Hormones in Milk: Should You Worry?


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By: South Carolina Volunteer Caci Nance

Today’s consumers are more interested than ever in what they eat and where their food comes from according to Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the National Restaurant Association’s research and knowledge group.

As a dairy farmer in South Carolina, I couldn’t be happier to hear this.

It means that consumers are asking more questions, learning about the food they consume, and choosing more wholesome and nutritious food for their family. As a mom, I strive to understand current nutrition information so I can nourish my family with the best possible food.

When shopping at the grocery store, it can sometimes be difficult to understand food labels, especially when it comes to milk. I hope to give you the tools and knowledge about milk labels so the next time you encounter a “Hormone-free” or “No Hormones Added” label on your milk container, you can make informed food decisions for your family.

Here are the facts:

There are hormones in milk. Yes, you read that correctly. Every gallon of milk you buy in the store, regardless of its label, has hormones in it. But before you run over to the fridge and dump a gallon of milk down the drain, realize that the presence of hormones in milk is not a bad thing. Here’s why:

  • Milk has hormones because it is a product of nature. Hormones are naturally present in all milk, whether it comes from a cow, a goat, or even a human.
  • Hormones are just proteins, and most–up to 90 percent of them, in fact –are destroyed through the process of pasteurization. The small amount of protein that may be left after pasteurization gets broken down through digestion in your stomach, just like protein in other foods.
  • There are hormones in almost all of the food we eat. Lettuce has hormones, for instance, and cabbage actually has a very high level of hormones.
  • Hormones are never added to milk. Most dairy farmers do not give their cows a supplemental hormone, called rBST, to increase milk production. The Midwest Dairy Association reports that only 30 percent of U.S. dairy farmers choose to use rbST with their herds, accounting for 20 to 25 percent of cows. Notably, rBST is not added to the milk itself, but rather is administered to some cows in some herds. Repeated studies by the FDA have found rBST to be a safe and effective way to increase milk production and ensure a plentiful milk supply.
  • Farmers are consumers, too. We would never add something harmful to the food supply that is unsafe or dangerous because we eat the same foods that other consumers do.

So there you have it, facts straight from a dairy farmer. Milk continues to be one of the safest, highest-quality foods on the market today because of the strict food-safety controls and hardworking, passionate dairy farmers who strive to produce the highest-quality product possible. I encourage you to reach out to farmers in your area and find out more about your food.


9 Comments

Sandi Thompson

Interesting and curious. I’m a 9 year breast cancer survivor. My cancer was hormone receptor positive. One of the first things my Oncologist told me was to switch to organic dairy products. I’m going with her advice. Thank you.

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Dr Mike

There are literally millions of types of receptors. I presume they were testing for estrogen receptors. Estrogens are present in milk and meat products, and phytoestrogens are present in all kinds of vegetables. There is no difference in receptor populations between organically produced products and conventionally produced products.

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Leigh Anne

I ran across your article on Facebook. Can you tell me why organic milk tastes so much better than non-organic?
Also, last year, my 9YO niece was having lots of “girl” problems and her Dr. told her it was related to the hormones from non-organic milk. We switched immediately because we also have a 9YO daughter. What’s the deal pickle? Thanks 🙂

Reply
Dr Mike

There is no difference in hormone profiles between conventionally produced milk and organically produced milk, so that is unlikely to produce any change in “girl” problems.
The onset of puberty is generally associated with body size. As kids have better access to nutrition from an early age now than they did 25-50+ years ago, they get bigger faster, and we see a general decline in the age of onset of puberty. This is a complex issue and short-sighted to push it off on dairy consumption.

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Dr Mike

While I can’t answer the specific taste differential that you note in your organic milk, there may be differences in fat content or you may have a preference for milk from cows fed a grass diet vs. those fed a diet containing both grasses and grains.
Milk quality can be great from both conventional and organics farms, and that is more a function of focus on hygiene than on preferred production style.

Cindy smith

I come from a farming family we only have Beef no dairy. I have always thought the whole hormone issue to be kinda rediculous until recent years with my youngest daughter. She is seven and has already started growing pubic hair and has a strong odor when she sweats so after testing her to make sure she didn’t have hormonal issue I decided to remove things from her diet one by one and then add back in. It was when I changed from regular milk to organic milk that she no longer had odor when she sweat and her moods seemed to level out. What could be in the regular milk that causes this?

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Dr Mike

It’s always difficult to address the specifics of an individual case like this, and having evidence of the onset of puberty as early as seven would be extreme.
There is no scientifically demonstrable difference in hormonal profiles or nutritional content between organic milk and conventional milk to explain any changes in body odor or mood. The change in mood and odor is probably coincidence – it left in the same unpredictable way that it arrived – and we can just be glad that she seems to be doing better.

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