This is part 3 in my series about dairy: why to enjoy it or avoid it.
If you did some experimenting based on my first dairy post, and it turns out that you still feel/think/etc amazing when eating and drinking dairy and you want to keep on it, there are a few things to consider when you buy milk.
You want the milk to be the best quality possible, of course.
What the cows eat and how they live makes a difference to the quality of the milk. Remember, they're animals, so what goes into their bodies affects the milk they create.
Here's how to get the best tasting, most nutrient dense milk:
Cows are meant to eat grass. Unfortunately, the majority of dairy cows on factory-farms are fed corn and grains, because it's cheaper. As well as being healthier for the cows, full grass diets have been shown to make the milk higher in omega-3's, so look for those when you can.
Cows grazing in a pasture is a good thing. On a humane, compassionate level, you want the cows to be as happy and stress-free as possible. For nutrient purposes, you want them to see the light of day because sun is essential for producing vitamin D (just like in humans).
On top of eating mostly corn, the conditions most big farm dairy-cows live in (ie. in very tight spaces, without going outside) cause them to get sick often. So they're put on a constant dose of antibiotics. Do you want antibiotics in your milk? Didn't think so.
Unless it specifies otherwise, most dairy cows are given growth hormones (rBGH or rRST) to increase the milk production (Ie. more milk for the money) which also ends up in your milk/ice cream/etc. Again, does that sound like something you want? No.
Generally speaking, you don't want antibiotics or growth hormones as a side dish to your cereal. So please look for labels that say there's none!
And as far as the skim vs. whole milk debate – get whole! The fats in milk help you absorb vitamins A + D, and as previously mentioned, we need vitamin D to absorb calcium.
So ideally, you'd be getting organic, grass-fed, pasture-raised whole milk from a local farm that you can visit and see the happy cows. But I'm a realist, so priorities are no hormones or antibiotics! And if this makes you want to skip it altogether, here's 7 non-dairy recipes for creamy, rich dishes - one for every day of the week!