anna-lisa laca
March 18, 2016

Barn Buzz: Dear Leonor, Please Stop Bashing Milk

 |  By: Anna-Lisa Laca

Recently, an alarming article popped up in my Facebook feed. “Why You Should Stop Drinking Milk” – you may have seen it, too. As you can imagine, the article has sparked much debate and discussion, so I thought I’d take a minute to write the author an open letter that addresses her fear-mongering claims.

Dear Leonor Martins,

By all appearances, you have a broad perspective on a great number of things. Unfortunately, somewhere along the lines you seem to have been misinformed about the dairy industry. Your ignorance seems to have surpassed your intelligence in the article “Why You Should Stop Drinking Milk”.

For starters, why do you want people to believe milk is made of pus? You wrote, “A glass of milk contains many disturbing ingredients, such as bovine growth hormone, feces, and antibiotics. Quite possibly the most shocking of all is that milk has an alarming amount of pus.”

Let’s take a look at each one of those alarming ingredients individually.

Bovine Growth Hormone: Yes, milk does contain bST (Bovine Somatiropin). Don’t worry, since you’re not a cow, it won’t affect you! Growth hormones are actually small protein complexes and because you’re a human, not a bovine you will digest it just like protein. “It will not evoke a biological response when injected into humans because bST does not bind to the somatotropin receptors in human cells,” states an article by Allen Tucker at Michigan State University. You can read the full article here.

Feces: There are not feces in milk. Farmers monitor the quality of their milk and do an incredible job of keeping it clean. Milk is one of the few foods we eat that never touches a human hand. We share your concern that food safety should be a top priority.

Antibiotics: Every load of milk is tested for antibiotic residue before it leaves the farm. If evidence of antibiotic residues are found, the milk is dumped down the drain, on the spot. Then, once the milk arrives at the milk plant and is pooled with other milk it is sampled again and once again tested for antibiotics. If residues are found, the milk is dumped.

Pus: According to your article, you think pus can be found in the milk because pus is the result of bacteria. You are correct when you wrote that farmers use somatic cell counts to monitor the quality of the milk produced on their farms. What you allude to, but probably don’t want consumers to know, is that the U.S. produces some of the cleanest milk in the world and most of the dairy farmers in the U.S. fall far below the somatic cell count standards imposed by the Federal Pasteurized Milk Ordinance , which is the law that governs milk production. In fact farmers have financial incentive to keep their somatic cell counts low because they are paid a bonus for low counts and have money deducted from their checks if the counts get above a certain point (which is still below the federal mandate).

You have also misled about the nutritional benefits of milk. You wrote that cow’s milk isn’t meant for humans: “For a human, cow’s milk contains an abundant amount of pointless fat, cholesterol, and calories.” Please explain why nutritionists, researchers and the federal government have over and over recommended Americans consume more dairy products than they already do. Do you have nutrition training that exceeds these expert opinions? I am also suspicious of your claim that a correlation has been made between milk consumption and bone fractures. I’m suspicious of your source and you should be, too – it runs counter to logic. Your story is only as good as the sources you include, especially ones with an agenda.

Possibly the most frustrating part of your article is about milking being a nightmare for cows. Cows in the U.S. are treated with the utmost care and responsibility. Have you ever been to a dairy farm? If not, I have several friends who would gladly give you a tour of their farms. Meet Krista, Carrie and Annaliese, all three incredible dairy women and outstanding farmers. From my personal experiences, cows love to be milked. They line up in anticipation. You’d also be intrigued to know that on dairies with stationary robotic milkers, the cows are allowed to go be milked as often as they like. Some like it enough they go to be milked seven or eight times each day! I can also tell you that there is nothing violent about a baby calf being taken from their mothers.

Dairy employees take the utmost care with young animals. They are fed milk from cows (someone mislead you on that part too) and are fed three times per day on many farms. Your claim about them being “too weak to survive” is another point in the article where you sound more ignorant than you are.  Here’s a story about calf care in the U.S. My husband's cousin milks around 1,000 cows with his brother. The employee who feeds their calves has been with them for years. One day the employee came to my cousin in tears because one of the calves in his care had died. That was the first calf that had died on his watch in years. I assure you his sentiment is felt by employees who help raise dairy calves across the country.

I am so sorry nobody has shared the good news about the dairy industry before. If you ever have any questions about milk or the care of animals in the dairy industry, please don’t be afraid to reach out to me or any of the dairy farmers I mentioned above.

Kind Regards,