Organic Dairy Question

Happy Cows

Happy Cows.........

You might remember a couple weeks ago I wrote a post about switching to an all Organic diet?    Well, someone left a comment that raised some very interesting ethical questions regarding the treatment of sick organic dairy animals. Because I’m fairly new to the whole organic food thing, I decided to contact one of the better known organic dairy companies, the Straus Family Creamery, for their thoughts on this subject.

Here’s the comment that was left on my blog:

I’m a fan of locally grown, and prefer to grow my own when I can. I’m also a huge fan of grass-fed meat and free-range chickens. The one thing I will not buy organically however, is milk and dairy products. My educational background is agriculture. For me, I have the ethical dilemma knowing that often instead of a dairyman treating a sick cow because that would make her no longer “organic”, they allow her to continue to be ill with “name your favorite dairy cattle ailment here” and often feeling pain. I know a few dairymen in the Central Valley who run both organic and conventional dairies so that if a cow needs to be treated, she can be, then moved to the conventional dairy. Without that caveat I don’t feel organic animal products are ethical or healthier (who wants products from a sick animal?) and quite honestly, most organic producers don’t go to those lengths. I feel that the product from an healthy animal who, perhaps some time ago was treated with approved drugs, is still healthier than possibly sick animals producing a product entering the food chain. Just food for thought…”

And here is the Straus Family Creamery’s response to that comment:

“Hello Stephen
Thank you for your email, we appreciate your inquiry. Well, all organic dairies are not all the same. Some do actually care about their health and well-being while wanting to provide the best possible milk for customers.

In general, medical treatment guidelines on an organic dairy are as follows: vaccinations are allowed; antibiotics and hormones are not allowed.

Aspirin is allowed for use on organic dairies and is given to cows to reduce fever and inflammation. In addition, we use homeopathy to treat our cows when they get sick. Homeopathy is essentially diluted herbs.

Albert Straus originally heard about homeopathic remedies on cows in 1992 when he met one of only two large animal vets in North America who were using homeopathic medicines. Albert then began administering homeopathic remedies on our family’s own herd with good results.

On an organic dairy, cows are not given antibiotics unless it is the only way to save a cow’s life. At that point an organic dairy is allowed to keep the cow, but withhold its milk from sale for a period of 90 days. At any of the Straus Family Creamery dairies, if a cow is given antibiotics to save its life, it will then be removed permanently from the organic milking herd.

The most important aspect of keeping cows healthy is to minimize their stress. We accomplish this by providing clean bedding (we add clean rice hulls regularly), room to move (our cows graze from Spring through Fall when the fields are dry), a balanced diet, plenty of space wherever they are, a cooler climate (which is more comfortable for cows since they don’t sweat) and individual bedded stalls for each cow. It’s a pretty good life for a cow.”



I’m not really heavy into eating a lot dairy or beef in the first place, but I thought that both the question posed by the commenter and the response from Straus Family Creamery were enlightening. I definitely learned something.

What do y’all think ?

Organic Dairy Cows

Photos courtesy of Straus Creamery

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2 Comments

  1. Sarah says:

    I think that homeopathy is no way to treat anyone, let alone an animal that can't advocate for itself. First, homeopathy believes that like is cured by like. In other words, you're puking your guts up? Take something that will make you puke your guts up, and you'll be cured. Yuo have a fever? Take something that will make you feverish. And so on.

    Second, homeopathy holds that the more you dilute a medicine, the more powerful it becomes. Some of the remedies that they claim to be their strongest are diluted to such an extent that there would be one molecule of active ingredient in a globe of water ten billion times the volume of the Earth. Still "stronger" ones would contain one molecule of active ingredient in a globe of water with the diameter of our solar system. A popular dilution is what they call 60X. This contains 1 part active ingredient in 10^60 parts diluting substance. If you get that in pill form, you'd have to eat a billion times the mass of the Earth to get one part of active ingredient. So, essentially, when you pay for liquid homeopathic remedies, you're paying for water. Very expensive water. In a fancy bottle. When you buy solid homeopathic remedies, you pay for very expensive lactose in a fancy box.

    Homeopathy has never been shown to have any kind of effect beyond the placebo effect in any scientific study. So it's a placebo at best and fraud or quackery at worst.

    I could go on, but I'll just finish by saying: I'm all for healthy living (and if I could afford an organic diet, I would probably go for it, but my food budget is barely enough to keep me fed even on the cheaper non-organic stuff out there), but homeopathy is a load of hooey. Go to wikipedia or Quackwatch.org to learn more about how much baloney homeopathy is.

  2. kerri says:

    Steve, Steve, Steve, you always make me think :-).

    A lot of you know I'm a vegetarian. I don't eat any meat (red meat, fish, poultry . . . bugs . . . whatever. I knew this dude once who was a substitute teacher who claimed to be vegan and ate bugs. He was a weirdo), but the majority of my protein comes from dairy. Because the tofu/soy junk that isn't crammed with sodium is gross, and I'm picky ;-).

    And while I know SOMETIMES dairy cows are treated well, a lot of times they're not. And, I agree, I like happy cows :-). So, way to go again, Epic Steve . . . Gonna have to do some sleuthing for myself and maybe check out my organic options ;-) Thanks for posting this and enlightening us on your journey–and keep it up!

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