Organic dairy encompasses milk, cream, cheese, ice cream, yogurt, butter, and all other products that include milk. Standards for organic dairy production are structured to promote the animal’s health and limit its stress. Organic dairy products must come from cows that have been organically managed for at least twelve months.
The Organic Herd
Organically-managed dairy herds must be administered organic feed. The feed cannot contain growth stimulants, plastic pellets (considered roughage), or animal by-products. However, synthetic minerals and vitamins are allowed. The herd must not be overcrowded, and the cows must be allowed regular access to the outdoors in order to be exposed to fresh air and sunlight. All cows and goats are required to have access to a pasture in which to graze. Antibiotics and medications cannot be routinely used; they are to be administered only in cases whereby the animal’s life is in jeopardy. If a dairy cow requires treatment with a form of antibiotic, it must be removed from the herd and the milk cannot be used for organic purposes until the antibiotics have cleared from the cow’s system. Teat dips and milking sanitation chemicals are permitted; however, the required equipment must be doubly rinsed with clear and tested water before usage. Organic dairy herds are usually smaller, thus reducing the risk of disease, and also enabling grazing pastures to be selectively rotated. Because young calves are allowed to grow at their own natural pace, they build a natural resistance to disease and parasites.
Reasons to Purchase
The main reason why consumers choose organic dairy products is for health purposes. Organically-produced dairy does not contain any potentially harmful food additives, and is not aggressively processed. Consumers are also attracted to the fact that organic food production is concerned with animal welfare. Organic farmers must adhere to strict guidelines, which include humane practices in regards to animal husbandry and management. Another attractive aspect is that organic dairy products are produced through sustainable practices, which are not detrimental to our fragile environment. Traditional dairy farms depend on stock feeds that are grown on a tremendous scale and employ the use of several artificial chemicals, pesticides and herbicides. Conversely, organic farmers develop their own feed, without the use of pesticides and herbicides; consequently, they do not contaminate groundwater or contribute to soil erosion.