Now that Max is transitioning from Holle organic infant formula to whole milk, I started looking into the best brand of organic milk to give him.
Originally, I thought that as long as I was buying him organic milk, it was pretty much all the same. (Honestly, I just really didn’t put much thought into it when I was only purchasing milk for Mr. C and myself.) At my local grocery store, they sell three big name organic milk brands that I already recognized: Horizon Organic, Stonyfield, and Organic Valley.
I also noticed that in the same section, they had a huge, thick glass milk jug with nondescript labeling. Sometimes, I can be a sucker for packaging, and let me tell you, the ridiculously heavy, old-school glass milk jug, definitely got my attention.
This post isn’t meant to be a review on the brand of milk I am now buying for Max (Trickling Springs Creamery), but rather to raise awareness in the importance of evaluating where the milk comes from and how it is processed.
The Cornucopia Institute provides an organic dairy report, ranking the dairy farms from best to worst. During my research, I learned that Horizon Organic is one of the worst organic dairy brands to buy. I had absolutely no clue.
Understanding the different types of organic milk
In order for milk to be labeled as organic, the cows must have been given no antibiotics or synthetic hormones, be provided with access to the outdoors, and be fed with 100% organic feed – no pesticides, animal byproducts, or genetically modified crops.
Even within the organic milk spectrum, there can be a wide range in the quality of milk based on the dairy farms – amount of pasture time for the cows, type of feed, cows per acre, etc. Pasture time and diet is important because cows that eat a poorer diet produce milk with less beneficial omega-3 fatty acids than those eating a more natural grass-based diet. (Think: farm-raised salmon vs. wild salmon.)
What is ultra-pasteurization?
During my research, perhaps my most startling discovery was the meaning of ultra-pasteurization and the fact that most organic milk is ultra-pasteurized (say what??).
An Ultra-High Temperature (UHT; a.k.a ultra-pasteurized) dairy product means that it has been heated at or above 280° F for at least 2 seconds (to produce a product that is shelf-stable with an extended shelf-life).
So basically, all of the UHT milk sitting in the refrigerated section is just deceptive marketing. With aseptic packaging, they may as well be sitting on a shelf for up to 6-9 months.
Yup, you heard me right.
What is high-temperature-short-time pasteurization?
The other type of pasteurization is known as High-Temperature Short-Time (HTST), which requires heating the dairy product to at least 161.6° F for 15 seconds.
As high heat (and excessively high heat even moreso) can denature proteins and damage nutrients and enzymes, it would be ideal for milk to be minimally heated. However, sadly, I neither live on a farm nor do I own a dairy cow, so the next best (and most hygienic) option, is to buy HTST organic milk.
Finding the brand of organic milk that works for your family and baby
The brand I ultimately chose, which is only available locally, uses milk from cows that are pasture-raised and grass-fed. They have a ratio of 1.25 cows per acre and allow the cows to be pastured 250-300 days a year. During the winter, their cows eat stored grasses.
Since they source from two local dairy farms and only provide milk regionally, they are able to process milk through the HTST method of pasteurization. Surprisingly, other than the $2.00 bottle deposit, the price of milk from Trickling Springs Creamery is similar to the other organic brands.
I definitely feel very lucky to live in a neighborhood with a grocery store that sells HTST organic milk. If I had not seen that glass jug next to all the other organic milk brands, I would never have thought to delve further. But, for those of you without that option, with all things considered, I would still buy ultra-pasteurized organic milk over non-organic pasteurized milk.
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