Dear Eartha: I'm trying to switch my mom over to organic milk. I've heard that some farmers inject cows with hormones and antibiotics. Do you have any information that can help me prove to my family that drinking organic milk is healthier for our bodies and the planet? -Patrick, Silverthorne
Funny you ask ... a couple of weeks ago I attended a workshop on happy cows. By "happy," I mean the presenters played a slideshow that portrayed cows of all sizes and ages frolicking in large green pastures. The male farmer - who, by the way, wore a baseball cap with the words "My cows (heart) Taj Mahal!" - was pictured in several of the slides hugging his cows the way we hug our dogs and kids.
The farmers were a young couple in their early 30s who owned a small dairy farm in Fairfield,Vt. I never thought I would dream of milking cows for a living, but as I listened to this happy couple and saw their happy cows, I was absolutely jealous of their life as dairy farmers. They were successfully running a dairy business because of a well-known co-op called Organic Valley.
I've been drinking organic milk for longer than I can remember. I too, had heard about the growth hormones and antibiotics in conventional dairy cattle. Drinking organic seemed to calm my mind knowing that the cows weren't injected with artificial hormones for the purpose of creating fatter cows in a shorter amount of time. It wasn't until I found myself staring at the Organic Valley carton out of boredom while eating cereal that I realized all of the benefits to drinking organic milk. After all, "it does a body good," so it better be good milk we're talking about.
Right away, I liked Organic Valley's "Our cow's love pasture!" approach to explaining why organic is better. Of course, many companies have mastered the art of persuasion with fancy language and graphics on product labels. However, this particular carton was full of educational information and facts.
Organic Valley boasts a grassroots campaign of teaching the consumer how to wear the smart-shopper hat and ask questions about the products they invest in. The company pats you on the back by saying "Congratulations for choosing products produced without antibiotics, synthetic hormones and persistent pesticides." They go on to show you how buying organic milk is a win-win for the "soil, bees, cows, communities, the planet, the whole thing."
Kudos on Organic Valley's marketing team for wining me over because as soon as I read the label, I marched over to my computer and looked up their website - www.organicvalley.coop. First of all, the company's website is pretty freakin' cool! "The Un-Corporation," as the co-op calls themselves, is made up of around 1,600 farmers in 31 states. These days you can find Organic Valley milk in just about any grocery store along with Organic Valley cream, eggs, cheese, butter, juice, and soy milk products to name a few.
I'm not going to overwhelm you with statistics and sad stories of the conventional side of the story - fat, drugged, overcrowded cows missing hugs and the soulful tunes of Taj Mahal. You can visit Organic Valley's website for those details and solid evidence. Nevertheless, I would like to summarize Organic Valley's "Six Reasons to Choose Organic Foods" for the non-believers:
>Nutrient density - Organic milk and other foods taste better, have a higher nutritional value, and are superior in antioxidants than conventional foods.
>No persistent pesticides or synthetic fertilizers
>No synthetic growth or breeding hormones
>No GMOs - Certified Organic means genetically engineered seeds or animals.
>Animal care (aka happy cows) - Organic farmers let animals graze freely in pastures; encourage a stress-free environment; promote healthy animals; and give their animals a lot of love (hugs!).
Now that you have some background information and resources, you are armed and ready to present your case. Go out there and win them over. Look them straight in the eye and with your best western voice, ask them "Got - Organic - Milk?"
Eartha Steward is written by Jennifer Santry and Erin Makowsky, consultants on all things eco and chic at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at firstname.lastname@example.org.