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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

                    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:

                          http://www.adajournal.org/article/S00...

                          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.

                            http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2010/...

                            1. re: soupkitten

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

                          3. re: soupkitten

                            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

                                  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)
                            ALKAPAL
                            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.<<<

                                    cheers!

                                    1. re: somenoise

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

                                      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Zqe4Z...

                                      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.