Sunday, November 30, 2008

Should you pay a little more for hormone-free milk?

In Ordinary, villagers eat dairy products from cows, goats, chickens and other poultry, which they carefully raise and tend. Villagers use skills passed through thousands of years of animal husbandry to assure a safe milk, egg and meat supply.

When it comes to protecting the food supply in our world, though, corporate expediency and profits may cloud executive vision a hair. Should we be concerned? Take a look at this segment of the film The Corporation and decide for yourself.

Producers Jane Akre and Steve Wilson thought Americans should know the truth about the hormones, called rBST, that dairy farmers feed cows to increase milk production. They say they had evidence that the hormone manufacturers suppressed, but Fox News wouldn't let them tell their story. Once again, corporate expediency and profit, this time in the form of mega advertising dollars, appear to have temporarily blinded executives.

Short take: The hormones cause terrible suffering in dairy cows, including udder and teat infections that secrete bacteria-filled pus. Milking machines can't tell the difference between clean milk and pus-infected milk. Sure, our milk is pasteurized, but bacteria levels following pasteurization are higher in milk from hormone-fed cows. We drink that milk. Our children drink it. While Europe and much of the western world has banned the use of hormones in beef and dairy cattle for years, our own US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves their use.

Are Americans at risk? Harvard researcher Ganmaa Davaasambuu thinks chances are good that we are. The Sprecher Institute for Comparative Cancer Research at Cornell University, on the other hand, says little or no evidence has been found to support the hypothesis. Of course, that's partly because almost no one has studied the issue. What we don't know can't hurt us. Can it?

Whatever science decides, our household will continue to pay a little more for hormone-free milk. We consider the extra pennies it takes to protect dairy animals from unwarranted suffering a worthy tithe. Who knows? We just might save ourselves a nasty bout with cancer in our later years.

What do you think?