In a world where the average person is six generations removed from how their food is produced, it can be difficult sometimes to decipher fact from fiction on the internet. How many people in urban areas have toured dairy farms or know a real farmer? Not too many, unfortunately.
It’s so important to talk to real dairy farmers about dairy farming to get the real facts, just like you’d talk to a mechanic about your car or your dentist about your teeth. The reality is that media sensationalism sells, food corporations send misleading marketing tactics to gain market share, and animal rights extremists want to scare people about perfectly healthy dairy products in order to gain donations and get people to give up dairy and go vegan. This leads to a whirlwind of internet nonsense.
Here are the top eight myths, debunked with the real facts:
- Organic milk is better for us and the cows. Marketing labels! All dairy farmers care about their cows, it is their livelihood after all. You can ensure cows are treated with the utmost care given the fact that the happiest and healthiest cows produce the most milk which is any farmers best interest. Regardless of whether milk is or is not organic, they are nutritionally equivalent. Read on to learn more.
- They’re pumped full of hormones – “Growth” hormones wouldn’t be used in dairy cows, especially considering they’re used for milk, not meat. No need to fatten up a cow that isn’t going to market. BST is a hormone that cows naturally have that helps them produce milk, rBST is a synthetic boost but is currently only used in about 10 percent of dairy cows. There is no nutritional difference between cows that have or have not been treated with rBST and everything we eat naturally contains a safe amount of hormones.
- They’re pumped full of antibiotics – As of January 1 of this year, a vast majority of antibiotics are no longer permitted in livestock production unless medically necessary in which case you need a vet prescription. Just like with your own family, it is cruel to not treat a sick animal. But if that cow is treated with medicine, all of her milk is dumped and does not end up in the milk supply until the medicine is out of her system which means all milk and dairy products are in fact antibiotic free. Milk is tested numerous times before it reaches our tables to ensure this.
- GMO milk – Regardless of what a cow is fed, that doesn’t make the milk “GMO” or not. There is no nutritional difference between GMO and non-GMO feed and saying you get GMO milk from feeding cows GMOs is like saying you get chocolate milk from feeding cows chocolate! That’s not how it works, and again it is just a marketing label from food corporations trying to get more money out of you and gain marketshare.
- There’s pus and/or blood in milk – Say what, now? Absolutely NOT! Milk is tested numerous times for quality, purity, antibiotics, etc. Somatic cell count is the total number of white blood cells per milliliter of milk that allows farmers to track the health of the cow, and there is no way anything like blood or gross “pus” could end up in milk.
- They are forced and raped in cruel factories to give us milk – Oh puh-lease. These myths are perpetuated from animal rights extremists like PETA, HSUS, Mercy for Animals, etc. Their goal is to get people to try and give up dairy products and ask for donations, which means they will stop at nothing to create overdramatized headlines to push their agenda. Ask any farmer, there is no such thing as a cruel “factory” farm and 97 percent of farms are family owned. Artificial Insemination is quite popular in dairy farming today for efficiency and worker safety, but it is in no way cruel to the cow.
- Male calves are immediately taken from their mothers and killed – This myth is pure propaganda, once again presented by “Go Vegan” animal rights extremists. The reality is that cows produce way more milk that can be consumed by their calves and a lot of modern dairies have “free stall” barns which means they come and go as they please to be milked. Once calves are comfortable, licked off by mom, and receive enough colostrum, they are put into other pens where their health and safety is top priority and can be closely monitored. Since male calves are not used for milk, they will eventually end up as beef, just like any other breed of cattle.
- Dairy causes health problems – It is true that dairy is one of the most common food allergies and sensitivities, right up there with peanut allergies. Still, less than 1 percent of the population is lactose intolerant and dairy is a nutritional powerhouse as a great source vitamins and minerals. Dairy products are packed full of calcium, protein, carbohydrates, phosphorus, potassium, riboflavin, niacin, vitamins A, D, and B12, to name a few.
A majority of rational people would realize these overdramatized myths are just that, myths. Common sense would say that dairy farmers are real people who consume their own products and the better farmers treat their cows, the better cows treat them! The next time you hear a myth or have a question about dairy farming, make sure you take a dairy farm tour or track down farmers to get the real facts.
Michelle Miller, the Farm Babe, is an Iowa-based farmer, public speaker and writer, who lives and works with her boyfriend on their farm which consists of row crops, beef cattle, and sheep. She believes education is key in bridging the gap between farmers and consumers.
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