.
Organic dairy farms do not use artificial pesticides (insecticides, fungicides or herbicides) on pastures where cows graze.
By contrast, there are about 500 different pesticides licensed for use on non-organic dairy farms and 1,550 which can be used on
non-organic mixed farms (farms which have both dairy cattle and grain crops). All pesticides must be tested and
approved by the government who set 'safety limits'.
Almost no research has been carried out on how these chemicals react when combined. This is known as the 'cocktail effect'
- it has been estimated that in the Western world, our bodies contain traces of at least 300-500 potentially harmful chemicals
absorbed from our food.
Dr Vyvyan Howard is a pathologist based in the Department of Human Anatomy and Cell Biology at the University of Liverpool,
and he specialises in toxicology and the cocktail effect of agri-chemicals on the human body. He is a strong supporter of organics, in
particular, organic milk.
He believes that we should be concerned about the increase in dangerous chemicals in our body since the Second World
War when farming became more intensive.
"We have traces of 300-500 potentially harmful chemicals in our bodies which have only been around for the
last 50 years and which we have ingested through our foods."
"At present official safety limits are based on studies of agri-chemicals acting alone. There are no
toxicological tests of chemical combinations, despite the fact that studies have suggested that their combined impact, or
cocktail effect, can make their impact much more powerful. Eating organically grown food is an efficient way for people
to avoid these chemicals."
Due to the strict organic food standards in the UK organic dairy farmers are at the forefront of European
organic agricultural practices. British organic dairy farmers use no synthetic chemical pesticides, which means that
you can be sure that your food has no traces of chemicals that could damage the health of you and your family.
Some experts believe that children may be particularly susceptible to pesticide residues - they have a higher
intake of food per unit of body weight than adults, have immature organ systems and may have limited ability to
detoxify these substances.
The British Society for Allergy Environmental and Nutritional Medicine believe there is good evidence linking
the rise in incidents of allergies with a general over exposure to chemicals including pesticides, because
of their immune-deregulating properties.
The rise in human fertility problems has been linked to pesticides. Five out of the 12 most commonly found pesticide residues are
suspected to be hormone disrupting chemicals.
Organic cows are only given antibiotics when they are ill, while non-organic farms often routinely treat cows with
antibiotics as a preventative measure, whether they are ill or not. If an organic cow needs to be treated with
antibiotics then the 'withdrawal period' for the milk is at least double the recommended non-organic milk period.
The topic of possible links between the routine use of antibiotics in non-organic farming and increased antibiotic
resistance in humans is being hotly debated. The most well-known of the potentially lethal 'superbugs' resistant
to antibiotics is Methicillin Resistant Straphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) which is affecting some UK hospitals. The House
of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology concluded in 1999 "There is a continuing threat to human health from
imprudent use of antibiotics in animals."
Organic cows are not fed GM cattle feed, and their feed is also free from solvent extracts and urea.
This means that there is no possibility of GM or solvent residues being found in organic milk.
Organic cows are never given any animal-derivatives in their feed which was thought to be the source of BSE.
No case of BSE has ever been found in an organically born and raised dairy cow
On organic dairy farms the use of fertility hormones is rare. The cows can only be treated in this way on an individual,
therapeutic basis, and the use of this form of treatment as a management aid is banned.