Thursday, April 18, 2013

Money where my mouth is, or simply down the drain?

The Beast and a young toddler Bean visiting a farm with grassfed dairy and free-ranging chickens.  We can't afford to purchase their products except for special occasions.
Awhile ago, I started looking into the myriad of milk options out there.  My kids drink a lot of milk, and with all the hypotheses and occasional research, it seemed something I should educate myself about.

Eventually, we decided we couldn't afford organic or grass-fed milk (no hormones, no pesticides in their diets, being fed what their bodies are meant to digest, and no antibiotics, this is the ideal - or maybe raw milk is, but I can't even entertain the notion right now given the cost and the fact that it is illegal to sell raw milk for human consumption in my state), but we could afford the brands whose farmers "pledge" not to use hormones.

However, I have no doubt that I'm still drinking milk from hormone-treated animals - not to mention animals treated with antibiotics and fed grain treated with pesticides.  I have seen Food, Inc. and am currently reading Fast Food Nation, and I don't put much stock in any aspect of the food industry regulating itself.  My assumption is that the farmers make an effort not to use hormones, but use them all the same when the giant companies they contract with put pressure on them to increase profit margins. Then it's the farmers who are at risk of breaking a (non-legally-binding?) pledge, and not the larger companies.

But I'm putting my money into an idea, right?  I have very little money to vote with, but money seems to be the only thing with a voice in politics.  My hope is that this "step-up" milk will see the same government/legal/litigious attention that step-up ("free range," "cage free," "pasture-raised," but still not organic) eggs are now seeing.  And, of course, we purchase the step-up eggs as well.  Can't win!  Who the heck knows what we're eating?!?

I constantly think about just purchasing the cheapest milk and eggs - I'd know what I was getting, and I'd save my money - but then I worry that if we all do that, there will be less pressure for reform.  Even less.  Because I don't exactly see there being a lot of pressure on Big Agro or Big Food...

But then again, is there a reason to advocate for organic milk with my limited bucks?  I went looking for research, and all I found were blog entries that lacked citations entirely!  I did find a couple articles that lead me to think I should save some of our milk money for additional organic produce,  unless I can go whole hog (whole cow?) and buy milk from grassfed cows.

And then there's this blog by a dairy farmer that - while interesting and seemingly thorough - I happen to know is not entirely accurate.  I know that conventional dairy cows are sometimes fed unsalable processed human foods like sub-par licorice, gumballs, and stuffing.  True story.  I have no idea if organic dairy farms are feeding their cows the organic equivalent of these things, and also no idea if candy and stuffing are any worse for cows or the people who drink their milk than corn is.

What are your thoughts?  Personally, I'm completely confused.

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