Organic September: eight reasons why organic milk is better than non-organic milk

Wood horn Group Cow

Written in collaboration with the Woodhorn Group and Earth Cycle, who kindly supported our crowdfunding campaign last year, which has helped us to grow and invest in research this year.

It’s the start of Organic September and it’s been a great year for organic producers.

The organic food and drink segment in the UK experienced 6% growth in the past year, so it’s no wonder even the likes of Babybel are tapping into growing demand with the launch of Mini Babybel Organic this summer.

One of the biggest barriers for people choosing organic remains the shelf price (we don’t generally factor in the environment and wildlife costs when we’re rushing round the supermarket, but that’s another article!).

However, a pint of organic milk only costs about 15 pence more than non-organic milk, making it a great place to start.

We were invited to The Woodhorn Group to visit their 250-strong dairy herd that produces milk for The Organic Milk Cooperative (OMSCO) who, amongst others, supply Yeo Valley organic yoghurts and desserts as well as fresh organic milk to Sainsbury’s.

Here’s why we think the extra cost is not only worth it, but a bargain:

1. Better animal welfare
“The only way you can guarantee that the milk you drink comes from cows that live outside and graze grass throughout the spring/summer/autumn seasons is to buy organic,” says The Woodhorn Group’s managing director John Pitts, a fourth generation farmer.

“The mega intensive approach to dairying where cows are kept in doors for 365 days of the year enables milk to be produced more and more cheaply but at what expense to the animal? The welfare of the animals in our charge drives every decision we make – we believe a happy cow is a healthy cow.”

A pint of organic milk only costs about 15 pence more than non-organic milk, making it a great place to start.

2. Routine antibiotics are banned
The organic approach to herd health is one of ‘prevention rather than cure’ with the routine use of antibiotics banned. “All of our animals are, from birth, fed an organic diet and GM feeds are totally rejected,” says Pitts.

3. Wildlife on the farm is encouraged
Wildlife is generally 50 per cent more abundant on organic farms. The Woodhorn Group do not use artificial fertilisers or pesticides on our pastures and we seek to maximise the biodiversity on their farms.

A cow has a natural lifespan of 20 years or more. However, cows reared in intensive dairy farming systems are often exhausted and culled at four years old because they have spent most, or all, of their lives indoors and are chronically lame or infertile, reports Compassion In World Farming. Image: Carl Pendle

4. Better for local communities
World Animal Protection found evidence of high ammonia levels and overwhelming smells from near a large indoor dairy in Carmarthen, Wales, that were suspected of causing conjunctivitis and a rise in asthma among local families.

5. It can reduce eczema in babies
Dutch government funded research showed that mothers who consumed organic (instead of non-organic) dairy products had more beneficial nutrients in their breast-milk, and breast-feeding infants up to two-years old had 36 per cent reduced incidences of eczema.

6. It helps maintain a healthier heart
Semi-skimmed and whole organic milk has 68 per cent higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids – which help to maintain a healthy heart – than non-organic milk.

Three of our favourite organic chocolate:
1. Eat Your Hat
2. Seed and Bean
3. Chocolate and Love

7. It’s better for your immune system
Organic milk has more Vitamin E and beta-carotene than non-organic milk, which are essential for a healthy immune system, according to studies by Glasgow and Liverpool Universities.

8. It’s fairer for the farmers
Organic milk is less impacted by global fluctuations in price, according to The Organic Milk Suppliers Co-operative. As costs for machinery, feed, and specialist labour become more vulnerable to global market fluctuations, advocates of organic farming argue that it is a more financially sustainable way to operate as cows are largely feed on grass (free) instead of importing grains (which fluctuate expensive).

Pitts says: “Organic is a holistic approach to producing milk that is challenging at times but it is the way we want to farm and is what we believe in. There is a cost and so we ask our customers to share ‘the vision’ and simply pay a few extra pence for a pint of milk. I think Daisy would appreciate it!”

The Woodhorn Group are committed to helping to create a more sustainable world, including the creation of Earth Cycle which creates organic, peat-free compost and soil conditioners using recycled green waste and manure from its working dairy farm. Earth Cycle’s landscaping products are made entirely from locally-sourced recycled plant materials, which not only makes them super sustainable, but also beneficial for your garden. Benefits include healthier plants, better environments for insects and prevention of leaching. 

Main image: Carl Pendle

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