Organic Milk

There are four basic requirements to be certified as organic. I explain those basic requirements and how we comply with the organic livestock requirement below. In my search to learn more about Certified Organic Milk, I have found reliable websites detailing organic requirements. I am linking to a few sites at the bottom of this page.

1. Animals should be fed organic feed.
Our animals’ primary diet is organic free range grass which meets the guidelines set out by USDA. We do not apply any fertilizer or pesticides to our pasture. We also feed our animals minimal amounts of whole corn, whole oats and whole barley. We have chosen not to purchase “organic” grains, since we could not find a source for organic oats and barley. We do not comply with this USDA mandate with our grain but feel our whole grain mix, including oats and barley, is healthier for the animals. Additionally, the cost to purchase the limited amount of “organic” grain that is available in Northern Missouri, would double the price of our milk without significantly improving the quality of the milk product. We supplement their grain with hand mixed minerals, Diamond V yeast culture, molasses and apple cider vinegar. We use herbal dewormers (from Fiasco Farmm) and Diatomaceous Earth to deworm our animals rather than commercial products.

2. Animals must be given access to the outdoors. Pasture grazing is required for 120 days of the year – during the grazing season.
Our animals have access to healthy pasture 100% of the time – winter and summer. During the summer, lush fields of clover and grass hay mix grow naturally, “fertilized” with only the cows own vitamin and mineral filled manure as they graze the pasture. During the winter, we supplement with high quality grass hay and alfalfa. Our four Miniature Jersey Cows and five goats have plenty of space on the our 12 beautiful acres.

3. Animals are not given preventative antibiotics or administered animal drugs, other than vaccinations, in the absence of illness.
We never give our animals preventative antibiotics. Our cows and goats are usually very healthy and if the need arises to treat our animals, we opt for healthy herbal and vitamin alternatives. If we should ever have have a situation where antibiotics were required, that animal would be taken out of the milking herd for the appropriate withholding time.

4. Animals are not given growth hormones or other synthetic substances not in the approved list of acceptable drugs.
We will never give our animals any hormones under any circumstances EVER! We will never knowingly give synthetic substances even if it is in the approved list of acceptable drugs.

Generally, the organic livestock movement has lead to an improvement in the way livestock is raised and improved the quality of milk products and beef products in the United States. Unfortunately, it does not guarantee that an animal product is a safer, better product. While in many cases the increased government involvement has lead to better food quality by bringing in regulation and oversight into the process, it has also left room for “would be money makers” to look for lope holes and sell at increased organic prices. Organic milk fraud does exist and as a result, certified organic products are not always better for you than none organic products just as raw milk is not always better for you than pasteurized milk if handled improperly. Much depends on herd management techniques and the honesty of the producer.

I recommend learning about the source of whatever milk supply you choose, organic or none organic. What kind of herd management does the dairy use? What are its practices including winter feed, winter living conditions, health management, and waste management. How much of the diet is made up of grain or none grass/hay sources? How is the milk processed? Have the animals been tested for TB and Brucellosis? Is it pasteurized or raw milk?

Links to Information about Organic Milk and Requirements for Organic Milk or Livestock Productionn

Organic Milk/Organic Livestock Information Links
Brief Description of the Organic Milk Link
Overview of the USDA National Organic Program by USDA Organic An easy to read pdf produced by USDA Organic listing the requirements for organic products including organic livestock requirements.

Organic Standards for Livestock Production
Excerpts of USDA’s National Organic Program Regulations

The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service provides detailed requirements for organic milk production – listed as organic livestock production. List is readable but a little lengthy. The most useful information is listed under “livestock feed, livestock living conditions, and livestock health care practices.”

Electronic Code of Federal Regulations for
Organic Livestock Production

This cite is a government site showing the actual regulation in legal language. It links to each section of the organic production regulation code. I learned of this site from Clemson University which is licensed to certify organic operations. Some of the regulations are long and involved and a bit hard to understand.

Organic Production by the University of Florida

An easy to read overview of what an organic livestock producer should consider to manage an organic operation.

Organic vs. Regular Milk–Is It Worth Your Money?

This is an easy to read article from hub pages discussing the benefits of organic milk.

Legal Complaint Filed with USDA to Stop Organic Milk Fraud

Unfortunately, organic milk fraud does exist. This article exposes some of the organic fraud on the market and emphasis the need to be aware of who is producing what we consume. Not all livestock producers are honest. Buyer beware is always a good policy.

Brad and Jane Whitaker at [email protected]

Source of organic corn and organic soybean in Northern Missouri and organic milk.