Milk…Have we all gone CRAZY??

by Brad Pilon

Lately I’ve noticed that a lot of people seem to HATE milk.

Weird. crazycow1 Milk...Have we all gone CRAZY??

Apparently this stems from an ongoing attack against milk, mostly from fitness personalities and raw food / vegan lifestyle advocates.

Typically, the anti-milk talk looks something like this:

Here’s some of the nasty surprises hidden in your milk:

  • Pus
  • Synthetic growth hormone
  • Dangerous Antibiotics

Plus, did you know that Pasteurization kills most of the enzymes in your milk rendering it practically indigestible?

Now here’s my issue:

This seems like a classic case of Parrot Phenomena…

People just echoing what other people said because it sounds good.

However, whether you are a Journalist or a Scientist..you know it’s of UTMOST IMPORTANCE to always check your references.

After all no one wants to be caught up in Food libel lawsuit.

(In many US States it is illegal to disseminate misinformation about foods…think of back when Oprah
Winfrey was sued by Texas beef producers for questioning the safety of hamburger meat.)

I mean, if it’s true, it’s true…but you need to be able to back it up.

Now I’m not a big milk drinker, but I’m not exactly an anti-milk person either.

(To tell you the truth, this just isn’t an area of my life put a lot of though into.)

So this is what I did..I contacted experts in Dairy Science and the part of the Canadian Government responsible for regulating Milk.

Then I contacted the Dairy Association, and then some ‘Dairy Industry insiders’ (people who work in the industry but do not speak on the industry’s behalf)

Within days I received several excellent responses.

I then cross-referenced these responses with the available scientific literature, and government regulations.

Here is what I have found:

A very big part of the reason for every one’s confusion is that the laws and regulations differ from Country to Country.

So the laws in Canada are different then the laws in the US and the laws in Europe or Australia.

(part of the problem with the on-line world…we’re a global community, but our food is not)

In Canada, Antibiotic use in Milk are completely monitored with zero tolerance.

The milk from any animal being treated for an infection like mastitis needs to be withheld from the milk supply for a specified withholding time (dependent on the drug, but typically between between 72 and 96 hours) after the last treatment.

Additionally and as a measure of control, a sample of individual producer bulk tank milk is taken at the time of milk pick-up. That milk sample is tested for milk components and presence of antibiotics in individual farmer’s milk. If presence of antibiotics is discovered, milk is discarded from the food chain and hefty penalties apply to the producer.

There are huge penalties for antibiotic residue in milk.

Canada does not allow the use of growth hormone (BST – bovine somatotropin). So in Canadian milk, this is a non-issue.

So already much of the information being spread about milk is factually INCORRECT in the country of Canada (however, this doesn’t mean it’s incorrect where you live).

The concept of milk being ‘full of pus’ is absurd.

Yes, there is an allowable Somatic cell count (Typically neutrophils), but this doesn’t mean “pus” (there’s somatic cells in human breast milk too). It’s true that the US allows a much higher somatic cell count that most countries (including Canada)…but this does not mean that your milk is streaking with pus.

And while it is very important to monitor the Somatic cell count of milk the use of the term pus is pejorative, basically….scaremongering.

Lastly, I can’t help but wonder if the people who are scared of the somatic cell count of milk eat meat…seeing as I’m pretty sure that the meat from an animal would be particularly high in somatic cells.

Bottom line of this fact is that, YES it sounds gross. YES it is an important part of the milk production system that needs to be monitored closely. And YES it makes me a little uncomfortable knowing that the amounts allowed in the US are much higher then in other countries. But these facts are also being used as SCAREMONGERING – Using terms and imagery to emotionally influence your opinion of milk.

In this sense I think the tactics being used are far worse than the actual item being discussed.

As for the idea of milk being “practically indigestible”, there is an easily accessible amount of research showing amino acids entering the blood stream after ingestion of milk, of insulin levels increasing after the ingestion of milk, blood glucose levels increasing, Calcium levels increasing as well as many hormones altering in response to the components of milk entering the blood. If the components of milk were not making it into the blood stream this would not occur.

Bottom line: I have no idea whether or not milk is good for you, but its fine for me. And, the laws that govern milk where you live may be different than the laws where other people live.

Regarding things like filtration and pasteurization, Here is an important fact to consider. Well it may or may not change the nutritional quality of milk, it does protect a food supply for over 330 Million people (Canada and US)…

While slightly less nutritious milk doesn’t sound great, salmonella, e.coli etc sound and feel much, much worse.

You may not drink milk, or only drink organic or  even raw milk, and you have your reasons, but there are a lot of people who drink or are only able to drink normal grocery store milk, I believe keeping them safe if important.

Milk isn’t perfect (I hate the fact that typical cream has dextrose, carrageenen and locus bean gum in it), but it’s not ‘evil’ at least, not to me.

Bottom line: This post wasn’t meant to address the 2 million reasons people seem to have for drinking or not drinking milk, just the four I mention above.

In my opinion, based on what I have learned, You don’t need to drink milk, and I don’t believe you need to avoid milk either, it’s a food like any other food – The poison is in the dose.

Lastly, if you write on-line, check your facts. I’d hate to see anyone in a food libel suite just because you were too lazy to actually check the information you are sending out to millions of people around the world (The key here being around the world…what’s true in your backyard may not be true in mine)…hence, the title of this post.

BP

PS-

Here’s a good way to enjoy milk (if you want to) and lower the risk of any of these bad things…Eat less.

Seriously.

I once had breakfast with Pro Body Builder who drank over 10 GLASSES OF MILK during breakfast alone.

I  might have 10 glasses over a week or two week period.

Simply Eating less (and taking breaks Eat Stop Eat style) make a lot of these ‘is it good for you or bad for you arguments’ obsolete.

The poison is in the dose.

**Note: The point of of the post is to share what I have learned about milk. I’m all for healthy discussion, but I will not be responding to any “Milk sucks, you suck” comments – let’s keep this civil.

{ 38 comments }

Dave F April 7, 2010 at 10:55 pm

I like milk because it goes well with honey nut cheerios (or mini wheat) and lattes. As much as I like soy milk on it’s own (especially the home made fresh ones I got when I lived in Asia), they just don’t do it for me in those situations. Drinking a whole glass of milk just destroys my stomach though. Hence I don’t drink it a whole lot.

“So this is what I did..I contacted experts in Dairy Science and the part of the Canadian Government responsible for regulating Milk.”
I love these response! I’m probably going to try it out myself on the different issues that I’ve been thinking about. (say issues in Food Inc., In Defense of Food etc.)

Karmyn April 7, 2010 at 10:58 pm

Here’s my take on milk. Since I would NEVER put my mouth on a cow’s udder to extract the milk, to me milk’s not something I’m interested in consuming.

Now if I ate meat or fish or other animals, I would be willing to hunt or go fishing.

I enjoy picking fresh fruits and vegetables and that’s basically what I eat. :)

Now for those who choose to enjoy milk–enjoy!

All the best,

Karmyn

P.S. I’m fasting right now! ;)

Brad Pilon April 7, 2010 at 11:12 pm

Dave,

Now that I think of it, Most of my milk comes from coffee, tea, chocolate, or being added to oatmeal, cereal, or other foods. I guess for me milk is a condiment?

B

Dave F April 7, 2010 at 11:21 pm

Brad,

That’s an interesting perspective – it could very well be a condiment indeed.

~ Dave

Brad Pilon April 7, 2010 at 11:33 pm

Yep, it’s either a condiment or a dessert for me. Can’t have Cheescake or Creme Brule without some Dairy.

B

Robert April 7, 2010 at 11:57 pm

Interesting post. I’m not convinced though that your sources are not just representing trade-industry backed science which has an obvious agenda to protect the interests of the dairy industries. You write of “industry insiders” which makes me really question this. I don’t see any mention of you contacting science organizations not representing the industry which I think would be a grave error prior to reaching any conclusions about this issue. Keep in mind that Monsanto tests its own GE seed product using its own scientists. Only once, recently, did a research institute independent of Monsanto succeed in obtaining the information it needed to conduct independent research, and only after a lawsuit filed on the grounds of the freedom of information act. The food industry, including dairy, have a public face but actually a huge degree of secrecy behind their operations. So getting objective information as a consumer can be extremely difficult.

Cecile April 8, 2010 at 12:04 am

I had a conversation with a dairy farmer in Western Pennsylvania who owns about 80 cows (which I understand to be a bit above the average in the US), and here is what he told me:

A) Antibiotic contamination in milk also has zero tolerance in the US (or at least PA if it’s regulated state-by-state; didn’t check on that). Farmers get insanely high fines if they send any contaminated milk to the dairy, and all the milk is tested before being processed. Also, committing to not using any antibiotics on your animals means that if the animal gets an infection, you are not allowed to treat it. Antibiotic-free sounds LESS humane to me.

B) Milk produced using growth hormone is the same as milk produced without – at least, there is currently no test that can be run on the milk itself to determine whether the cow that produced it was taking hormone or not. As far as can be verified at this point, the only effect of the hormone is to make the cow produce a greater volume of milk. The farmer I talked to said that he knew other farmers who had gone organic but were still using hormone with some of their herd with impunity because there was no way for their clients to tell.

C) You have to treat your cows really well if you want them to produce milk well. This means feeding them high-protein alfalfa and providing a pleasant, stress-free environment. They are not machines, and they will show a severe drop in milk production if they are unhealthy or unhappy, so a farmer is shooting himself in the foot if he mistreats his dairy cows.

I get annoyed when I hear some “nutrition expert” spouting things about antibiotic contamination in milk and such because I’m much more inclined to believe the dairy farmer I spoke with than someone who is repeating information they heard through the grape vine. Whenever I talk to someone who believes this stuff and I tell them about my conversation with the farmer, their response tends to be that this particular farmer must be different, and most of the others are probably doing things more sketchily. Just glad to have a place to post this where people won’t dismiss it out of hand.

Cooper April 8, 2010 at 12:13 am

Brad,

What do you think about the typical raw food/natural health argument that lactose intolerance is caused by the killing of natural milk enzymes during the pasturization process? A quick google search will bring up loads of sites stating the same claim. Do you know if there’s any scientific basis for this? Here is a quote I found.

“The enzyme lactase which is found naturally in milk, is killed during pasteurization. Without this enzyme, the lactose in milk sits and sours undigested in the tummy causing bloating, gas, heart burn and other unpleasant gastrointestinal problems. If the enzymes were still present, we would not have this problem.”

Thanks,
Cooper

Robert April 8, 2010 at 12:16 am

Hey BP, If you’re looking for a new and extremely well-researched book on the subject, check out http://animalfactorybook.com/?page_id=131. It’s not specifically about dairy but instead the whole animal agriculture industry and the negative impacts on human health and the environment. It does have a distinct point of view but nonetheless one of the best researched books I’ve ever picked up. And I think it would contradict a lot of what the industry insiders are telling you.

Brad Pilon April 8, 2010 at 12:18 am

I think point C) is a very under-appreciated point, something you’d know if you were experienced but that would fly under the radar if you were (like me and most others) ignorant to the actual business of dairy farming.

Good finds.
B

Brad Pilon April 8, 2010 at 12:19 am

Robert,

With regards to these four points which are you suggesting is innacurate or a government/industry cover up?

The fines for antibiotic use in Canada.
The legality of GH use in Canada.
The idea that somatic cell count means more that just pus.
or the fact that we can measure the digestability of milk?

B

Brad Pilon April 8, 2010 at 12:22 am

Hey Cooper,

Really no clue on that one. The idea of intolerance and allergies are a bit beyond my milk expertise.

My initial thought would be if that were the case, and if those statements were true in totality, then shouldn’t everyone who drinks pasteurized milk have problems with digestion?

B

Brad Pilon April 8, 2010 at 12:27 am

Quick question on Animal Factory, in which country does the research pertain too?

B

Cooper April 8, 2010 at 12:44 am

Hey Brad,

I had the same initial thought but they counteract that by saying that some people naturally produce enough of the enzyme and some don’t. I guess that isn’t completely implausible but of course they never provide any references to scientific research. It seems to have that “The human body is perfect if you only feed it what nature provided” mantra written all over it so I’m very sceptical.

Milk is perfectly fine for me so I won’t be the one to research this claim. When I believed in “bulking”, I was drinking more than a gallon per day with no side effects. If milk was really bad, surely my body would have given me some indication, especially with that level of consumption.

Thanks,
Cooper

Robert April 8, 2010 at 12:56 am

Brad, Animal Factory is based on US research. It was just released last month. I pointed you to a page that summarizes the key findings of the book.

Regarding your other question, I don’t have specific answers for you. I’m merely suggesting that you consider other, perhaps more independent sources of science. By the way, have you seen the short documentary on the Fox news reporters who tried to report on Bovine growth hormone and were forced out of their jobs? See http://www.youtube.com/user/freefromharmblog#p/f/12/axU9ngbTxKw.

Also, Cecile, I’d just like to respond to your great post. I think there are a lot of US and Canadian farmers with a lot of integrity. Agree with you here. However, the fact is they represent a tiny percentage of production of milk. The huge factory farms that produce the vast majority of our milk operate quite differently. Have you ever been in a large dairy operation? Seen footage perhaps? I think you would find stark contrasts in animal husbandry. For example, female cows live only about 10 years on average, when there lifespan is naturally much longer. They are pushed very hard to produce milk and therefore their lifespans are much shorter. Male calves are useless to dairy farmers and worth very little on the market so they are sold to veal slaughterhouses. I just attended a conference with an investigator in this area. I could go on and on and it only gets worse. So I’ll stop here.

Dee April 8, 2010 at 1:18 am

Just from an Australian dairy farmers perspective: every pick-up our milk is tested for BMCC (Bulk Milk Cell Count) and we are paid according to the count, so it is in the farmers financial interest to always try and produce “Premium” milk. If we use drugs to treat the animals the milk must be withheld from the supply for a certain amount of time (different products have different withholding periods) and we are randomly tested every 10 day period for traces of drugs – if any are found we are banned from supply. Growth hormone for dairy cows is a banned substance in Australia.

Brad Pilon April 8, 2010 at 2:21 am

Wow, so the lower the BMCC the more you get paid? That’s a way to keep people honest.

B

April April 8, 2010 at 3:05 am

There is no definitive answer to the question of dairy. I think it’s an individual choice, just like all the other food we eat. I drive 30 minutes every Saturday to procure my raw milk from a small dairy outside of my home town. I asked a lot of questions about how they handle the cows before I joined the “cow share” club. Had to join a club because it’s illegal in my state to buy raw milk. No idea why, because my family has never gotten sick from drinking raw milk. I love how the cream rises to the top because it’s not homogenized. From what I’ve read, the homogenizing is more detrimental than the pasturizing, anyway. The cows we get our milk from are drug free. The owner has cows on rotation as to which ones are producing the most and richest milk. They actually have milk testers come out and test the fat content of the milk from each cow. Dairy farming is quite a lot of work! When I pick up our milk each week, I send out a silent thank you to our pastured cows, happily flapping their tails in the wind. All good food comes from above, and I’m humbly grateful just to be well fed.

Matt April 8, 2010 at 3:49 am

Hey Brad,

Excellent post, and excellent point of view. Funny how we’re so damning of the media when they get hysterical yet we happily lap up some ridiculous stuff bloggers spout. However I think the whole point of your article was practically missed.

THE POISON IS IN THE DOSE

If you don’t have much milk, or alcohol, or fast food, or grain, or junk food, or a million other things than the argument that they’re bad for you becomes irrelevant. Fast occasionally, and eat a wide variety of food (which incidentally is another way of not over doing it on certain foods, since you’re eating a VARIETY), get some exercise and you’re golden.

Listen to your body, experiment with your body – cut out certain foods for a while and see how you feel. Feel better – keep those foods to a minimum.

It’s really quite simple. And anyone who tells you otherwise is wrong. Easy, not always. But simple? Always.

matt

Brad Pilon April 8, 2010 at 4:16 am

If anything, I am learning from this post and discussion that dairy farmers are an under-appreciated group of people, who do some hard work. Obviously I can’t say this is true of ALL of them, but from what I’m hearing, not every dairy is a giant industrial complex.

B

Dave F April 8, 2010 at 5:20 am

This is somewhat but not completely related to the post but for the US folk, http://whereismymilkfrom.com somehow tells you where you milk is from. Not sure what that information can be used for but it’s there.

Big Jay April 8, 2010 at 5:51 am

Brad,

A few of us asked about hunger on our fast days on the metabolism post. For me it is more than just a passing feeling or mental focus on what and when I will eat. I am still hoping for a response. Thanks.

Brad Pilon April 8, 2010 at 6:53 am

HI Big Jay,

Sorry, not ignoring those questions, trying to build a full post around the answer.
B

Jenna April 8, 2010 at 8:32 am

Thanks for the info on milk. I always wondered if it was true or not about the pus…I used to drink milk when I dipped cookies in it or had cereal or chocolate milk but after hearing the pus comment I could hardly even look at it. It totally grossed me out. I even stopped putting it in my tea.

I haven’t had milk ever since I was told about the pus. (I manage to pretend that cheese, chocolate and whip cream have nothing to do with milk, LOL)

Even hearing that it is not true doesn’t cure that awful visual I have in my mind.

Now if only I could get the same thing to happen with french fries…

Brad Pilon April 8, 2010 at 10:36 am

French fries are made of pus and the hopes and dreams of children. Hope that helps ;)

B

Lachlan April 8, 2010 at 4:12 pm

I’m more milk than man, I drink that much. I don’t know how people don’t drink it, its amazingly tasty and soothing feeling. Everybody out of the way… Im gona make a shake right now…

Clement April 8, 2010 at 9:51 pm

Bless you, brad. Someone had to come out with a post to convince the masses that drinking milk won’t get you fat or make you drop dead. Keep up the good work!

craig ballantyne April 8, 2010 at 10:49 pm

I grew up drinking raw milk that we would get ourselves right out of the cooler in our friend’s dairy barn. Every Sunday before church we’d go and load up a few gallons. Drank that till I was 16 and then some new rules came in that stopped us from doing it. Took me years to get used to store milk.

But I tell ya, there’s not too many breakfasts better than being the first person to pour from the milk jug when that cream is on top…pouring that over raisin bran is a heck of a breakfast.

craig

Brad Pilon April 9, 2010 at 12:01 am

Dude,

That sounds awesome. I wouldn’t mind trying Raw Milk, just to taste it.

However, my concern about raw milk for the population is According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from 1998 to 2008, 85 outbreaks of human infections resulting from consumption of raw milk were reported, including 1,614 illnesses, 187 hospitalizations and 2 deaths.

Would love to compare that to normal milk, sounds scary, but I’m not sure how different it would be.

B

Kathy April 9, 2010 at 6:25 am

Brad,

I am a veterinarian that works with dairy cattle. My hats off to you for giving a factual, honest and accurate answers to the questions you listed. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Mary Joy April 9, 2010 at 11:36 am

Very well explained. I love drinking milk in the morning and before going to sleep. Great post by the way.

owenscott April 13, 2010 at 10:04 am

Well Robert, about cows having a shortened life span of about 10 years … it ok because they are tasty. What do you want the farmers to do with the cows ? Let them wander around till they die of disease and we can’t eat them?

As for male calfs being turned in to veal ….. again they are tasty too.

Tanks for the input.

Eva April 20, 2010 at 3:19 am

I used to luuuuuuurve milk. (and really miss having it daily.) As a kid and teen, I used to drink it every day. Something happened when I hit university though. I started experiencing unpleasant digestive issues, congestion, and excessive mucus production after consuming milk, especially low fat or skim, certain cheeses, ice cream and frozen yogurt… What’s interesting is that I have a significantly lesser malreaction when I have full fat cream or half-n-half in my tea and barely a reaction when I consume yogurt or kefir. I can only speculate that it’s a combination of my body no longer producing enough enzyme and also something about the way dairy is processed. So, I’ve been forced to limit my intake of dairy for years now. =(

Rob April 28, 2010 at 3:29 am

Very well explained. I love drinking milk in the morning and before going to sleep. Great post by the way.

Clara May 4, 2010 at 11:50 am

You can actually get unhomogonized milk and get much of the same impact. There are dairies in the US which pasteurize at low heat and don’t homogonize the milk. That removes the potential for most types of bacterial transmission AND gives you that lovely knot of cream at the top of the milk bottle.

That’s been my way to split the difference. :)

Stephen March 19, 2012 at 10:30 pm

Brad,

I just so happened to stumble on your article. Thanks for keeping a fair and balanced conversation! I agree with you, so many people online spread things that are factually not true. Thanks for pointing them out.

I am actually a dairy farmer. As an industry, we dairy farmers are trying to be more transparent. Now with social media, we can let you know whats going on at the farm. So if anyones interested our farms blog is http://www.crazymoos.com

Thanks again

Irene Ryan May 8, 2012 at 9:25 am

I’m really liking your thinking Brad, i think i’m just going to have LESS from now on! i was on a low carb plan and was having double fat cream in my coffee instead of milk as it has less lactose (milk sugar) however i was always a bit concerned as it is loaded with calories and fat, so am i better off using cream or milk for weight loss? Dr Atkins says to use cream instead of milk, its lower in carbs? Thanks Brad

Brad Pilon May 10, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Go with black coffee when you are fasting

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