Thursday, September 25, 2008

Tall Cool Glass of #3

Let’s just start things off on the right foot this week. I hate cows. Cows are evil. Now, I don’t mean that cows are lurking in the dark places of the world waiting for humans to show their weakness so that they can take over the planet and put us all in feed lots hooked up to nipple sucking machines. What I mean to say is that they are literally a blight on the planet. They eat the majority of our grain, take up huge amounts of space and fresh water, and destroy the environment in the process.

The dairy industry is a major player in the Evil Cow Empire. It has enormous lobbying power and spends millions of dollars every year on advertising and public outreach. By the way, the whole “Got Milk?” campaign seriously creeps me out. Who is the genius that thought this up anyway? A milk mustache is supposed to make me want to consume the product? I'm not too sure about that. Plus, all of the guys in the ads look like they are fresh out of a gay porn audition. Regardless of the homo-erotic undertones dairy products are a $10.2 billion a year industry in the U.S. alone. The lobbyists for the dairy industry are so powerful and influential that they have created their own food group. Forcing the USDA to recommend its consumption every day even though a majority of the world population (especially those of non-European descent) is lactose intolerant after the age of five. That’s right…you heard it here first, the food pyramid is racist! Anyway, where am I going with this? Well, this week as a continuation of my investigations into food politics and safety I thought I would take a long look at milk. To be more specific I want to compare wholesome organic milk with milk of the lowly non-organic variety, which is probably sucked out of cows that wander in off the street to donate milk in exchange for crack money so they don’t have to give blowjobs on the corner.

When most people think of milk they think of childhood. Innocent images of children joyfully dunking Oreos…the white liquid splashing over a bowl of Franken Berry cereal…the sound of it pouring into a tall glass. Milk has come to represent all that is wholesome in the world. White, pure, untainted, nutritious. It does a body good after all. Doesn’t it? Slap the word “Organic” next to it, and the images only get more chaste. However, the prestige of organic milk does not come without complications. It costs around twice as much as non-organic milk, and the organic seal does not mean the cows are grazing on pasture all day or that the milk is local. In fact much of the organic milk that is found on grocery store shelves has been pasteurized at ultra-high temperatures (UHT) so that an unopened carton can last unrefrigerated for up to six months, mostly so it will survive cross country transportation; thus, allowing hippie milk to directly compete with normal milk.

So, exactly what does it take to be considered organic? How is organic milk actually different? Well, it turns out that the USDA has four requirements that milk must satisfy in order for it to be labeled as “Certified Organic.” As you’ll see in a moment these criteria are confusing to say the least.

The first requirement for organic status is that the cows are not to be treated with antibiotics. In large factory farms where the animals are kept in confinement pens for the majority of their lives pissing and shitting on each other’s open sores and wading through their own filth they are injected with a constant course of antibiotics in order to keep them alive long enough to get them to the slaughterhouse and into your Big Mac. In fact 70% of all of the antibiotics that are used in the U.S are used on livestock indiscriminately. This is a real public health issue since some of our antibiotics are becoming useless due in part to this over use in agriculture, but that’s an entirely different issue that we may get into later. With regard to milk production, the milk in non-organic farms is routinely tested for antibiotic content and is not used or distributed until it is shown to be antibiotic-free.

Feed for cows at an organic farm must be pesticide free. The use of pesticides is of major concern in the world today. They are costly, they are toxic (by definition), and they can be found everywhere in the environment. Recent USDA reports show that non-organic milk may contain low levels of certain pesticides, but these are far below established tolerance levels and well below what we are exposed to daily in the environment or consume in other foods.

A third condition mandated by the USDA is that no bovine growth hormone be used to promote milk production. Biweekly injections of recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) stimulate dairy cows to produce about 10% to 25% more milk. No rBGH gets into the milk, but one consequence of this procedure is that rBGH-derived milk can contain insulin growth factor (IGF-1) which may be a risk factor for breast and colon cancer in humans. Since it isn’t destroyed during pasteurization, IGF-1 can show up in the milk on your table. However, this only represents a miniscule fraction of the IGF that we produce in our own bodies every day. You’d have to drink about 24 gallons of milk to equal the IGF you make daily in your saliva and digestive tract. As always with these numbers, we have to be careful to compare the amount that our bodies make with the amount that we consume.

The last requirement for the USDA organic stamp of approval is that the animals must be allowed “access to pasture”. Sound vague at all? Most people would like to think that the cows that they suck their organic milk out of get to run around in a lush green field, playfully sock each other with feather pillows, and have tickle fights in their teddies…sorry I’m getting my fantasies mixed up here. Anyway, where was I? Oh, right, access to pasture. The reality is that access to pasture is like yard time at a federal penitentiary for most dairy cows. Speaking of what cows eat, cows have evolved over millennia to eat grass. They are ruminants, and as such they are healthier when they are fed grass. However, the organic certification does not require that a set percentage of the cow’s feed be grass. A constant diet of grains actually acidifies the cows’ blood and will cause them to die a painful death after a couple of years. Good thing we kill those suckers before that, eh?

Notice a pattern there? The term “organic” refers only to the farming practices of raising the cows, not to the milk itself. The dairy industry is one of the most heavily regulated and tested of all food industries, and the end result is that in this case the organic product is nearly identical to the non-organic alternative.

Not confused enough yet? Well, it turns out that organic farming of cows is actually worse for the environment than conventional farming. On a gallon for gallon basis, producing organic milk requires 36 percent less energy than conventional production methods. Sounds good so far, but organic milk production generates nearly two-thirds more of the pollutants that cause eutrophication in lakes and rivers than conventional production. Organic dairies also use 20 times as much land as conventional dairies and produce 16 percent more greenhouse gases. Not so good. Also, that UHT pasteurization we talked about earlier changes to the nutrients in milk and may have other undesired effects. The normal pasteurization process doesn’t kill all of the bacteria in milk. It knocks out just enough so that you don't get scarlet fever with your milk mustache. UHT, on the other hand, kills everything, and in the process makes the milk unsuitable for cheese production or whipping which is one reason why normal milk producers don’t do it.

OK, so what’s our scorecard look like so far? Well, unfortunately, it looks like the hippie milk has as many strikes against it as it does for it. So it’s a toss up. If you feel like spending twice as much for the same product, then welcome to the free market economy, Sparky. As a general rule of thumb, I am absolutely for the organic farmers since they use fewer pesticides and antibiotics. But here’s the rub: we’re not talking about Mom and Pop dairies here. The number one seller of organic milk is Horizon Organic, which controls 55 percent of the market, and sells $16 million worth of organic milk a month. It is owned by Dean Foods, the nation's largest dairy producer and Emperor of the Evil Cow Empire. Groupe Danone, the French dairy giant, owns Stonyfield Farm which is the number two seller. Large grocers, including Whole Foods Market and Safeway, have their own organic house brands. Are you supporting organic farming or the Evil Empire?

Can somebody explain to me why we’re even drinking milk in the first place? Am I the only person that thinks being breast-fed by cows is sick and wrong? Picture a mother breast-feeding her baby – a beautiful image of maternal bonding and biological wonder. Besides, who doesn't want to suck on a boob every day? Now imagine taking that same baby and latching it onto a scabby, puss-covered, smelly cow tit after you scrape the shit and flies off of it. Now pull the baby off and you go to town. You know you like it. Doesn’t seem so natural does it? Even if the cow gets to graze in the pasture all day it sounds like a bad idea. Effing gross if you ask me.

The National Dairy Council recommends that you have three servings of dairy per day. If your three servings are milk (3 cups), you will get about 400 calories and 15 grams of fat. If we compare that to something else…let’s say soda…3 cups is about 300 calories and no fat. Hmmm. Tasty corn syrup sweetener from a sterile can or bacteria infested tit juice from a forcibly impregnated cow? And don’t give me that line of shit about calcium and vitamin D. According to many studies dairy products aren’t even the best way to get your calcium. Even the USDA recommends better alternatives in their food guide. In fact, studies done at both Harvard and Yale found that people who got most of their calcium from dairy foods broke more bones than those who rarely ever drank dairy milk. Got Osteoporosis?

Just face it. Milk is a useless and gross product pushed on consumers by a huge corporate industry. If piss is #1 and poo is #2, then certainly milk is #3. Thanks, Witmo, for the blog suggestion, and if anyone else has anything that they would like to hear about, please let me know.


Anonymous said...


Dan said...

I don't really understand that comment, but such is life in a public forum...I will get into the rest of the cow when I have time. In fact, it may be a multi-post tome, but just as an into to how I feel - fuck cows.