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Why do people buy organic milk; it tastes the same as regular?

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It's totally obvious to me that there is no reason to buy organic milk. It tastes the same as "commercial" milk.

Common sense and people's taste buds conclusively prove that there is no advantage to organic milk.

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  1. um, because cows who produce organic milk are not fed growth hormones.

    1 Reply
    1. USDA legal levels of somatic cell counts, rBGH, and antibiotics? I don't buy milk, but I do think sensible reasons exist for people to have a preference.

      1 Reply
      1. I've been buying organic milk. No real reason since I don't buy organic meats and vegetables as a rule. One thing I've found with the organic milk I've been buying is that it can last a long time in the fridge. After the kids left for college I had milk in the fridge for over 4 weeks, I don't use it for much more than cooking and lattes. I thought for sure it was spoiled but smelled and tasted fine.

        1 Reply
        1. re: scubadoo97

          Yep. I understand it's ultrapasturized so the shelf life is longer.

        2. There is a difference in flavor -and texture- of the organic milk I buy.

          Cream top. Whole.

          It is sold at Trader Joe's in San Diego County. $3.49 a half gallon.

          8 Replies
          1. re: Cathy

            Cathy, you might be partially correct (on the texture component). Didn't you see my OP? I said there's no difference in flavor. I also said that common sense says there's no difference in taste.

            If this thread

            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/563750

            is any indicator, someone making a forceful assertion is sufficient to "prove" a point. I said it first in this thread. Therefore, it's true.

            1. re: Cathy

              If there is a difference in flavor, we would all have great tasting milk.

              1. re: filth

                The cream top, non-homogenized, whole milk tastes different than homogenized non-organic.

                I've done the blind taste test. Part of it is probably the layer of fat. Kind of like half and half tastes different than 1%.

                1. re: Cathy

                  Clearly if you're drinking non-homogenized milk, then you're first drinking cream and then skim milk. Obviously it would taste different. But that fact per se has nothing to do with its being or not being organic. It has to do with it being or not being homogenized.

                  1. re: johnb

                    ...and that was my point to the OP. I said there was a difference in flavor *of the organic milk that I buy*.

                    I said nothing about the organic milk anyone else buys.

                    I started buying OM because of the hormone additive factor and figured if I am going to pay extra, I am going for the stuff I grew up with.

                    There is nobody manufacturing non-organic cream top milk.

                2. re: filth

                  <If there is a difference in flavor, we would all have great tasting milk.>

                  The organic milk you drank, filth, may have tasted no different from conventional milk to you, and so your taste perceptions are accurate FOR YOU. The organic milk where you are may taste bland compared to the organic milk of Vermont, Oregon, Northern California and Western Pennsylvania.

                  Your taste acuity does play a role. While you 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 you 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.

                  1. re: DougOLis

                    Most likely.

                    I can't find cream top milk in any form anywhere else and I have looked.

                3. Good replies from all...all I can add is that buying organic isn't always necessarily about the taste. Often organic _will_ taste better, although given how the American taste buds have been manipulated by the food industry to accept non-natural or inferior flavor in their food, I have heard comments from folks who reject organic foods because they "taste funny".
                  But I think that "organic" is (or should be) really about having something produced by more natural and traditional processes. Unfortunately, labeling laws in the USA make the designation a bit unclear and as big companies are jumping on the "organic" bandwagon, there is evidently a lot of pressure from them to change and relax the labeling guidelines. Organic is becoming big business.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: The Professor

                    Exactly. I don't buy organic products because they taste better, or even because they're healthier for me as the consumer. I buy them because I want to support better farming practices that are healthier for people, animals and the environment.

                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                        I'm very much with you in the better for the environment, bonus is its better for us too. Do pay attention to how far your milk travels though. Thats why the organic milk is so pasturized, it must travel so far. I feel this ultra pasturized long traveling milk is not so good for us or the environment. However, there are only a few major producers. Organic local milk with limited pasturization....YUM... you can taste the difference.
                        Given the choice between organic or not, with few exceptions, I would still buy the long traveling milk. The growth hormone has been linked to earlier adolesence in our children....not saying that its true but ...gross

                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                          +1 and thanks for saying it so well.

                        2. re: The Professor

                          I second The Professor's point of view. In America, its 100% business driven, and the pressure for big companies to jump on the bandwagon and relax the rules is intense.

                          The problem is that the definition of "organic" is still very loose. In some parts of Europe like Germany, there is better regulation and some businesses are adhering to the rules strictly. Demeter is a brand where this tradition is maintained. http://www.demeter.de/

                          To illustrate: For a farmer in the hills of Alps, his/her livelihood is determined by the health of the animals. How much by way of immunizations should go into the animals to keep them healthy? What kind of pesticides can be used on the fields? What's the tradeoff to qualify as "Organic"? What can they be fed - e.g. Which proportion of genetically modified Monsanto foodstock are they allowed to have, if any?

                          I can say that after a few years in Europe having been exposed to a lower level of food additives and chemicals in food, my wife and I can literally feel the difference every time we're back in the States - we feel bloated from the things we are eating even though we try our best to watch what we consume. When we come back to Europe, the bloated feeling goes away after a week or so.

                          Just food for thought.

                        3. You know, it's okay to be a chowhound and care about both taste AND other issues related to food. Taste doesn't exist exclusive of other concerns. Food is complex.

                          1. I have never bought organic milk because of its hyper-inflated price. I use 3 gallons of milk per week. Buying organic would cost me an extra $400 per year - that's outrageous!

                            1. Ok? I'll play your silly game....What if I drink milk that is labeled No RGBH but is still not "organic"? Is there a special ring of hell where I'll be tormented by bitter bovines or will I be allowed to enter Elsie's pearly dairy cow paradise. Just wond'rin...

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: adamshoe

                                Depending on who the manufacturer is, they could very likely just be lying. Yes, in theory so could the organic producers, but most organic producers have as part of their business plan trying to do things different and special and better, not to just cut corners and sell it to unsuspecting consumers, like some of the really big agribusiness type companies who I will not name here.

                                But assuming they are not fed hormones and are telling the truth, that's great. But they are not fed organic feed, whether that feed is natural (grass) or grain or some combination of the two. Non-organic grain usually has genetically modified components. What the cow eats, you eat or drink when you consume its products. I don't want to eat GE grain any more than I want to ingest hormones. And they do tend to mix in a lot of filler that I also don't want my cow to eat, such as non-cow but other animal waste parts. I don't want to drink milk from that cow either.

                                1. re: adamshoe

                                  as rock says they could be lying - or they could just be a dairy thats sort of new to operating organic as it takes a number of years to be certified organic - thats the case with our local milk.

                                  1. re: coastie

                                    Somehow, I don't think that Clo the Cow, of Clover-Stornetta dairies in Sonoma would lie to me about her hormone intake! I am shocked that you'd impugn the integrity of such a fine spokes-cow. Do you really think that any dairy would be bold enough to just outright lie about their use (or non use) of RGBH?

                                    1. re: adamshoe

                                      I certainly wasn't speaking of Clo the Cow, I don't even know her. :) I was thinking more of big, agribusiness-owned companies. And yes, they lie. Just like the morningstar farms people were using not-for-human-consumption corn in some of their products until they got caught, and I think there was another major organic dairy who was not that long ago called out for not feeding their cows organic feed.

                                2. Since we don't drink a lot of milk, we buy organic milk because it typically has a longer shelf life. We don't end up throwing it out because it doesn't go bad in a week. Horizon milk sometimes lasts 3 weeks (and still taste good).

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: beth1

                                    If what you want is longer shelf life, why not just do what everybody in the world outside of North America does and just buy Parmalat or another brand of UHT milk. Then you have the additional advantage of not even having to refrigerate it until you open it, and it keeps "forever"

                                  2. Milk does taste different depending on the producer. If you've ever had milk from an old-fashioned farm raised cow, it's a richer and clearer taste than milk from a factory dairy.

                                    Here in Maryland, I buy my milk and cream from a coop outfit called South Mountain Creamery, which gets its milk from local family farms throughout central Maryland and neighboring Pennsylvania, where the cows are raised in proper fields and eat grass instead of some industrially managed diet. The milk is absolutely wonderful and doesn't have the slightly industrial taste of so many regular milk brands.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Roland Parker

                                      I think you're premise is faulty. The average dairy herd in Pennsylvania is about 60-70 cows, and nationwide it is about double that. Family farms can and do go much larger than that before the "industrial size" category is reached. As such, the majority of milk on average, as you buy it in the store, regardless of brand, is coming from cows that live on family farms, not industrial farms. I don't know where this "industrial taste" comes from. BTW, the really big farms are primarily in California, Wisconsin, New York, and places like that, and their milk seldom reaches Maryland.

                                    2. Doesn't non organic milk contain a bunch of antibiotics too? It would be interesting to hear from someone who has information on that.

                                      Typically I follow my gut. My gut tells me that food is better when it comes naturally from the earth unadulterated. I know that there are two sides to this arguement and I really don't want to get into a debate with someone who wants me to site sources. For me I just feel better going organic and local whenever possible. It is piece of mind.

                                      1. Uh, why wouldn't organic milk taste different?

                                        Milk tastes different from brand to brand whether its organic or not. Right now, I think my local milk brand options kind of suck so I'm buying an organic brand that I like. But, if I were unable to purchase that particular brand (Organic Valley) I'd go back to my local options since I think Horizon Organic Milk is nasty.

                                        Personally, my favorite brand is not organic but since I'd have to drive 1800 miles to get it (Anderson Erikson...oh how much do I desire you...how I dream of your lovely, lovely cottage cheese...), I'll stick with the best tasting brand I can get. Which happens to be organic.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: sebetti

                                          Yeah, I don't like the taste of Horizon milk either, and it's not really the flavor but to me, it's flatter or more watery or something. Something's different than OV or local brands like Shatto. I drink skim or 1%, so that might be why, but I use whole for tea and cooking, and I can detect the difference in it, too. I'm with you on the AE cottage cheese, too, though Organic Valley's is even better, just terribly expensive. It feels like a treat to spend that much on cottage cheese. I wish I could still get Friendship brand, but haven't seen it west of the Mississippi River.

                                        2. I don't think there's much difference in taste between the ultra-pasturized milks, whether they are organic or not. But I can absolutely tell the difference between the UP and the local milk I buy. It's not certified organic, so it's only $4.09/gallon (organic from Wegman's runs $5.69/gallon and upwards of $6 for Horizon), but it's hormone-free, produced by a small cooperative of small local dairies, and NOT UP, so it has a more fresh taste and I can use it to make cheese! Of course it's big drawback is that it doesn't last as long in the fridge, and we occasionally have to dump some down the drain. But that's a price I'm willing to pay, even in tough times, to know that I'm supporting local farmers and avoiding hormones that probably aren't so great for me or my kids.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: RosemaryHoney

                                            Honey, shame on you if you're a cheese maker. When that milk "goes bad" let it curdle and then strain it though a cheesecloth overnight. It makes a very nice, sweet and sweet smelling soft cheese! We used to buy fresh milk in southern Bolivia and did what I recommend when the milk soured. Course now all the milk in Bolivia is pasturized and UHT packed.

                                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                              Yeah, occasionally I do this, but sometimes it doesn't work. My milk takes too long to curdle, and the cheese ends up off tasting. Sometimes I drop some lemon juice in there for a head start, but it seems to be hit or miss with me. Any tips? And, don't worry - and bad milk and/or off-tasting cheese goes to the goats in our house :) The "down the drain" is proverbial in a house with goats and worm compost.

                                              1. re: RosemaryHoney

                                                I suspect that it was the unpasturized completely untreated milk we used to buy in Bolivia. It seemed to go "bad" all at once - and then made great cheese.

                                          2. I think every Chowhound ought to read the Sunday Times magazine piece by Michael Pollan on the food crisis that's facing us (whether we know it or not). Here's the link:

                                            http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/12/mag...

                                            (BTW it's free to register and download from the Times) It certainly puts the whole matter of organic and local in a whole new perspective.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: BerkshireTsarina

                                              For those of you who don't like the taste of Horizon Organic Milk...there is a local Cali brand, Heritage Organic Milk. It was voted Best Tasting Organic Milk in America by the American Masters of Taste. Their cows eat only natural corn and graze in pastures. SO maybe there is something to that whole idea of conscious eating..if the cows are happy, they make great tasting milk!

                                            2. If you're in the States buy organic milk if you can. In Canada there are no steriods/hormones in any kind of milk but this is not the case in the US. Especially children should be drinking organic milk. The benefits are numerous in general for everyone though.

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: mervin23

                                                There certainly are hormones in Canadian milk; they are produced by the cow.

                                                1. re: kmcarr

                                                  Haha... well said, kmcarr. Really though, Canadian milk, I don't buy organic. Also a comment about organic milk being more expensive. A lot of grocery stores don't mark up their dairy because it's considered an essential (along with eggs and some bread). Organic milk is that much more expensive because A) It's organic B) It's marked up as well.

                                                  1. re: piano boy

                                                    I doubt stores price anything cheaply due to its status as "essential." What they do do is apply low markup to things that consumers tend to remember the price of, and thus use as a shortcut to form an opinion about each store's overall prices. There really are items that many or most people remember the price of, and these items are well-known in the grocery trade, and include those you mention, milk, eggs, and (certain types of) bread. Another example, at least along the Eastern seaboard, is Hellman's mayo. For whatever reason, HM is an item that many people remember the price of, so it too tends to be priced at a low markup. I don't imagine anyone would consider HM an "essential," but of course others may differ (Full disclosure: I'm a Duke's man myself).

                                                  2. re: kmcarr

                                                    I was referring to exogenous growth hormones.

                                                2. I buy unpasteurized, un-homogenized milk from the farm. it's delicious! it's also hormone-free and antibiotic free and I've never tasted milk so good in my life

                                                  I feel good about helping to support one of my local farmers and I feel good about feeding it to my family
                                                  (I know there are detractors of unpasteurized milk... but it works for us)