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Is Organic Milk Worth the Cost?

By JLP | May 30, 2007

After reading The Maker’s Diet by Jordan Rubin, my wife decided that it was time to start buying organic milk. The only problem I have with this is that it costs DOUBLE the price of non-organic milk, which is already expensive enough. We normally buy four gallons of milk per week. At $3.oo per gallon (sometimes we can find it cheaper), we are spending $12 per week on milk. Now that we are buying organic milk at $6 per gallon, we are spending $24 per week on milk.

Is it worth it?

According to Rubin who quotes William Campbell Douglass, M.D., author of The Milk Book, we unknowingly ingest the residues of as many as one hundred different antibiotics when we drink a glass of commercially processed milk. It sounds pretty bad. However, yesterday I read Organic Milk: What You Get For the Money, on MSN and it basically says that organic milk isn’t worth the cost.

It’s both confusing and frustrating to try to do the “right” thing. There’s so much conflicting information out there. One source says “do this,” while someone else says “quit doing that and do this instead.” It’s also important to check the motives of these experts. Jordan Rubin may be a fine person and all, but he does sell his own products. It doesn’t necessarily make him an unbiased authority.

Bottom line: The MSN article didn’t convince my wife so it looks like we’ll still be buying organic milk even if it costs us over $1,200 per year! OUCH!

Topics: Budgeting | 34 Comments »


34 Responses to “Is Organic Milk Worth the Cost?”

  1. Leslie T Says:
    May 30th, 2007 at 1:46 pm

    When making a cost/benefit analysis of organic produce, one might consider not only the benefit to yourself and your own health, but also the benefit to the environment and the economy. Are you better served by having your food produced locally on small farms that treat their animals humanely and limit their impact on the environment? After reading Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma, I find that my own thinking on this subject has changed quite a lot.

    And how is organic milk costing you over $1200/year anyway? At $3.50/gallon, if organic is double, that’s an extra $3.50 gallon. $1200=310 gallons. Do you really use nearly a gallon a day?

  2. JLP Says:
    May 30th, 2007 at 1:53 pm

    Leslie,

    Here’s how I arrived at $1,200:

    4 gallons per week X 52 weeks per year X $6 per gallon = $1,248

    I didn’t mean that we were spending an EXTRA $1,200 per year.

  3. Chris Says:
    May 30th, 2007 at 2:20 pm

    Try unhomogenized “creamline” milk!

  4. tinyhands Says:
    May 30th, 2007 at 2:30 pm

    I don’t buy milk unless I need a pint (or less) for a recipe, but when I was married my wife bought organic milk all the time. Not for any health benefits though, it lasted at least twice as long in the fridge before going bad.

  5. Flexo Says:
    May 30th, 2007 at 2:46 pm

    Do what I do — don’t drink milk. Like tinyhands, I buy milk only for cooking when it’s called for in recipes, and I buy Lactaid brand… not organic but digestible by humans and lasts a long time in the fridge… well past the stamped on date. :-) Milk isn’t necessary for humans after a certain growth stage and caclium and vitamin D are better absorbed from other things.

  6. Rob Says:
    May 30th, 2007 at 3:01 pm

    For what it’s worth, Alton Brown on the Food Network says he can taste the difference and only buys organic milk. I’m not quite there, but I have tried Lactaid and to me it definitely tastes different and not as good as regular milk.

    Here is a handy web site from Consumer Reports on what to buy organic:

    http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/food/organic-products-206/when-buying-organic-pays-and-doesnt/index.htm

  7. Kurt Says:
    May 30th, 2007 at 3:50 pm

    “Not for any health benefits though, it lasted at least twice as long in the fridge before going bad.”
    That’s actually a function of the “ultra pasteurization” that some organic brands use. Many people say that the process actually destroys many of the great compounds milk naturally has. Check the label and see if the milk you are buying is ultra pasteurized.

  8. jim Says:
    May 30th, 2007 at 4:02 pm

    You go through four gallons a week? That’s a LOT of milk…

  9. Wanda Says:
    May 30th, 2007 at 5:05 pm

    Try Costco’s Kirkland brand. I love their organic soy milk. But they have organic milk milk as well.

  10. db Says:
    May 30th, 2007 at 7:00 pm

    JD:

    For what it’s worth, I think you’re better off with the organic brand (and I’m also a little astonished that your household goes through 4 gallons a week).

    Plus, it’s really a good idea to try to shop as local as possible.

    After awhile you’ll get used to the taste, and if you then try the cheap milk you’ll really get it.

    I’ve also read that skim milk isn’t as wholesome as all that — something to do with detergent additives?? I haven’t really researched this though. I decided to go with 2% organic milk that is locally produced.

    DB

  11. guinness416 Says:
    May 30th, 2007 at 7:15 pm

    Buy a cow.

  12. MOMM Says:
    May 30th, 2007 at 7:46 pm

    We buy organic milk and I can definitely taste the difference. We go through a lot of milk and are always on the lookout for the more inexpensive place to buy it at – I’ve heard Costco but haven’t stopped by for milk yet.

  13. indio Says:
    May 30th, 2007 at 9:34 pm

    I have two young kids and we easily go through 4 gallons a week. When I was nursing my children, I was very aware of the foods I ate and the medications I took because it transferred in the breast milk. Even if the science has not caught on to animals, it’s my belief that everything a cow ingests or is injected with (eg.growth hormones and antibiotics)is going to transfer into the milk as well.

  14. zen Says:
    May 31st, 2007 at 12:13 am

    4 gallons a week, and going organic? $1,200 a year? How much to open a dairy farm and getting it for free? Or investing in one, bajebas, my wife and I go through a quart a week.

  15. Trent Says:
    May 31st, 2007 at 7:52 am

    My wife has allergic reactions to the hormones they give to non-organic dairy cattle. I also drink organic on the theory that she is like the canary in the coal mine. I may not have a visible reaction, but I am probably exposed to longer-term ill effects.

    Go with your wife’s instincts on this one. $600 extra cost per year is nothing relative to long-term health care expenses. You may even want to consider switching to organic beef, cheese, etc – anything cow-centric. Then you can avoid mad cow disease in the same stroke.

  16. Don Says:
    May 31st, 2007 at 8:31 am

    I think you’re nuts to buy organic milk. But if you want to buy organic milk, then I think you should work to cut your consumption in half. Personally, I’ll not be buying designer milk.

  17. jason Says:
    May 31st, 2007 at 10:01 am

    One thing I notice about organic milk, which was already mentioned, is that it lasts WAY longer than the regular cheapie store brand milks. They seem to start tasting sour like 2-3 days after being opened, but organic milk always tastes fresh much longer. In fact, I’ve never had organic milk taste sour for me (I always finish it before it gets to that point!)

  18. SMS Says:
    May 31st, 2007 at 1:56 pm

    We drink organic milk exclusively in our home.

    I agree with Indio. While nursing, we are told not to consume all kinds of things- even peanuts and peanut products because of the allergy risk passing to the infant. So, should we also be concerned about meats and other animal products we consume affecting our health? We are certainly warned about mercury in fish- that is obviously a known risk that passes from fish to consumer.

    Something I have heard about- I’m not sure of the validity- is the various added hormones causing premature puberty-especially for girls. Something to think about if you have daughters. I don’t think going organic would have ever occurred to me except for my daughters. They are so small, and anything they consume will affect their bodies more than my own.

  19. sam Says:
    May 31st, 2007 at 2:09 pm

    I get home-delivered milk from a local dairy. They advertise it as “free of synthetic growth hormones”, but not necessarily “organic”. I get it because the skim milk tastes a lot richer than the skim sold in the grocery store. It is pretty expensive, but I only go through about a gallon a week.

    I can understand going through 4 gallons a week. When I was growing up, we got about that much for three kids, plus adults.

    As for the comment above:
    “Milk isn’t necessary for humans after a certain growth stage and calcium and vitamin D are better absorbed from other things.” Well, neither are chocolate chip cookies, or pizza but I plan to eat them anyway.

  20. db Says:
    May 31st, 2007 at 4:04 pm

    re 4 gallons of milk:

    I just figured it out — you all probably eat cold cereal for breakfast! That would explain 4 gallons.

    DB isn’t a big fan of cold cereal, hence DB has much lower milk consumption rates (and only has 1 in the household).

  21. Kimberly Says:
    May 31st, 2007 at 8:17 pm

    We tried two different brands of organic milk, and even though both had expiration dates more than a month out, they both tasted sour after only a few days. I don’t know what was up with that. I’d like to see about local milk delivery. We go through about a gallon a week.

  22. Andy Says:
    May 31st, 2007 at 11:04 pm

    Organic food is just a clever form of discriminatory pricing. It doesn’t have any clearly-documented health benefits and there are many problems with increasing the amount of organic crops, in particular sustainability.

    I also find it amusing that the three modern popular “alternative” types of food–organic, local, and “fair trade”–are completely at odds with each other.

  23. Andy Says:
    May 31st, 2007 at 11:07 pm

    I’ll just add that natural pesticides are just as dangerous as synthetic ones so it’s silly to arbitrarily exclude one type.

  24. shaz Says:
    June 1st, 2007 at 12:28 am

    whats the point of it milk is from cows and is the best organics is for fruit not milk

  25. fivecentnickel.com Says:
    June 1st, 2007 at 5:07 am

    Weekly Roundup – 06/01/07

    Another week, another weekly roundup… But before we jump into the links, I just wanted to let you a heads up about something… In case you haven’t noticed, FiveCentNickel has been loading somewhat slowly recently. This is primarily due…

  26. Free Money Finance Says:
    June 1st, 2007 at 5:19 am

    Star Money Articles for the Week of May 28

    Here are interesting posts and news this week from the MoneyBlogNetwork and beyond: Consumerism Commentary asks if the fear of throwing away money is keeping you from quitting. AllFinancialMatters wonders if organic milk is worth the cost. MightyBargai…

  27. Ted Valentine Says:
    June 1st, 2007 at 1:26 pm

    I’ve been drinking regular milk all my life as have most all people in America. “Organic” milk is just another example of fear- and guilt- based marketing to get you to spend more money on a product you don’t need.

    Don’t be a sucker.

  28. Ted Valentine Says:
    June 1st, 2007 at 1:32 pm

    Oh yeah. “Soy milk” is not “milk”. Its oil dissolved in water. They just call it milk because nobody would eat “soy oil” on their Cheerios.

  29. jme Says:
    June 2nd, 2007 at 1:48 pm

    Americans never had to worry about genetically modified milk until fairly recently. I believe it is important to consume rbgh-free milk, if you drink milk.
    See this article: http://www.preventcancer.com/consumers/general/milk.htm

  30. mbhunter Says:
    June 3rd, 2007 at 4:55 pm

    This is one reason why I’m glad I’m lactose-intolerant. ;)

  31. silver Says:
    June 8th, 2007 at 11:37 am

    Where does everyone get the idea that organic milk is local and fresh and non-organic is not?

    The milk I buy is bottled in the city I live in, and I live in the largest city in the state, not some small town in dairy-farm-land. It’s the organic milk that is from much further away. This is because (1) supply isn’t as great, so there aren’t as many companies with facilities to bottle it and (2) it’s usually ultra-pasteurized (which does affect flavor negatively) and can thus be transported from further away without losing too much shelf life for the consumer.

    The non-organic milk is also fresher around here, at least at the large supermarkets. At high volume grocery stores, they get milk deliveries 3-6 times a week, so the non-organic milk is never more than a few days old when bought by consumers. The non-organic doesn’t move off the grocery store shelf as quick, so it may have been delivered to the store a week or more ago. In some cases (such as discount stores that have grocery sections), the organic milk (because of its longer shelf life and lower availability) goes from the producer to the store’s warehouse, to the store. The non-organic goes right from the producer to the store, cutting out the day or two (or more!) in the store’s warehouse.

  32. Question of the Weekend - Groceries—� AllFinancialMatters Says:
    January 12th, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    […] My wife and I pretty much share the grocery shopping chore so I am aware of what things cost. I have noticed over the last year or so that every time I go shopping I spend a little more. I’m not anal in tracking our expenses so I’m not sure if it is due to the fact that prices are rising quickly or if it has more to do with us buying more expensive products. We started buying organic milk, which essentially doubled the amount we spend on milk. […]

  33. Christine Says:
    March 20th, 2008 at 7:51 am

    I just stumbled upon your site and we have recently switched to Organic Milk. I have a 4 yr old and want to give her the best. I like the organic milk because to me it “tastes fresh” I buy it so she is not ingesting all the hormones in regular milk. I am lucky that she only goes through a gallon every other week but still it does cut into our food bill. Now for those that are worried about the hormones in food, I have heard that there is a milk that isn’t “organic” but doesn’t have any hormones so I might look into that because the cost is less then organic milk. Last week I paid almost $7.00 for a gallon of organic milk!

  34. Jeff Says:
    September 15th, 2010 at 2:21 am

    I couldn’t believe how different organic milk tastes. It is pure greatness. Remember everything we eat these days has less nutrients so if you can afford it, buy organic milk. If you can’t don’t stretch yourself, it’s not worth it.
    Perhaps more important, buy skim milk! 2 percent milk is not simply “2 percent more fatty” than skim, it has a ton of saturated fat in it and is totally unnecessary for anyone over the age of 3.

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