No, it’s not actually the case as it was reported in such influential and accurate media as the Daily Mail
and the Daily Telegraph
. However, a new study
showed increased levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids, linked to benefits in human health, pushing the balance slightly (only slightly as we will see) towards consuming organic milk with some tangible excuses behind.
The truth is, as always, a bit less simplistic than that. The study found that the overall saturated fat contents were exactly the same in both organic and traditionally produced milk. So fancy news titles like “Organic milk has ‘fewer harmful fats’ than traditional variety
” are just outright misleading.
For years now organic method supporters have been struggling to backup their claims, as study after study was showing that there were no significant nutritional differences between organic and traditional milk. Occassionally they would throw in the “better taste” argument
, but first, this is a mtter of prersonal preference, and second, many simple informal blinded tests have shown that people are not able to distinguish between organic or otherwise products.
Other times, they throw the sustainability
gambit, which while superficially seems strong (maintain the soil, the planet, reduce pesticides etc) I do not yet buy into this line of reasoning because, well, there are too many of us in this lousy planet and we cannot accommodate all our needs with organic-like methods as they are too “wasteful” of resources and real estate! Plus, there are some serious doubts (to say the least) to the claim that “natural fertilizers and natural pesticides are better than modern synthetic ones
So, back to our research in question. The study
] was seemingly well conducted, and provided some interesting observations, one of which pertaining to the seasonal fluctuation of the nutritional content and differences, presumably having to do with the availability and quality of cow food.
Interestingly, the study reports one of its funding sources as the European Community QUALITYLOWINPUTFOOD Integrated Project which aims to
“improve quality and safety and reduction of cost in the
European organic and ‘low input’ supply food chains
“. So a little bit of bias is to be expected, and despite the quality of the study, similar studies should be conducted and pooled together to get a better understanding.
A final note is that laboratory results (as in this study) cannot always be extrapolated to claim human health benefits -as time and again has been shown, cases off the top of my head include the antioxidants and the Vitamin C in-vitro results.
Striking a balance between economic, sustainable, and adequate production techniques is no easy feat for sure
. And it will take many such studies before we can devise a solid strategy to accommodate our ever growing population requirements. Until then, feel free to debate and I will keep drinking my normal, traditionally mutated cow milk…
- G. Butler, S. Stergiadis, C. Seal, M. Eyre, C. Leifert, "Fat composition of organic and conventional retail milk in northeast England," Journal of dairy science, vol 94 issue 1, pp 24-36, Jan 2011 [↩]