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Why does organic milk taste "richer" than non-organic milk?

In my experience, all organic milk that I've purchased -- at whatever fat level (skim, 1%, 2%, Lowfat, Whole) -- tastes richer and creamier (and better) than it's non-organic counterpart.

I'm presuming that you have had the same experience. Why does organic taste "richer"?

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  1. Placebo effect.

    Do a blinded comparison.

    42 Replies
    1. re: filth

      no, i do not believe it is a placebo effect. you don't notice a difference? (i guess the answer to that is obvious....)

      1. re: alkapal

        Yeah, I think it's a placebo effect for you. You spend more on organic and you believe that it's better in some qualitative way.

        Milk is a biological product that is subject to variables like the breed of cow, cow's diet, season of the year, etc. Therefore, it's unlikely that every organic tastes "richer" than an inorganic.

        I have a lot of experience with clinical trials for indications with subjective endpoints...the medical analog of "richer-tasting." Expectations play a huge role.

        We may have to agree to disagree.

        1. re: filth

          i pay more BECAUSE it tastes better. i wouldn't pay more if it tasted the same. i'm pretty chinchy that way.

          let's see if other hounds think it is a placebo effect, or real.

          1. re: alkapal

            I said we might have to agree to disagree.

            Additionally, if other hounds agree that organic milk tastes better or richer, it's not very persuasive to me because the "study population" is inappropriate to inform to this question. It seems to me that people who self-select to post on Chowhound are much more likely to think that organic milk/food tastes better. Of course, that's an assumption on my part.

            Like I said, we may just have to disagree.

            1. re: filth

              what i find interesting is that you believe that i taste a difference *only* because of my expectations. believe me, i've been tasting a very long time.

              it begs the question, have you tasted any difference? what is your personal experience? not, what is your assumption about why *i* THINK it tastes richer.

              1. re: alkapal

                It tastes richer because you want it to taste richer. I read a study just the other day that said laboratories could find absolutely no difference whatsoever between organic milk and "regular" milk.

                Save your money.

                1. re: jpc8015

                  Your reasoning is fallacious. Vague references to unnamed studies prove nothing. Kindly cite your source so we may evaluate its validity for ourselves.

                  1. re: basileater


                    I'm not jpc8015 but this is probably the journal article he referenced.

                    Vicini, J, T.D. Etherton, P. Kris-Etherton, J. Ballam, S. Denham,
                    R. Staub, D. Goldstein, R. Cady, M. McGrath and M. Lucy. 2008. Survey of retail milk composition as affected by label claims regarding farm-management practices. J. Am. Diet. Assoc. 108:1198-1203

                    And, please explain how your statement "Your [jpc8015's] reasoning is fallacious" follows from the fact that jpc did not provide a citation. Huh???

                    1. re: filth

                      that's an oft-cited study. unfortunately the study has been discredited due to its funding & extreme bias-- it was paid for by monsanto, the manufacturer of bovine growth hormone-- and monsanto is also the employer of 7/10 of the authors. it's part of a marketing campaign for conventional milk, in short, rather than a real study.

                      1. re: soupkitten

                        Could you please provide a citation which refutes or discredits the results of this study. Simply stating that it the funding was provided by Monsanto is insufficient to negate the data presented (and peer reviewed). By your logic then any studies funded by producers of organic milk could be disregarded for "bias".

                        1. re: kmcarr

                          sure. i can get that info for you in a bit. i don't want to be in such a hurry when i respond to this thread because apparently i've been confusing in a couple of my posts. for starters, here is the abstract of the article. please note the lead author's contact info, and his employer, monsanto:

                          Address correspondence to: John Vicini, PhD, Monsanto Company LC, 800 N Lindbergh Blvd, St Louis, MO 63167.

                          link to the abstract:


                          1. re: soupkitten

                            Articles published in scientific journals are carefully peer reviewed. Reviewers and journal editors are probably even more careful if the author(s) is/are associated with any special initerests - public or private - that could lead to bias. To discredit the particular article, one would have to show that the authors misrepresented their findings (i.e., they lied) or that the journal itself is bogus. Researchers who falsify results don't get jobs if found out: an incentive to be very careful with results. Scientists' careers are aided by publications in respected, established international journals; and are hurt by publications in bogus journals.

                          2. re: kmcarr

                            update: claim that milk from rBGH treated and untreated cows have "no measurable compositional difference" is currently getting struck down in the courts. data going back to 1993 proves conventionally produced milk has

                            1 elevated levels of the hormone IGF-1, linked to cancers and diabetes
                            2 period of lactation in rGBH treated cows which produces lower nutritional value milk (more fat, less protein) which is "considered to be low quality"
                            3 increased somatic cell count (pus) in milk, which causes the milk to sour more quickly.


                            1. re: soupkitten

                              thanks. these labeling issues are getting more and more important!

                          3. re: soupkitten


                            Regarding your 10/16 02:19PM post, please provide substantiation.

                            1. re: filth

                              Out of curiosity, what would serve as substantiation in this forum?

                              I can't post the whole article (copyright and space considerations) but I have access to it through my university. 7 of the 10 authors were, indeed, employees of Monsanto at the time the research was done and the article published. Monsanto provided funding for the research and the paper. (All of this according to the paper.)

                              I also noted that all of the milk sampled was obtained by sample collecters who were not the researchers themsevles but were employees of Monsanto. (This was noted in the methods section of the paper.)

                              I can't speak to the intent of the article, whether it was a part of a larger set of things funded by Monsanto. I also can't speak to bias in any definitive way. Speaking as one who reviews research, though, I will say that if the product being studied is made by the company funding the study and most of the people working on the study are directly employed by that company (rather than most or all of the researchers being employees of a university who are receiving some funding from the company) that I'd tend to be more skeptical about the findings.

                              Your mileage may vary.

                              1. re: filth

                                sorry to come back late to the party-- though i know a great deal of criticism has been directed at the monsanto study, i haven't been able to find a linkable published response yet-- the study was only published in july so it's a little early for a published refutation. in addition to the concerns CCWeb states in the post above, early criticism of the study have related to other problems with the methodology-- for example the researchers tested for antibiotics in the samples with handheld quick-test strips, rather than more sensitive lab testing. organic proponents noted that CLA and omega 3s, which are higher in organic milk, were excluded from the study. the conclusion of the study is pretty much meaningless:
                                conventional, rbST-free, and organic milk are compositionally similar

                                yak meat, dog meat, and human meat are compositionally similar too. . .

                                oops posted this too soon. i've got a brief follow-up too

                                1. re: filth

                                  just a couple more notes on the authors of this study, all of whom make their living in biotechnology, most of whom are employed by monsanto:

                                  terry etherton and penny kris-etherton are married, she is a registered dietitian, and she pulled a few strings to get this paper published by the journal of the american dietetic association, doubtful it could get published without her influence, or in a more respectable scientific journal, and i'm guessing the journal is going to continue to get some flak for publishing it when nobody else would.

                                  roger cady, who is a monsanto scientist, has also published other papers with dale bauman, who is one of the patent holders of rBGH. their recent paper, "The environmental impact of recombinantbovine somatotropin (rbST/rbGH) in dairy production," attempts to prove that dairies that treat cows treated with rBGH are better for the environment. there are a few problems with the methodology of that study too.

                                  everyone can draw their own conclusions about this. i too wonder what would be enough substantiation for you to consider the monsanto study to be suspect-- but none of this alters the discussion: folks are saying they can taste a difference between two types of milk, you are saying they can't possibly. . . i dunno--my creamline castle rock milk, pastureland butter, and cedar summit cream sure taste different than kemps. they taste different from organic valley or horizon, too, which also taste different than kemps. it's not all the same stuff with different labels and price tags, these are different products that taste different, and in many cases, perform differently.

                                  1. re: soupkitten

                                    So, publication entailed a lack of ethical behavior on the part of one of the authors and on the part of the journal, which is not a top tier journal?

                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                      it's not for me to say whether penny kris-etherton *unethically* used her influence to get the paper published in JADA, but she certainly has the influence-- she got the organization's top honor, the marjorie hulsizer copher award, in 2007 (she's an expert on cardiovascular health, and has been an influential member of the ADA since 1972). the journal is likely to publish anything she submits, whether the subject is primarily in her own field, or in her husband's (biotechnology). it is not my understanding that any other scientific journal was considering publishing this piece before kris-etherton was added to the author list.

                                      folks can draw their own conclusions about why JADA published this, and not JAMA or a university publication.

                              2. re: filth

                                That study had nothing to do with the flavor of milk. It measured bacterial counts and concentrations of estradiol, progesterone, and IGF-1, and found that there were no "meaningful differences in the milk compositional variables measured."

                                No self-respecting scientist would try to prove that there are no differences whatsoever between organic and commercial milk. That hypothesis requires the elimination of every single possible difference. Because there are a near-infinite number of differences to measure, proof of the hypothesis is impossible.

                                Now if alkapal had started off this thread wondering why organic milk has more estradiol than other milk, the study might be relevant. But something as elusive as taste - not so much.

                                A bottle of Two Buck Chuck and a bottle of 1996 Chateau Pauillac may have "compositionally identical" levels of alcohol, tannic acid, and residual sugar. That sure doesn't mean the two wines taste the same.

                                1. re: alanbarnes


                                  I always like your posts. If we are to suppose that "conventional" and "organic" milk are compositionally equivalent, then the OP just was asking a rhetorical question. We cannot know why one is "richer" than another.

                                  Maybe there is an unmeasured component providing the "richness."

                                  Maybe it's in the mind of the drinker.

                                  I think that's what we've established here.

                          4. re: alkapal

                            I've never done a legitimate comparison. In my "buy organic milk once in a while" comparison, I haven't noticed anything.

                              1. re: alkapal

                                It is very easy to do the test on yourself. Have a friend pour small amounts of your milk and another in, let's say, ten glasses, five of each. Be blindfolded and have your friend give the glasses to you in random order and see how you do. Admittedly, it is a small sample and there is "testing fatigue" etc. but it is fun to do. Also, you should taste several brands of organic vs. non-organic. My guess is that there is as much brand variation as there is variation between organic and non-organic. I have done this with other products, not milk. It is interesting that people tend to find distinct differences even if you give them 10 glasses of the same product. There are explanations for this, but it is still interesting. What is the point of arguing when what you ask is so simple to test?.

                                1. re: Sinicle

                                  i'm not arguing. this is my experience. i don't have to do a blind test, which i know how to do, certainly. it would be an expensive test, thanks!

                            1. re: alkapal

                              alka: well, you're probably just buying better quality milk at a higher price, and the whole organic thing is a bit tangential (which is more or less what you're saying). Certainly not all organic milk tastes better than all conventional milk; I can guarantee you that the best milk I have (easily) available to me is non-bio microfiltered milk from pastured cattle.

                              It might be fun to try a blind tasting of the various organic and conventional milks you have available. Then again, I jumped ship from science to engineering so that kind of thing is right up my alley.

                        2. re: filth

                          I humbly beg to disagree. I do not pay for the organic milk I drink, but I do notice a difference in that it is richer, tastier and of much higher quality than non-organic milk. So let's dispense with the outright dismissal of someone's claims, shall we?

                          1. re: filth

                            Have done as you suggest every 4 months,7 times in a little over two years.The issue was almost entirely a freshness factor.X 1%,COSTCO,WHOLE FOODS,TJ's
                            SAFEWAY,GIANT FOOD,HARRIS TEETER,SUPER FRESH,WEGMANS & the dairy I purchase from (not ultra-pasturized,nothing added),STONEYFIELD FARM,HORIZON and one I can't remember,pitted at random against the nationa
                            and "house brands" organic came out ahead 84%,kids and adults.The dairy farm
                            I purchase from and two other organic 1% were the top three "every time".Back to
                            the freshness factor,the three leaders are from vendors that almost never have ANY freshness issues on the shelf.Also a glaring absence of surly or lazy staff.In my opinion this makes for fresher "potential",better employees care.They don't ignore/disregard the need for constant refrigeration.(too long from open truck to loading dock to walk in cooler)
                            Like you we also pay more.In DC,lower Montgomery Co not all shelves are created equal.
                            What we buy does taste better,COSTCO 1% and ALL else the local dairy farm.
                            Anecdotal perhaps,or superior handling for freshness I don't know.For us taste clinches it,my frugal streak is hard to overcome.There has to be a "value"reason.

                            1. re: lcool

                              i always have a problem with giant's brand milk at my cherrydale location. i'll go without.

                              safeway's cherrydale location -- their safeway organic brand is very good -- in the same league as horizon or stonyfield farm. and usually a better price.

                              my harris teeter on harrison has good fresh milk -- and i'll be looking forward to a particular pumpkin eggnog from hood's dairy that ht carries in the fall (that i missed last year but is SOOOO delicious!)

                              i see the hood's limited-edition flavors are more than just pumpkin: http://www.hphood.com/products/prodLi...

                              ideas: http://goodfluff.blogspot.com/2007/10... )

                            2. re: filth

                              If organic milk is no different than non-organic, how is it that organic milk lasts so much longer before going bad? The answer is simple: there IS a difference, and that study was probably funded by the "Farmer's Association for Screwing Humanity in favor of Lower Costs" - or some organization with a less honest name.

                                1. re: YoNaturals

                                  If a long shelf life is an indicator of quality, Twinkies must be the ultimate food.

                                  As noted repeatedly elsewhere in this thread, organic milk has a longer shelf life than conventional milk because it's pasteurized at a higher temperature. Ever buy organic raw milk? Better drink it quick: it goes bad waaaay quicker than any of the pasteurized stuff.

                                  1. re: alanbarnes

                                    Most organic milk is ultra pasteurized, that is why it lasts so long. You can get "regular" milk that is ultra pasteurized and it lasts just as long. This is not an indication of the quality of the milk. Some people actually prefer milk that is not ultra pasteurized, I personally can't tell a difference.

                                    1. re: jpc8015

                                      i do prefer the taste of organic, even over hormone free regular milk. ultra pasturization doesn't seem to matter. but ultrapasturized cream which is about the only kind does have an off taste.

                                2. re: filth

                                  Wrong. A placebo effect is when you are given something that is supposed to alleviate/eliminate symptoms of an illness.

                                  What you are trying to get at is "cognitive dissonance," where your mind over-compensates in order to make sense out of why you made a bad choice. Except you are still wrong, because there is no "future effect" where you will continue to make bad choices (in this case, keep spending more on worse milk), it would only taste better that one time, but then you'd keep buying the other milk again and if you don't still can't come to terms up to your previous error (of spending more on worse tasting milk), you would simple begin to reason "it is cheaper."

                                  Why someone would keep paying more for a lesser tasting milk would be caused by a deeper psychological condition/trauma, but highly unlikely considering the pithy subject/consequence we are talking about.

                                  Chances are it tastes better to this specific person, and not whatever absurd contrarian idea you have stuck in your head. Live and let live.

                                  1. re: somenoise

                                    ha ha. i'd forgotten about this thread.

                                    somenoise, you are correct in saying this, for sure: >>Chances are it tastes better to this specific person, and not whatever absurd contrarian idea you have stuck in your head. Live and let live.<<<


                                    1. re: somenoise

                                      Just saw this youtube vid and thought it was appropriate to this discussion


                                      1. re: scubadoo97

                                        re the video: produce is not processed though -- like the milk at issue in this thread. and i really wasn't thrilled about all the "f***kin'" language there. oh penn and teller -- so EDGY!

                                        i don't feel better **about** drinking it; i think it **tastes different** to me -- the mouthfeel is different. i've done a taste test, which i reported way back when on this thread.

                                        1. re: alkapal

                                          Opps. Sorry, I forgot there was profanity on that video. Didn't mean to offend. I just remember it being funny.

                                          1. re: scubadoo97

                                            i didn't realize that they were so profane. i've only seen their sanitized magic.

                                3. re: filth

                                  I think you're very right filth.

                                  I distinctly recall as a teenager believing that I could tell the difference between water that came out of the bathroom sink tap and water that came out of the kitchen sink tap - until my mother did a blind comparison (she's a maths teacher goes with the territory).

                                  The point is that generally people aren't aware of how their choices, expectations and experiences influence their sensory perception.

                                  I also distinctly recall media reporting on a study that compared 'generic' paracetamol with 'branded' paracetamol where a staggering percentage of test subjects reported that branded paracetamol was more effective at treating their pain - and that was the effect of packaging alone. The mind is an extraordinarily powerful organ.

                                  So thinking that organic milk tastes creamier certainly reflects what you experienced from a sensory perspective alkapal but it may not actually reflect the objective reality.

                                  Ultimately you made a choice to purchase organic in the first place and this choice probably has a lot to do with your 'political' disposition (and not necessary activist/left/right/liberal/conservative) perhaps you believed on the basis of research that organic is better, healthier and tastier. With this set of conclusions/assumptions in place you may have primed yourself for a positive experience.

                                  The mind is very good at embellishing our experiences with an extraordinary array of contingent perceptions/experiences that we are unaware of at a conscious level.

                                4. Most of the organic milk that I see is ultra-pasteurized, which, to me, gives it a "cooked milk" taste. I don't really like this taste, but my husband does, claiming it tastes richer. I, too, notice the difference in texture with this milk. Organic milk that is not ultra-pasteurized is harder to find in the regular supermarkets, but I have had it a few times and did not notice any difference in richness from conventional milk.

                                  1. I have tried organic milk @ a relatives house(I wouldnt waste my own money on it), and I didnt taste any difference. The only thing I think is richer about organic milk is the premium price. No thanks, I'll stick to regular whole milk for me and my family.

                                    1. Has anybody noticed any difference from milk from grass-fed cows? There's a huge difference in taste between grass-fed beef and grain-fed beef. As I rarely drink milk, I don't have much to say about this topic.

                                      I do have to say that I find Ronnybrook Farm milk to taste "richer" than other milks. Their cows are grass-fed only during the summer.

                                      7 Replies
                                      1. re: Miss Needle

                                        I have to agree about Ronnybrook. I never liked milk; I was strickly a soy beverage person for years because I didn't care for cow's milk. And then I tasted Ronnybrook's milk. Wow. Now if I want milk, that's what I buy.

                                        1. re: LNG212

                                          Straus Family Creamery milk is the same way. I can't drink most non-fat milk; the watery consistency squiks me out. However, I was amazed at how "fatty" the Straus non-fat milk was when I tried it.

                                        2. re: Miss Needle

                                          in my area there is still a lot of grass-fed milk in regular farmer milk co-ops and many of the certified organic dairies have grass-fed cattle. it's absolutely different (better).

                                          it should be noted that organic herds are overall healthier than conventional herds, and healthy, non-stressed animals will give healthier milk. 65% of conventional dairy cows have BIV (bovine AIDS), for example. these unhealthy animals are treated with massive amts of antibiotics to combat disease and infection-- these antibiotics are prohibited for organic cows, they are healthier animals. organic dairies are ideally not the crowded feedlot model-- infection and disease are taken pretty seriously by folks who can't give their animals antibiotics. there are some dairies like horizon that try to use the feedlot model that should lose their certification. there is much lower white bood cell and bacterial content (pus) in organic milk. normal milk is less than 100 cell count/liter, & it's up to 320-some million cells/liter average now in conventional milk and this has been growing since the introduction of bovine growth hormone by monsanto in the 90's. if you do the math, that's about 30 percent of conventional dairy cows with active infection, mastitis, disease etc. with huge amounts of pus in their milk. so yay for pasteurization, i guess. all of my family's dairy, and the dairy products i use for my customers, is certified organic or from a small dairy co-ops that i know and trust.

                                          1. re: soupkitten

                                            Yeah, I would have thought that the cows' diet should affect the taste of its milk. When women breastfeed, some avoid certain foods as it adversely affect the taste of the milk. You are definitely lucky that you can find organic milk from grass-fed cows readily available. The only place I've consistently seen grass-fed milk was at certain health food stores in NYC.

                                            Mmmmmm... pus in milk. Now I'm thinking about all the milk I drank as a kid as part of the whole lunch program. I'm pretty sure I wasn't getting any organic milk. You're right -- this is where pasteurization can be a wonderful thing. I'm still dying to try some raw milk as I've heard wonderful things about its taste. Unless I visit a farm, I don't think that will be happening very soon.

                                            1. re: Miss Needle

                                              Fairway has grass-fed milk in NYC. Store brand. Usually 2.99 per half gallon. It's pasturized, not ultra, and tastes much better than Tuscan or Farmland imo.

                                          2. re: Miss Needle

                                            needle, your question was the perfect segue for my personal explanation/belief. i've done blind tasting of organic vs conventional, i always choose the organic as the richer one, and i think it's a combination of the temperature differences during pasteurization AND the differences in the cow's feed.

                                            the naysayers have the right to their opinions, as i do to mine. much as i am able to differentiate between organic, grass-fed beef and conventional, grain-fed beef [did a blind tasting on that, too,] so can i determine a distinct difference between the milks.

                                            my preference for the texture & flavor of both the organic meat and the milk is just a bonus - i buy organic for other reasons.

                                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                              I agree with you ghg. I definitely taste a difference and think that the organic tastes richer. It's not why I choose the organic, but it's a nice bonus. I don't attribute it to the price or politics, b/c I also buy cage-free eggs for political reasons, paying much more for them, and i don't taste a difference there.
                                              My taste buds definitely prefer the organic.

                                          3. on a related note... Why does organic milk tend to have a longer shelf life than regular milk? I used to work in a supermarket and I noticed this all the time. Wouldn't the milk full of preservatives last longer?

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Jonny509

                                              Regular milk doesn't have any preservatives; it's just milk. It goes bad quicker because it's pasteurized at lower temperatures. Turnover is extremely predictable and fairly quick, so the store knows how much commercial milk to order and there's minimal risk that any will go past its sell-by date. Organic milk, on the other hand, sells in much smaller volumes, and there's more of a risk of it getting stale. So many producers ultra-pasteurize it to extend shelf life.

                                            2. i have also noticed that this is true, that organic dairy is noticiably more delicious.
                                              however, i'm in school and motivated by thriftiness, so i've tried the cheaper non-organics this year. i found them watery and tasteless, but found that the taste of High Lawn dairy's milk is fine for me. They are not organic but they are local, and i feel okay about buying this milk, it is not a huge conglomerate, and the 2% is fine. it is still not as good as strauss dairy in CA, though. I do believe that freshness and all of the other factors play into the taste of the milk. it would be strange indeed to think that they didn't have any impact. we would never say that about wine or chocolate or coffee or cheese or olive oil - hey, it doesn't matter where it's from, how it was made, or what chemicals were involved in the making - wine is wine, and any differences you think you taste are actually just a figment of your imagination.


                                              i've never done a blind taste test with milk, but i have with butter, and again, distinct differences, definitely. if anyone wants to know, strauss won the butter test hands down.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: pigtails

                                                yes, pigtails, i don't deny the origins/freshness aspect at all.

                                              2. There are two distinct differences between typical whole milk and organic milk. Organic milk uses ultra pasteurization and the addition of organic milk powder.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: 5am

                                                  5am, i looked on the label of my horizon 1% in the fridge. the ingredients list does not include organic milk powder.

                                                  1. re: alkapal

                                                    Nor do three other major brands available here in the DC area.For a fact both of the local dairies I support don't.So the "powdered" milk as an ingredient may not be so

                                                2. I wonder if there is a difference because the non-organic cows are not shot up with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), or artificial growth hormone. This makes the cow produce more milk.

                                                  I have absolutely no basis for this, I am not a scientist or milk drinker, but I wonder, if a cow is producing twice a much milk over a fixed period of time, wouldn't that change the flavor of the milk? If the cow is eating the same amount of food as before and using that to make milk, wouldn't that affect the taste of the final product?

                                                  Yesterday I read a little tip, I believe it was in a Better Homes and Gardens mag, but I'm not positive on that. It said, if you are going organic that this was the order of importance in purchasing organic foods: milk, meat, fruits and vegetables. I guess if you can only purchase one organic item milk is the most important.

                                                  Note: I do not drink milk, I only cook with it. I asked my husband, a 3 gallon/week milk drinker if he could taste a difference in the orgnaic milk I purchase and non-organic brands. He says that he cannot taste a difference.

                                                  1. I've learned recently that rules/laws/regulations requiring milk vary quite a lot from state to state. I learned it in trying to figure out why the 1% milk I get in Virginia (just moved back here) didn't taste as good to me as the 1% milk I was getting in California.

                                                    The article is ostensibly about prices, but I found the information about requirements for different kinds of milk even more interesting, personally.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: ccbweb

                                                      thanks for posting that link. now that i don't live in LA anymore & only read the LAT online, i miss some of the good articles!

                                                      it's an interesting piece, and it does suggest that we're correct to believe there's a difference among products...

                                                      "But Hoolihan and other experts in the industry acknowledge that milk from different producers can differ in taste. They say it's a result of many factors that include what the cows are fed, the pasteurization process, the temperature at which the milk is kept en route to the store and at the store, and whether it is in a plastic container or cardboard carton."

                                                    2. The only way you can really tell is to do a blindfolded taste comparison, with 10 trials. And you have to get NINE of them right to be regarded as performing better than chance!

                                                      8 Replies
                                                      1. re: Howard_2

                                                        That is right, and you also have to correct for other differences in your samples first. Several upthread comments pointed out differences in the way organic milk is pasteurized, etc. This and many other factors unrelated to "organic" can also affect taste. If you're really interested in getting to the truth in your original thesis, you have to correct for those differences from the get go. For example, compare samples of milks that have the same milking date, the same breed of cow, the same chilling time along the way, the same processing steps, etc. etc. Only then, along with DOUBLE BLIND testing, can you reasonably conclude that one is "better" than the other. Without that, all these assertions posted here, and all over our daily experience, are not provably better than self-deluded opinions.

                                                        My personal bias is always a high degree of skepticism about any and all claims of better taste or healthfulness based on subjective, ephemeral, and/or currently popular characteristics which lack clear cause and effect, such as "organic" or "locally produced," unless and until some type of reasonable statistically valid comparison has been made, which it seldom has. Opinions make the Chowhound Boards go 'round, but they need to be treated for what they are, opinions subject to self-delusion, not facts.

                                                        1. re: johnb

                                                          experiential data is very different from scientific fact. otherwise we'd all be going around with IVs-- getting our scientifically balanced nutrition intravenously, why bother eating? the exact same mass-produced burger can be cooked badly by one establishment and skillfully by another-- it will *taste* totally different, even though it is "factually" the same product. two carrots, grown next to each other in the same soil-- one may taste fantastic when cooked immediately after harvesting by a local consumer, while its twin is shipped across the country and sits in cold storage for three weeks before being cooked by exactly the same methods by a second consumer. do the carrots taste different? of course they do. the difference can be perceived by anyone who tastes these products, despite their being scientifically identical.

                                                          your argument that one type of milk is "factually" the same as another, even though they represent different schools of thought wrt animal husbandry and processing, does not really hold water. common sense and folks' own palates would prove that the ground beef, steaks, or roasts taken from the average conventional factory farm milk cow (tellingly, when slaughtered, these animals often yield *only* inexpensive, low-grade ground beef, or pet food) taste very different from the same meat products from the average organic milk cow. if the meat is noticeably different, so much that it affects how the animal is slaughtered and which cuts are graded & sold, and at what price point-- why would anyone expect that milk from these different animals will taste the same?

                                                          1. re: soupkitten

                                                            Meat products sold at retail (whole cuts such as steaks and chops) do not come from milk cows, "organic" or "conventional." They come from steers, from breeds that are generally raised for meat not milk. Organic cows, when old and finally slaughtered, also go to the utility applications, not the retail case as you suggest.

                                                            1. re: johnb

                                                              is this thread alive, or not? to Johnb, if you're still reading-- a whole bunch of content was deleted here & the point i was trying to make was lost, i think. in any case you are drawing an artificial line between the dairy and beef industries that doesn't really exist. most dairy cows are in fact impregnated (artificially) with semen from angus and other beef breeds, and the resulting calves, "dairy-cross" cattle, are raised for beef. you know, that very lean "angus" beef your local supermarket is marketing. . . well, it's lean in part because it's 1/2 holstein, most likely :)

                                                              anyway, a moot point if nobody's reading.

                                                              1. re: soupkitten

                                                                soupkitten,yes they are raised on as for "beef",of midling quality or the grind.?tons of "hamburger" served daily in America ?

                                                                Angus,the sire of first choice is because the calf is smaller at birth.The driving economic force is breed the yearling heifers for a calf one year earlier than nature would aim for.That first calf NEEDS to be smaller as is to be carried and delivered by a yet to mature animal.Calving first calf 2 year old has become the norm.
                                                                Some of the very large modern breeds of beefcattle have more body type in common with dairy breeds for the first two years than traditional "beef" breeds.They aren't so wonderful if you are driven to breed/slaughter etc at the earliest date.Not easy breeders/calvers first time around.Costly to bring into a herd and make them part of the future foundation.They need an extra year that many don't have the $$$ for.
                                                                Last time I had first hand data on dairy herds their return margins were the
                                                                tightest in livestock and the longest wait.

                                                            2. re: soupkitten

                                                              Perhaps a quibble, but:
                                                              If there is a non-"placebo effect" taste/texture difference between two similar products, this arises from a difference in physical or chemical composition and thus is, in fact, a scientific difference. The two burgers, for example, may have different levels of denaturation of muscle proteins, and the stored carrot will certainly have undergone changes in sugar and water levels in three weeks. Our tongue, our taste buds, and our olfactory receptors are all, essentially, highly sensitive instruments to differences of these types. Flavor and texture all arise from physical makeup and chemistry, and differences in them are in fact measurable if you know what to look for and have the right equipment.

                                                              Regarding Organic vs. Conventional milk, it could easily be the case that two samples may appear "identical" via rough analysis of protein, water, and fat content, but a rough analysis doesn't take into account specifics of individual groups of molecules, or of microstructure (this is how the melamine-tainted milk scandal happened in China: basic tests for, say, protein content look for Nitrogen, which melamine also contains, but don't go much more specific than that because it gets expensive). So, one or the other may have a different microstructure of fat bubble size, or may contain very small amounts of organic compounds which would be expensive to identify but are nonetheless perceptible in small amounts to the human palate.

                                                              1. re: Lemon Curry

                                                                <a non-"placebo effect" taste/texture difference...arises from a difference in physical or chemical composition and thus is, in fact, a scientific difference.>

                                                                Yes. More below.

                                                              2. re: soupkitten

                                                                As you state factually the same has some holes.If you mean to say identicle ,well
                                                                it's even more leaky johnb.Things that are "perishable" have wide margins of difference.Degrees of freshness alone play a roll in our preferred foods,not just milk.

                                                          2. Once I had a glass of milk at a friend's house. She just handed me a glass; I didn't know what sort of milk it was. It looked and tasted like 2%, but actually was organic skim milk. Blew me away completely.

                                                            1. i did the blind taste test! organic won. ... details to follow....

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. Re: filth: <We cannot know why one is "richer" than another...Maybe there is an unmeasured component providing the "richness.">

                                                                Lots of components in milk create "richness." The tiny things that create richness in milk are related to the many tiny things in milk that make milk taste like milk, and what things or processes make it taste less like milk.

                                                                Putting aside the organic vs. conventional flavor differences for a moment...

                                                                Richness usually refers to fat content, but it also refers to texture or mouthfeel -- does the milk coat the inside of your mouth, even sometimes in a sticky way? The obvious example is the flavor/textural difference between whole milk and skim milk. Also, a fully homogenized milk will not taste as creamy or rich as a partially homogenized milk -- but both are marked homogenized.

                                                                But richness, separate from fat content, can also refer to a roundness in the flavor. This is actually complexity, the result of many good flavors contributing to a milk's overall flavor. One milk will have a greater number of existing flavor factors than another milk, and that milk will usually taste better, or rounder, or more like milk.

                                                                A few other flavor factors are especially important. The first is milk microflora. Some lactic flora are overwhelmingly flavorful, some are god-awful, some are great tasting in small proportions but horrible tasting in large proportions. Some lactic microflora give milk the flavor of milk, others create spoilage flavors.

                                                                Different kinds of pasteurization affect microflora in different ways Each method kills a different amount of flavor-giving microflora -- some enzymes make milk taste like milk, for example -- as well as killing off spoilage beasties. Take some or all of the flavor-giving flora away, and the milk doesn't taste as much like milk.

                                                                There's a huge difference in flavor between the milk of silage-fed cows and pastured cows. Lots of flavor factors are related to the animal: the inherent flavors and fat content of the milk of a specific breed, normal reproductive/lactation cycle, feed, animal hydration, water quality and quantity given the animal, general animal health and age, and the use of antibiotics or hormones.

                                                                Other flavor factors that result from milking, milk treatment and storage: cleanliness during milking and afterward, overall dairy sanitation, degree of homogenization, freshness, length of time since the milk was opened, and on and on.

                                                                Comparing the flavor of conventional milk to organic milk is incomplete because so many other factors are at play.

                                                                I could compare a 2% UHT-pasteurized, fully homogenized organic milk that tastes cooked and all the flavor flora and enzymes are dead, to a full-fat, conventional, gently pasteurized, partially homogenized milk from a cow that's never been fed silage, hormones or antibiotics, and has just given birth in the springtime so her milk is especially high in butterfat and nutrients for her calf. That wouldn't be a valid comparison because so many variables other than organic or conventional are at play.

                                                                Many sensory or organoleptic studies have been done on the flavor of milk. To create the most valid sensory analysis of organic vs. conventional milk requires making the other variables that contribute to flavor as identical as possible, and having a large number of skilled tasters evaluate the milk.

                                                                That last factor is important. A taster has to have the sensory acuity to be able to detect minute differences in flavor. Otherwise, the differences may be there, but aren't perceived.

                                                                Complex issue.

                                                                12 Replies
                                                                1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                  maria lorraine, thank you for sharing your knowledge. you should have a pbs food/cheese/wine show (if you don't already!)

                                                                  1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                    Very good post. I would add, however, that a flavor difference that is not perceived is not a difference at all. A flavor difference exists only if it can be tasted. Filth's basic point remains intact--most of the perceived flavor differences are probably self-deception. If there are flavor differences in organic vs. non-organic as they typically appear on the grocer's shelf, they are most likely due to underlying causes other than that one is organic and the other isn't (such as those you cite), and could just as easily be incorporated in non-organic milk. But perhaps some of these other differences tend to be associated with dairies that produce organic milk. If I were going to take special care in producing milk to make it taste better, and charge more for my product, I'd probably go the extra mile to be able to label it "organic," if for no other reason than that "organic" is pop, and will help me get the higher price I want to get. But whether there really are such differences in the milk that is actually on the shelves is another question entirely.

                                                                    1. re: johnb

                                                                      <But perhaps some of these other differences tend to be associated with dairies that produce organic milk.>

                                                                      Yes, it does appear that organic dairies use a greater degree of vigilance in their efforts to create or retain milk flavor than conventional dairies, though conventional dairies may employ the same degree of vigilance. This vigilance may go far beyond what the official "Organic" certification -- a group of actions and requirements that may influence flavor -- requires.

                                                                      I'm sorry, johnb, I do not understand this statement:
                                                                      <Filth's basic point remains intact--most of the perceived flavor differences are probably self-deception.>

                                                                      My sense is that flavor differences ARE often accurately perceived -- apart from any preconceived bias -- but cannot be attributed *alone* to the "organic" nature of the milk.

                                                                      Which organic milk, grown where? The organic milk filth has drunk may taste far different from the organic milk another Chowhound drinks in Vermont or Northern California or even the next county over. Again, it's the isolation of the variables that makes an accurate comparison difficult. No blanket statements can be made about all organic vs. conventional milk.

                                                                      The acuity of the taster cannot be underestimated. The organic milk filth has drunk tasted like conventional milk to him, and so his taste perceptions are accurate FOR HIM. While one person -- filth, just as an example -- may not perceive differences between the flavor of organic and conventional milk, that does not mean at all that others could not perceive and taste rather marked flavor differences between the same organic and conventional milk that filth tasted. This comes up all the time in the classes I teach. Each of us tastes and perceives flavors differently, and each of us has a different set of taste acuities and deficits. The world of flavor one person experiences is not at all the world of flavor another person experiences. To think these worlds are identical is indeed self-deception.

                                                                      1. re: maria lorraine


                                                                        I generally agree with you. My comment about perception of flavor differences was not to say they are never accurately perceived by anyone, but rather to say that many, if not most or essentially all, of the sweeping assertions made in fora like this flow from unscientific, self-deceived, invalid and unreliable comparisons. I believe that many or most assertions made by people, to the effect that certain products taste better than other similar products, would not stand up to a true statistically valid comparison, and this is especially true when the difference is based on something which is currently widely viewed as more politically correct or hip, such as in this case organic vs. conventional. But as you have already accurately pointed out, in the case of milk (like many other product categories) it is extraordinarily difficult to do a statistically valid test of this thesis due to the wide number of variables involved, not least of which is taste acuity. To make sweeping claims based on the type of comparisons that have been made here, including alkapal's tasting report below, is utterly unconvincing to me (and by the way I like alkapal and respect her manifold contributions to CH--that's not my point).

                                                                        I came to this view not in the realm of milk but more in the realm of wine. I have been an enthusiastic wine buff for maybe 40 years. One thing I have observed consistently is that most people who find one otherwise similar wine "better" than another when they can see the label can't reliably duplicate their assertion when tasting the same things blind. I believe this is true of many food and beverage product categories discussed here and elsewhere (beer, olive oil, cheese, meats, coffee, and many others come to mind--check out the current sugar thread). People (including me I'm sure) tend to believe, and report, that which they think ought to be the case based on prior knowledge and perceptions, or what they think others believe is the case, not necessarily what their tastebuds have actually detected independent of these outside influences.

                                                                        I once, as a grad student, had to do a market research project and we decided to investigate these very ideas. We did potato chips, and asked groups of shoppers to taste two major brands of chips out of the bag and tell us which they prefered. In half we had the chips in their own bags and in half we switched the chips. It was amazing to me how many people commented that "A" was their normal preference, and they confirmed it in our tasting, even though they were tasting "B" from the "A" bag.

                                                                        Just put me down to being an old cynic. But my cynicism has developed for a reason, over a long time, over many experiences. Take it FWIW.

                                                                        Edit---one of my favorites among these "comparisons" is the coffee geeks who claim that you need one of these $400 burr grinders to get a "really good" cup of espresso. I'd love to do a statistically valid blind tasting where the same beans are used, the same brewer, and the same level of grind, the only difference being the grinders, and see if they can really tell which grinder was used for which cup of coffee. I once heard of an audio buff who claimed electricity generated in coal plants produced sound inferior to electicity generated in nuclear plants. Forgive me, but it is things like this that have made me a skeptic.

                                                                        1. re: johnb

                                                                          Science and statistics have little to nothing to do with whether or not someone can taste a difference between two things - be it milk, coffee, or wine. There is no magic number of samples a person needs to try and successfully distinguish that makes it "statistically sound". Sure, a greater number of trials in which a person makes some distinction provides more of an assurance, but that is not a "statistic" or necessarily even "science". Alkapal can taste the difference between severeal organic and inorganic milks.

                                                                          Statistics and science could be employed if your hypotheses were, for example:

                                                                          "People can taste the difference between organic and inorganic milk"

                                                                          "The ability to taste the difference between organic and inorganic milk varies by ethnicity"

                                                                          "People's rankings of wines in blind tasting tests has little association with the price of that wine".

                                                                          1. re: johnb

                                                                            People's perceptions are definitely affected by their expectations. Your market study and plenty of others demonstrate that beyond dispute. But perception is even more strongly affected by the thing perceived.

                                                                            I am extremely skeptical that milk tastes better just because it's organically produced. But I have no doubt that the flavor of milk is highly dependent on the cow's diet. When I was a kid, we bartered eggs from our chickens for milk from a neighbor's cow. That cow LOVED wild garlic, and we could always tell when it had found a patch.

                                                                            The diet of an "organic" dairy cow is significantly different than the diet of a cow raised in a CAFO (confined animal feeding operation). In a CAFO, the cows are confined in close quarters and fed a corn-based diet. They are given antibiotics because cattle can't stay healthy in that kind of an environment. This model isn't available for organic producers; they can't give their cows antibiotics, and are required to provide access to pasture. The regs are a little vague, but it's probably safe to assume that organic milk was produced by a cow that had at least some grass in its diet.

                                                                            I seriously doubt that anybody could distinguish between milk from a pastured cow that got a conventional feed supplement and milk from its identical twin, raised in the same pasture, but fed an identically-composed but "organic" feed supplement. On the other hand, it wouldn't surprise me at all if someone could taste the difference between milk from a pastured cow - organic or not - and milk from a CAFO cow. Especially if the pasture in question had a patch of garlic.

                                                                            On another note, I can state for a fact that a good burr grinder is essential to making a decent cup of espresso. You don't even need to taste the stuff to tell the difference, you just need to look at the cup: It's impossible to produce crema if the coffee isn't evenly ground. And you need a good grinder to produce an even grind. The $10 whirly-blade from Target works fine for drip coffee, but for espresso it just won't cut it. I won't weigh in on whether a $650 Mazzer Mini (they're not $400 any more, given the pounding the dollar has taken) makes a better cup than a $150 Baratza Maestro. But if you compare espresso made using either burr grinder to espresso made using a whirly-blade, the difference will be immediately apparent.

                                                                        2. re: johnb

                                                                          i did the blind taste test in two trials (mr. alka assigned the samples without my observation) and i picked out the organic both times as having a richer (fattier) mouth feel and a sweeter taste. tested 2% regular/pasteurized, 2% regular ultrapasteurized, and 2% organic ultrapasteurized -- purchased at same store at same time, served at same temperature in identical glasses. i can taste a difference.

                                                                          my original query -- so long ago -- was why. and i think maria lorraine has given the best explanation, along with others who talk about the feed/pasture of the dairy cows.

                                                                          if one cannot taste a difference, then one can't. others can. simple. no need to question the motives or ascribe bias to those who can (or can't, for that matter.)

                                                                          1. re: alkapal

                                                                            I haven't done double-blind or anything, but I have noticed your initial assertion before, too. If I may ask, where was your milk from (I see you we are both east coast, but likely have quite different milk supplies)? It would be interesting to see if someone could identify what causes this phenomenon- my hunch is either concrete differences in protein/fat content, or differences is the colloidal microstructure of the milk, or perhaps, as Maria Lorraine pointed out, an actual flavor difference.

                                                                            Anyways, thank you for sticking up for your assertion and also edifying us!

                                                                            1. re: Lemon Curry

                                                                              Flavor differences *are* concrete, structural differences but on a molecular level.

                                                                              Moreoever, flavor dfferences can be scientifically measured and quantified -- in the same manner that protein, fat, and colloidal differences can be measured and quantified -- if you have the sensitve equipment to do so, and know how to read the results.

                                                                              We are able to identify the constellation of molecular-based flavors that cause a food to have the specific taste profile it does: a canteloupe, a wine grape, a specific cheese. Milk is no different. That garlic or wild onion flavor in the milk alan barnes described -- easy to identify on a molecular level and quantify. A particular sweetness that's in the milk that is not related to lactose or any other form of sugar -- easy to measure also. Lactic flora and milk enzymes -- the microbeasties that make milk taste like milk -- very easy to measure. And on and on.

                                                                              A group of tasters with acute palates can come to some sort of consensus
                                                                              about the flavor differences between two items -- an informed subjective analysis -- but a good flavor chemistry lab can identify and quantify those same flavor differences in a scientific, objective analysis.

                                                                              1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                Theoretically, you could analyze 100 brands each of both organic and conventional milk in a flavor chem lab, and you would have your objective flavor results. You wouldn't need to control for variables that way -- you'd get a long readout of the composition of each milk -- flavor molecules, fat type and percentage, protein, water, particulate, nutrients of all types, complete flora, hormones, antibiotics -- and then could do a data sort between organic and conventional, and subsequent data sorts by pasteurization process, type of feed, etc. I don't know if this has been done on even a small scale, but it would be easy to find out.

                                                                                1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                  Totally. What I was referring to above were, basically, what you just said: possible perceived differences based on a few different things: total ration of fat, protein, etc, versus microscale structures of fat and protein, or the presence of various organic compounds which could give, say, a grassy or oniony note. It sounds like you have a lot more practical experience in this area than me, who is waiting for the day when I can do this rather than read about it.

                                                                                  anyways, science is awesome. but not as awesome as eating!

                                                                            2. re: alkapal

                                                                              the regular and ultra-pasteurizeed milks in my taste test were from harris teeter, and the milk is gathered from different areas in a five state region, basically around north carolina. here is further info: http://www.harristeeter.com/about_us/...

                                                                              the organic was from the organic valley cooperative in la farge, wisconsin: http://www.organicvalley.coop/product...

                                                                              on a related note to this thread, i see filth took his/her toys and went home (and started another thread). LOL.

                                                                        3. I think any idiot would recognize the flavor difference between milk you drink on a ranch & what you get on a shelf... I don't think even the most clueless scientist would dispute that. Now why does farm fresh milk taste different... three major components:

                                                                          > Freshness / Not Pasteurized
                                                                          > Higher Fat Content (NO FAT SKIMMED AT ALL)
                                                                          > Cow Feed / Free Range Grazing (and I know this because my dad had 100 head of milking cows in the early 60's and when he started feeding them apple leftovers from the local soda factory... the clients complained that the milk was two sweet & had a fruity, slightly fermented aroma).

                                                                          Organic & Convention are both pasteurized... so lets call that a tie.

                                                                          Fat.... the government regulates this but you can call something Whole Milk if it has 8 grams of fat per 8 ounces. I have seen organic milk that has up to 10 grams of fat per serving.. this could explain a richer flavor.

                                                                          Feed... some Organic milk comes from grass / alfalfa fed cows... its bound to taste better & produce more rich flavor than Conventional.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                            <my dad had 100 head of milking cows in the early 60's and when he started feeding them apple leftovers from the local soda factory... the clients complained that the milk was two sweet & had a fruity, slightly fermented aroma>

                                                                            Hilarious. Nopal, there's a great short story in there. Bill Bryson-like...as in "The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America."

                                                                          2. Seasonal and regional foodstock alters the flavor of milk and cow cheese, I think without dispute. I'm told this is why Epoisses is produced seasonally in it's small french region of origin, likewise English stiltons, and some producers in Vermont.
                                                                            Is the huge premium you pay for organic milk worth the qualitative difference you perceive?
                                                                            I'm more of a cheese mouse than a milk drinker, so I don't have a dog in this fight. "Darlin' ,while you're up, will you grab me a beer?"

                                                                            1. I'm just jumping in here, but if you just LOOK at regular non-fat milk and organic non-fat milk next to each other you can SEE that the organic is thicker. This isn't in my head, it's an observation I made when I switched years ago. Regular non-fat milk has a watery bluish tint to it and organic non-fat does not. I've only ever had the non-fat versions, so that is all I can compare.

                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                              1. re: carey24

                                                                                I second that. I don't know what all the quibble is about here. Just taste the two things side by side, It's freakin obvious. You don't need to do multiple trial, double blind, high census, blah blah blah. Just freakin taste it, look at it. Geez! This is a red flag issue that tends to cloud people's common sense. If the question was "Why does Progresso Minestrone taste so much better than Campbells?", would we have people debating scientific method and citing studies? NO! We would just eat the stuff and decide which tasted better. Would we hear comments like "You just think Campbell's tastes better 'cause it's more expensive". Please. Come on people.

                                                                              2. It tastes richer because it costs more.

                                                                                1. Hmmph. I personally think organic milk tastes much better than regular milk (and I have done a comparison with my roommates who thought I was crazy, but now all buy organic because they agree with me). Even the national dairy council website says that milk differs in taste, so why can't that be true? My taste buds tell me that organic milk tastes better, plus it lasts longer, so for someone who is single and isn't a big milk drinker that is a plus.

                                                                                  1. OK, I found this thread when doing a websearch on why organic skim tastes and looks richer than regular skim.
                                                                                    I switched to organic recently just because my usual grocery ran out of half-gallons of regular skim - half-gallons of everything really.
                                                                                    We both immediately noticed the difference in look, between blue water and what looks like whole milk.
                                                                                    The mouth-feel is definitely not in both of our minds. It's much richer.
                                                                                    I'm willing to believe that it's just ultra-pasteurization caramelizing the milk some, but I'm happy to see some intelligent discussion - albeit way down the line past outright skepticism - on the reasons for the differences.

                                                                                    Thank you

                                                                                    1. A few things I've noticed about milk vis-a-vis my tastes:

                                                                                      I like milk from Jersey Cows better than other cows.
                                                                                      I like milk from grass-fed pastured cows better than milk from grain-fed cows.
                                                                                      I like milk which is non-homogenized better than homogenized.
                                                                                      I like milk which has been gently pasteurized better than other methods of pasteurization.
                                                                                      I like milk which is raw better than pasteurized.
                                                                                      I like milk which is really really fresh -- less than 2 days old -- better than milk which is older, which unfortunately I can't get with any regularity except for rare direct dairy visits.

                                                                                      Fortunately I can buy locally a non-homogenized, organic, Jersey cow milk from a Georgia farm which beats any of the "national" brands just to death.

                                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: fussycouple

                                                                                        A nice summary -- my tastes are the same.

                                                                                        Most commercial non-organic milk is from confinement-raised Holsteins that produce vast quantities of somewhat watery milk.

                                                                                        Sometimes I buy Organic Valley whole milk, where the cows are (a) on family farms, (b) probably mostly on pasture, and (c) sometimes breeds with richer milk, like Jerseys and Guernseys. My local food coops carry the regular pasteurized Organic Valley rather than the "ultra" pasteurized.

                                                                                        When I can get it, I buy raw whole milk from a local farmer who has 100% grass-fed Dutch Belted cows. The milk is impossibly creamy, a beautiful pale-golden color, and absolutely delicious. It looks and tastes very different from supermarket milk.

                                                                                        I bought a half gallon of BGH-free store-brand supermarket milk to try it, since my fresh milk source is drying up somewhat for the winter. We'll see how that goes. If I can tell the difference -- and I expect I can -- then I'll probably switch back to Organic Valley despite the higher price.

                                                                                        1. re: fendel

                                                                                          Organic Valley is quite good if you can get the non-UHT version. THe health foods stores the good store and the grocery stores demand the nasty UHT.

                                                                                          And their pastured butter is lovely.

                                                                                        2. re: fussycouple

                                                                                          As do we.The Saturday after Thanksgiving we had an impromptu comparison tasting.We
                                                                                          arrived at the same place yet again.An order very much like your's.All had a preferred order SAME.best FRESH FROM THE FARM not pasteurised or homogenised ,other ORGANICS in the middle ,worst REGULAR GROCERY STORE milk

                                                                                          1. It depends on the brand of organic to me. There are one or two brands (?Costco?) that are particularly creamy compared to regular, even the non-fat version. One brand had me thinking "Wow! So this is what really good milk tastes like!" I don't remember the brand b/c I don't buy the milk in our family. And of course, nothing beats fresh milk which I've had on a friend's hobby farm.

                                                                                            Re: the discussion above about the health benefits of organic milk. I read a book recently (either M. Pollan or B. Kingsolver) about how milk in Canada and some parts of Europe do not have labels designating hormone or antibiotic free since ALL milk needs to be by their federal standards.

                                                                                            The possibility of ill health effects (even if based on animal studies) are enough for these governments to ban these additives -- they do not need solid proof from humans, the trials of which may either be impossible (due to lots of variables) or take a long time.

                                                                                            I think a lot of it comes down to the dairy industry - $$$$$. We can afford to buy some organic stuff -- my elderly mother does the research and prioritizing -- so we do.

                                                                                            6 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: darkchocolatefan

                                                                                              hormones and antibiotics are not additives. cows may receive them, but they are not additives to the milk.

                                                                                              1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                Well the word additives used here is generic. Yes, I know that hormone and antibiotics are not added DIRECTLY to the milk but if you're drinking milk, it's still going into you.

                                                                                                  1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                    Sure. If you are a woman who has ever breastfed, you are advised to be careful about what you consume because it ends up in the breastmilk--I would imagine the same issues exist for cows and all mammals.

                                                                                                    1. re: coney with everything

                                                                                                      It does,even if it is a "flavor" only issue.Just have a chat with the folks making cheese from goat or sheep milk.If the girls graze in an unfavorabe weed patch the flavor profile of the milk can go so far off as to be ruined.
                                                                                                      Not a happy event to the animal owner or the cheese maker.

                                                                                                1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                  Yes, they are not additivies but they are detectable in the milk and in our children's bodies.

                                                                                              2. I agree that organic milk tastes richer. I bought some organic skimmed milk at the store after being on a vegan diet for 8 months, so I really had no memory of what milk tastes like. After polishing off that carton, I bought a different non-organic brand, expected it to taste exactly the same and I was surprised to find the non-organic brand had no taste whatsoever! I might as well of had a glass of water.

                                                                                                1. Have you tried Giant's organic? I found it undrinkable, kind of an odd powdery taste to it, and I've tried all fat levels.

                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: chowser

                                                                                                    chowser, i will not buy giant's milk, of whatever stripe! it tastes strange and goes bad more quickly than any other milk brands i've bought. safeway's organic milk is very good.

                                                                                                    i really don't buy much milk these days, but do regularly buy half-n-half. absolutely the best deal is the harris teeter brand -- quart size -- at a great price (these days, $1.47, but that's a "sale" that can last for months on end. even the regular sticker price is a bargain, though).

                                                                                                    1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                      "i will not buy giant's milk, of whatever stripe! it tastes strange and goes bad "

                                                                                                      That sounds soooo strange . . .


                                                                                                  2. I don't care for organic milk, perhaps its the ultra-pasteurization (of which I was previously unaware).

                                                                                                    I do much MUCH prefer raw unhomogenized milk over processed milk any day of the week. There was a dairy near where I lived that produced unpasteurized milk but did homogenize, and that milk as well I did not find preferable to the raw unhomogenized stuff.

                                                                                                    Makes better paneer too.

                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                    1. re: ZenSojourner

                                                                                                      UHT milk is horrible, organic or milk . I won't buy it all. Plus, it is almost always the worst quality mikl shipped everywhere that gets UHT like Horizon.

                                                                                                    2. OH MAN IT is SO MUCH BETTER!
                                                                                                      you know what, the milk in Greece taste WAY BETTER TOO no matter if its organic or not!
                                                                                                      SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH REGULAR MILK!

                                                                                                      1. here is a business week story about the latest court ruling in ohio, mentioned upthread by soupkitten: http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financ...

                                                                                                        here is the opinion for the case itself, for inquiring minds....

                                                                                                        fyi, the organic trade association, one of the plaintiffs in the caser against the ohio dept.of agriculture, has a facebook page. interesting to follow: http://www.facebook.com/OrganicTrade?...

                                                                                                        1. I think it is because of what you are NOT tasting. People who raise cows for organic milk avoid drugs and hormones, and the animals are more likely to get good sunshine and good grass and less grain. Non-organically raised cows are raised as volume milkers, not as quality milkers.

                                                                                                          Once you find a farmer that you can get raw milk from, you'll barely be able to look at the grocery stuff anymore!

                                                                                                          5 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: cookware junkie

                                                                                                            it was interesting to see this comment about the enhancement of good components in the milk of grass-fed ruminants. http://www.monicabhide.com/2011/04/co...

                                                                                                            1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                              Just out of curiosity Alkapal - do you still prefer the taste of organic milk, and have you ever done a blind taste test?

                                                                                                              1. re: joonjoon

                                                                                                                i DID a blind taste test. my report is upthread. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5637...

                                                                                                                i don't really drink too much milk these days -- only hall and half for coffee. but when i do buy milk, i buy organic.

                                                                                                                1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                  That's interesting aklapal, I seem to recall a CI testing of organic vs regular milk, and the regular milk won in the tests - they attributed this to the fact that Organic milk is usually ultrapasteurized while regular milk is pasteurized. Apparently the higher temp treatment kills some of the flavor or something.

                                                                                                                  I guess you're buying a good brand of organic milk! Which brand do you get?

                                                                                                                  1. re: joonjoon

                                                                                                                    i recall that i listed the brands i tested.
                                                                                                                    i don't know which brand i'd buy today, as i'm not shopping for milk, just half and half. i think it's best to get the milk from local dairies if at all possible.

                                                                                                          2. This topic should have ended with maria lorraine's post at about the 2/3 mark. There are many factors outside of "organic" that determine the taste and texture of milk. That's really the truth about most foods.

                                                                                                            A non-organic, freshly picked New Jersey tomato in August is going to taste a whole lot better than an organic one brought from a store in January from a Mexico farm. There's a whole lot of reasons why that is, just as there's a whole lot of reasons why one milk may be better than another.

                                                                                                            1. I love taste tests! I just bought 5 different brands of Sesame Ginger salad dressing in order to determine which one I like best. (Not being wasteful, I will pour the remaining 4 into a jar and doctor the mixture until taste-wise it resembles the winner.)

                                                                                                              I first noticed the difference in the taste of organic vs. nonorganic milk because of butter. I used to buy quantities of whatever butter was on sale, and freeze it. I'd unwrap a stick and put it in a butter keeper. So when the family started asking "Do we have any of that “good' butter" we had last week, I had no idea which brand they were referring to. After that I began paying attention and sure 'nuff, when we cycled into the organic butter I'd bought one day on sale at the health food store, everyone noticed the difference.

                                                                                                              Next came the blind taste tests with milk; organic vs. commercial (definitely organic); 2% vs. full-fat vs nonfat (definitely NOT nonfat, but surprisingly not a big diff between 2% and full fat).

                                                                                                              And the taste tests go on;
                                                                                                              -Strawberries - homegrown/local farm stand or organic vs. supermarket berries (no contest)
                                                                                                              -Chicken - smaller meaty rosy pink organic birds vs. sickly beige, anemic looking bloated factory birds (what the hell are they pumping these birds full of?!?)
                                                                                                              -Beef - grass fed vs. processed feed (you could see the difference before you even put it on the grill)
                                                                                                              - Wild game - even the local deer, with a predominance of sage in their diet, taste completely different than deer from a nearby area that doesn’t have sage growing abundantly (no matter how you cook that local deer you can't get rid of the underlying taste of sage.)

                                                                                                              And on and on the tests for the best tastes and flavors go because cooking is alot of work, and chemistry, and you want the best results for your efforts.

                                                                                                              What I'm curious about are the posters who insist that taste difference is only in the mind of the taster's pre-prejudiced buds. Just as some people can’t see the color purple and see things in the purple spectrum as blue, are there tasters here who honestly cannot taste the difference between richer, full-bodied flavor-filled milk, and mediocre watery tasting milk? Maybe so. But If they look at a naturally raised egg that is robust with a bright marigold yolk compared to a pale rheumy watery factory egg, can they not see the difference, and then taste the savory deep flavor of the one, while the other needs salt, pepper, a little curry, maybe some vinegar.... oh hell, just scramble it?

                                                                                                              Or is it that some people really need to believe that all the additives, chemicals, growth hormones, pesticides, antibiotics etc. in the overly processed, nutritionally sterile cardboard feed pumped into factory animals or produce, have not diminished the natural flavor or nutritional value of our food? Are these same people going to also insist that all tomatoes, regardless of how they’re raised or how much they cost, taste exactly the same, even if its a bland, watery tasteless hothouse supermarket tomato that has never known a day of natural sunlight? Is it only healthier produced foods that are immediately dismissed as "placebo effect" or “higher price expectations”? .

                                                                                                              5 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: ski_gpsy

                                                                                                                >But If they look at an naturally raised egg that is robust with a bright marigold yolk compared to a pale rheumy watery factory egg, can they not see the difference, and then taste the savory deep flavor of the one, while the other needs salt, pepper, a little curry, maybe some vinegar.... oh hell, just scramble it?

                                                                                                                This reminds me of exactly why a blind taste test is so valuable. Kenji at Serious Eats did an egg taste test - and in the initial rounds the "good" eggs trounced the cheaper ones. But then he noticed that the highest rated eggs had a deeper orange color than the supermarket eggs - so he did another test after dying the yolks green. In this test, the results were all over the place. Here's a link to the article: http://www.seriouseats.com/2010/08/wh...

                                                                                                                There is significant scientific research behind this type of phenomenon - we perceive our food very differently depending on many factors, and if we care about food, we should take the time to examine our own tastes in an objective way.

                                                                                                                1. re: joonjoon

                                                                                                                  Great article joonjoon! And that is egg-zactly why, as I said right off the bat, "I love taste tests"!

                                                                                                                  1. re: ski_gpsy

                                                                                                                    I love taste tests too! I just hope you're doing them blind.

                                                                                                                2. re: ski_gpsy

                                                                                                                  *Note: At the request of another ChowHound I posted the results of the Sesame Ginger dressing taste test here;


                                                                                                                3. I'd pay more for organic regardless of whether it tastes better but some organic brands do taste much better to me, especially with more grass in their diet.

                                                                                                                  And butter from grass fed cows and pastured chickens... oh goodness. SO MUCH BETTER.

                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                  1. re: JudiAU

                                                                                                                    That's good! Everyone who enjoys organic milk should prepare to pay more as the planting of Monsanto GMO alfalfa will cause increases in production and certification costs.


                                                                                                                  2. Girl, I don't know the whys and wherefores, but I know this for sure: taste is totally subjective. If something tastes richer to you it just does, no matter what your perception is based on. No amount of double-blind studies will ever convince me that something doesn't have the taste or feel that I experience.

                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                    1. You don't even need tastebuds to discern the difference between organic and nonorganic milk. Take skim for instance, organic skim is NOT BLUEISH MILKY WATER. Compare for yourself. This is no placebo effect unless you think a frozen TV dinner is just as good as a freshly prepared meal.

                                                                                                                      1. I know this is an ancient thread, but I found the discussion super interesting, as I recently switched from organic ultrapasteurized to a local pasteurized brand. This move was not for taste/health reasons: the store that sells non-organic milk is simply closer to the apartment I just moved to, and I don't have a car, which can make carrying heavy cartons tricky.

                                                                                                                        I found that I much prefer my new brand to the organic/ultrapast.; I now understand the latter has the "cooked" taste that phofiend cites above. The cooked flavor doesn't bother me because I mostly use milk for coffee/cooking, but now that I have access to non-ultra pasteurized milk, I find myself enjoying plain milk as a beverage for the first time in years! I have also bought non-ultrapasteurized cream of the the same brand and found that it makes fantastic ice cream.

                                                                                                                        Now because the variables are not just organic vs non-organic, but also the type of pasteurization in this comparision, I find it difficult to say what role these are playing in my preference for the non-organic milk. There's also the "local" factor (Calder Dairy is apparently a respected brand in MI). Do I perceive the milk as tasting better to square with my (slight) increase in $ spent + feeling-good-about-buying-Michigan-even-if-it's-just-for-personal-convenience?

                                                                                                                        9 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: Double Gloucester

                                                                                                                          Double Gloucester, you have revived the Bermuda Triangle question, as in there are so many variables and possible answers that I just throw up my hands and say "Oh, who knows!"

                                                                                                                          Along with the organic v. non-organic, as you mentioned there's the pasteurized v. non-pasteurized. Is the milk local or trucked in? Then you factor in the cow's diet, i.e. is it predominantly grass w/grain supplementation, or is it all grain, and does the grain feed contain a lot of corn, which makes for a sweeter milk, and are the cows roaming and grazing for a goodly part of the day, or are they confined to an industrial building and rarely see sunlight.....And on and on.

                                                                                                                          When I was a kid we got our milk from neighbors or local farmers. We preferred the milk from the farmer with the south facing pastureland because his grasses had more clover, whereas the neighbor on the other side of the hill had more rye grasses. A subtle but noticeable difference. Like honey, did the bees have clover or wildflower, buckwheat, goldenrod etc.

                                                                                                                          I find that nowadays when I grow cold and tired of standing in front of the refrigerated milk case, going blind and batty from reading labels, I usually just throw up my hands in exasperation and buy whatever's on sale.

                                                                                                                          1. re: ski_gpsy

                                                                                                                            When I can get to the relatively local dairy (about 45 min away), I get raw milk. Now, THAT is some delicious milk! (and despite being completely unpasteurized, it stays good for at least 2 weeks). When I can't get it, I buy organic. Every store I shop at carries it, at a "fairly" reasonable price- $2.99-3.69 for a half gallon, which is all I usually keep in the fridge, as I am the only regular milk drinker. We have done blind taste tests, and I can always pick out the organic from the "regular". I don't know how to explain it, but the regular tastes "chemically" to me, much the way one of those plastic cups of pudding does.

                                                                                                                            1. re: ski_gpsy

                                                                                                                              I need to make a disclaimer to my earlier post and add that whichever milk I do buy, whether pasteurized or raw, local or not, its always organic. The milk, cream and ice cream I buy are always hormone free.

                                                                                                                              Sorry to double post but I felt that since the thread is about organic dairy, I should have specified.

                                                                                                                              1. re: ski_gpsy

                                                                                                                                That's very interesting, as I haven't yet had the opportunity to compare different kinds of organic products. My post was about comparing supermarket organic to local smaller farm non-organic. I have no idea what the smaller farm is feeding their cows as their website doesn't say. While I am spending more, it's not all that much, and for me the taste and convenience are well worth the extra dollar or so.

                                                                                                                                Loved your story about comparing clover to rye pastured milk as a kid! I can't picture what that difference must have been like--very cool.

                                                                                                                              2. re: ski_gpsy

                                                                                                                                now…we must introduce the concept of terroir to milk, which is a perfectly legitimate enterprise, may i add. ;-)).
                                                                                                                                for raw milk fans, the FDA is not your friend, which i think you know already -- esp. if you are across a state line (giving them -- in their thinking -- the "authority" to seize it).

                                                                                                                                1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                  Ok, first of all, my husband is a "conventional" dairy farmer in California. Recently i have been researching this topic because many people have told me that organic milk tastes better. At first my husband said "impossible" but now I can tell you why. Also I would like to dispell a few myths:
                                                                                                                                  Myth #1 "all conventional dairies use hormones" The majority of the milk in the store is labled "from cows not treated with rBST" Our Co-op, one of the two major ones in CA does not allow the use of hormones and we sign a legal contract stating that we will not do so. The consumer wants milk not treated with hormones, so it is to our benifit to provide milk not treated with hormones.
                                                                                                                                  Myth #2 Conventional dairies "pump" their cows full of antibiotics that are presant in conventional milk...The truth is that the use of antibiotict is highly regulated and cow that are treated must be removed from production. The difference is "organic cows must be removed for one year, and conventional cows until the antibiotics are no longer present in the milk. This is tested. Dairy farmers have had to drain a whole tank of milk if a treated cow accidentally got milked into the tank. You are not drinking antibiotics in your milk! I am also interested in knowing...do these people take antibiotics that are prescribed by their doctor?
                                                                                                                                  Myth #3 Conventional cows are all confined to tiny spaces and are unhappy, In our case we are milking close to 5,000 cows on three facilities. we have open corrals and also a free stall barn where the cows each have a small "stall" that they can lay in. They choose the stalls, they are shaded, they have misters and fans. This is not a stressful environment. On the contrary, we know that stressed cows produce less milk so we want them to be as comfortable as possible.
                                                                                                                                  About the feed, types of feed will make milk taste different (cows fed carrots will produce milk slightly orance tinted and you can detect the taste. The thing that people fail to understand is that organic cows are not just fed grass and conventional cows are not just fed corn and hay. There is a total mixed ration that cows are fed for optimum health and production. This is very scientific, cows need a 'balanced' diet too. The major difference in organic cow feed is that to be certified organic the cow has to have access to pasture for atleast 120 days out of the year. during this time aproximately 30% of the feed comes from the pasture grass and the other 70% their mixed ration. The conventional cows are getting the same nutrients from a different source.

                                                                                                                                  About the taste. we have done the blind taste tests and can agree that Organic milk generally has a sweeter taste. Now ill tell you why. If you look on the ingredients, you might expect to see( Ingredients: Milk) but this is generally not the case. The other thing you see (which was observed above) is Ultra- pasteurised. This is the reason for the unbelieveable shelf life. Ultra-pasteurized milk doesn't even need to be refridgerated before it is opened!!! This high temp pasteurization does depleat the flavor and "flora" mentioned above especially in reduced fat and non fat milk. So to add flavor back in they add "nonfat milk solids" which consests of the protein, carbohydrate or (lactose), and minerals found in milk. The other two major components of milk are water and milk fat. The milk solids are what give milk flavor and lactose is the sugar naturally found in milk which is why there is a sweeter taste. nonfat milk solids are also used in production os icecream. Ever tasted Gelato? it is made with less cream and more milk, more nonfat solids more flavor.

                                                                                                                                  One other noteable thing is that milk in paper cartons generally taste better that clear plastic containers because light causes breakdown of the milk components called "oxidation"

                                                                                                                                  1. re: GotDragt

                                                                                                                                    Thank you for your added information, and "myth-busting," on this topic.

                                                                                                                                    Is it not true that the ultra-pasteurization, because it is a high heat process, caramelizes some of the lactose and that is the main source of the "sweetness" (and perhaps what they think of as "creaminess"?) that many people notice in much organic milk? I'm reminded of how as a child I enjoyed straight evaporated milk, probably because of the sweetness imparted to it by the heat of the evaporation process which similarly caramelized some of the lactose. In any event, your explanation helps with addressing the OP's question.

                                                                                                                                    As to plastic vs. paper cartons, where I live I notice that all plastic milk jugs nowadays are fully opaque, no doubt for the reason you cited. Thus there should be no difference in the taste of milk in paper vs plastic due to oxidation. I don't know, however, how widespread is the use nationally of fully opaque plastic in milk jugs.

                                                                                                                                    Few seem to realize it, but this debate about the goodness or badness of UHT milk could only take place in North America and a few other outposts. In most of the world, refrigerated fresh milk is rare or non-existent -- most milk is sold in shelf-stable UHT packs stored on normal shelves without refrigeration. On the net, I suspect such UHT milk has a considerably smaller energy footprint.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: johnb

                                                                                                                                      Interesting comment about the "caramelization" or similar of lactose during UHT.

                                                                                                                                      My first exposure to UHT milk was when I lived in Europe in 1978-9. The UHT milk definitely tasted cooked then, not fresh, to me. I locked in on the "UHT taste" then, and always taste it now. I don't care for it, and look for brands that are not UHT-treated.

                                                                                                                                    2. re: GotDragt

                                                                                                                                      None of the milk I buy - organic or not - is Ultra pasteurized, so that isn't the reason some taste sweeter than others for me.

                                                                                                                              3. Organic milk always tastes richer and more satisfying. There is no placebo effect involved whatsoever. I have noted it. My boyfriend noted it the first time he tasted mine (he'd never had the pleasure beforehand, and is not one to notice subtlety). He says that Horizon 1% (or Kroger's Simple Truth 1%) tastes like regular whole milk. That's how different it is.

                                                                                                                                Really I swear by organic milk - regular milk tastes watery by comparison.

                                                                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                                                                1. re: oingiboingi

                                                                                                                                  I trust you are aware you are responding to a thread that has been inactive for nearly 2 years.

                                                                                                                                  If you look upthread to maria lorraine's Oct 16 2008 11:20 pm post you will see what is arguably the definitive post in this thread, in which she explains why different milks taste different, and thus why the organic milk you buy tastes different (better to you) than other milk, and why it is probably not simply because it is organic but due to many factors. One of those factors is that it is likely ultra pasteurized, but you can check that for yourself on the label.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: johnb

                                                                                                                                    I'm sure it is due to factors extraneous from the organic production, not unlike many organic products which often better their non-organic counterparts. The methods used to produce said products are often more laborious or expensive, but these methods produce higher quality end products that discerning consumers with the means appreciate and enjoy. I appreciate your helpful and quick reply.


                                                                                                                                    1. re: oingiboingi

                                                                                                                                      Cook's Illustrated did an article on this a while back. Basically, yes, there are differences in quality of milk between suppliers. But the key differentiating factor isn't organic vs. non, it's pasteurized vs. ultra pasteurized. A regular pasteurized milk always beats organic ultra pasteurized milk. And it turns out, most organic milks on the market are ultra pasteurized. If you prefer the organic milk, it most likely means you have a taste preference for ultra pasteurized milk.

                                                                                                                                      Do a blind taste test and see for yourself.