Dairy Myths

A lot of controversies exist in regards to dairy, especially with milk. Some people are pro dairy, and others are against dairy. The controversy arises from circulating misinformation. It is our goal to shed light on facts about dairy and clear up any confusion in regards to common dairy myths. 

Myth #1: Milk contains harmful hormones and antibiotics 

Fact: The FDA strictly prohibits antibiotics in dairy. Cows only receive antibiotics if they are sick. Just like how us humans get sick and are given an antibiotic, cows can get sick and are also given an antibiotic. In this case, the farmer isolates the sick cow from the herd, treats it, and continually checks the milk for antibiotics until there is NO presence. Once the cow is healthy again, and the milk is CLEAR of antibiotics, the cow returns to the herd, and the milk is safe for consumer consumption. The FDA checks milk multiple times for antibiotic presence (up to 9 times!!). Any milk tanks found with antibiotics are discarded, and the farmer is issued a fine. 

Just like humans, cows have naturally occurring hormones too. These hormones may be present in small amounts in milk, but this is the case for all animals and plant products too. These naturally occurring hormones are not harmful. Additionally, some farmers choose to use bovine somatotropin, bovine hormone, or recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST), which helps cows produce more milk. The FDA and USDA have both determined rBST is SAFE to use. 

Myth #2: Organic milk is more nutritious than regular milk

Fact: Both organic and non-organic milk provide the same nutrients. The term organic refers to the organic farming practices of the livestock. These practices are as follows: 

  • At least 30% of the cows’ diet comes from pasture in the past 120 days
  • No milk from cows treated with antibiotics (refer to myth #1 for cases in which antibiotics are used) 
  • No milk from cows given hormones (refer to myth #1 for cases in which hormones are used) 

Myth #3: Milk alternatives provide similar nutrients as regular milk 

Fact: Milk alternatives are not all created equal. Milk is a great source of high-quality protein (8 grams/cup), calcium, vitamin D, potassium, and phosphorus, among other nutrients. Calories and fat are dependent on the percentage of fat. Contrastingly, milk alternatives do not offer the same nutrient profile as a glass of milk. These alternatives often are lower in protein, for example, almond milk typically has 1 gram/cup, and oat milk has 3 grams/cup. An exception is soy milk. It contains 7 gram/cup of protein. When purchasing milk alternatives, make sure to check the label if they have been fortified with Vitamin A and D and calcium. 

Myth #4: Milk causes weight gain

Fact: Research has shown that moderate milk consumption helps maintain weight, and in children, it has been linked to reduced obesity. Weight gain occurs when calories in exceed calories out. Dairy products are a great source of protein, which helps us feel fuller longer; it promotes satiety. By feeling more satiated, we are less likely to graze throughout the day or overeat at our next meal.

Myth #5: People with lactose intolerance should avoid all dairy

Fact: People with lactose intolerance can still enjoy all dairy products. In terms of milk, look for lactose-free milk such as Lactaid, Lucerne Lactose-free, Horizon, or Fairlife. As far as cheeses, hard cheeses have little to no lactose due to added acid or bacteria in the formation process. Examples include cheddar cheese, Swiss, and parmesan. Be cautious of softer cheeses that are higher in lactose, for example, Brie, cottage cheese, and mozzarella. Lastly, yogurts with active cultures also have little to no lactose because the bacteria break down lactose. Make sure to check yogurt labels for the words probiotic or live, active cultures. Great yogurt options are Greek yogurt, Activia, and Siggi’s.