Last Friday we had a meeting with the head of my boys’ school. No, it’s not what you think; the Slayton silliness isn’t that out of hand. All is well in 1st and 3rd grades; we were meeting about nutrition. There are 4 of us, 3 RD’s and an MD, all moms’s at this UWS nameless-for-now private school. Earlier this year, we met with the head of the lower school and outlined some suggestions to improve the food situation. The meeting went well and we left encouraged.  Certain changes were implemented and Friday’s meeting was to follow up on a few matters.  First on our list was organic milk.  As soon as we asked we were told, rather bluntly “there isn’t going to be organic milk.” It turns out the head of the entire school feels organic milk is ultra pasteurized and that therefore conventional milk that is “free of synthetic hormones” is just as good.  My head was spinning. Here we are in NYC, I would guess that less that 5% of the parent body uses conventional milk at home.  I silently reminded myself I had 2 children at this school and needed to keep my passion under wraps. We agreed I would “gather all pertinent information” and circle back.
So what is ultra pasteurization and is it bad?
Ultra pasteurization (or UHT pasteurization) means that milk is heated at a higher temperature that pasteurized milk (280 degrees for 2 seconds versus 167 degrees for 15 seconds). The drawback of this process is that ultra-pasteurization kills nonpathogenic bacteria in addition to pathogenic. Many discussions of ultra-pasteurized milk also mention the burnt or cooked taste but I am not enough of a milk drinker to verify this. There is some concern that ultra-pasteurization destroys vitamins. UHT extends the shelf life of milk and is attractive to retailers for this reason. Dean Sparks of NY Milk states, “This is all about THEM and nothing about YOU and your family.” With “them” in this example being retailers. While ultra pasteurization may not be dangerous, it doesn’t appear necessary or desirable.
Some fantastic companies who offer non-UHT milk are:
Organic Valley – offers both UHT and not UHT
Evans Farmhouse Creamery
*We eliminated certain producers based on Cornucopia’s dairy farm ratings.
 Is “no synthetic hormones” conventional milk “just as good”?
Cows naturally produce hormones so no milk is technically hormone free. As for contains no “synthetic hormones” in my opinion I am not OK with this. Alexandra Zissu, Foodtrainers’ favorite green expert and author confirmed my suspicions saying, “There isn’t a government organization or third party agency verifying the hormone and antibiotic claims.”  The USDA organic standards are government regulated. Plus, hormones added or otherwise aren’t the only issue here.
Why does it make sense to buy organic milk?
Organic milk has fewer pesticide residues as no pesticides or non-organic fertilizers are used for the cows’ feed. No BGH is used to increase milk production and no genetically modified ingredients are fed to the cows.  Under the organic standards if a cow receives antibiotics it will be a year before they are used for milk as a washout period. And finally, the cows used for organic milk live in better conditions and have access to grazing and grass. Organic milk has higher levels of vitamins, antioxidants and omega 3’s.
 Advice from Dean Sparks: “If the date on the top of the seal is more than 3 weeks out, you’ve got UHT milk. Also, it will say “ultra pasteurized” right on the carton. You want none of that…put it back and find some good, wholesome, local fresh organic milk to drink. Doing so almost ensures you are supporting small family farms that are doing things right.”
To summarize:
  • Choose non-UHT milk whenever you can.
  • Conventional “no synthetic hormones added” is questionable at best and without a doubt inferior to organic.
  • I was pro-organic before this post but even more so after delving further into dairy.
What type or brand of milk do you buy? Did you know about ultra pasteurization before? How do I tell the school they don’t “pass” the dairy test?


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