Friday, January 16, 2009

Alphabet Soup: rBGH

When we have toddlers and start thinking about changing our eating habits, the first place most of us start is in the dairy section. And it's a good idea since our kids are gulping gallons of the stuff. On a conventional dairy farm, the cows are injected with rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormones) to keep them a pumpin'! Any nursin' mama can feel for these dairy cows and their discomfort of engorgement and the results including possible mastitis and infection. In addition, the conventional dairy farm houses packs them in to maximize profits. Many of the cows live their entire lives in small stalls. Living conditions like this are not conducive to good health and therefore they are routinely given antibiotics to combat disease which would grow rampant throughout the farm. Let's face it, unhealthy conditions cannot produce nutritious milk for our children.

rBGH shortens the (albeit not so pleasant) lives of the these cows by as much as thirteen years! These hormones can also cause reproductive problems including giving birth to deformed calves, digestive and gastrointestinal problems, and persistent sores on the cows. It is done purely for profit's sake. (picture courtesy Just Braise linked below under Resources)

Banned in Europe and Canada, the U.S. has decided to continue this harmful practice. Known as BGH, rBGH, BST, and rBST, this a Genetically Engineered (GMO) hormone that has been used since 1994. There have been no long term studies of the effects of this in our bodies or in our children; like HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) and GMO (genetically modified organisms), we are walking experiments. When we drink milk contaminated with rBGH, it is absorbed into our bloodstream where it can affect hormones in our body.

Milk from dairy cows pumped with rBGH contain very high levels of a natural growth factor quite similar to the natural growth factor in us humans. It is an insulin-like growth factor (IGF) so there is reason to believe that it does something to our bodies, especially to our growing children. It is a suspected cause in the early onset of puberty in our young girls. Increased levels of these hormones have been found in the blood of people with cancer. It is a suspected cause of cancers of the breast, colon, and prostate. Rick North, director of Oregon's safe food campaign for Physicians for Social Responsibility says, "We don't have 100% proof. But there is a lot of scientific data that gives us great cause for concern."

Important Points:
  • rBGH makes the cows sick, uncomfortable, and shortens their lives. Calves born to cows treated with the hormone have an increased chance of birth defects. The hormones make the cows make milk more than is normal causing engorgement and therefore constant milking. Engorgement causes mastitis which can lead to infection. The pus and bacteria from the mastitis can be found in the milk itself. Antibiotics (some illegal) used to treat the mastitis are also added to the mix and have been detected in the resulting milk.
  • Antibiotics are routinely used to keep the cows from getting sick in their tight living conditions in a conventional industrial farm.
  • rBGH is a GE (genetically engineered) hormone created by Monsanto; a cow cell is spliced with DNA from bacteria.
  • The milk from rBGH cows is chemically and nutritionally subpar when compared to milk from organic and grass-fed dairy. Conventional rBGH dairy has less protein and more saturated fat. Cows pumped with rBGH have an increased concentration of thyroid hormone enzyme thyorixin-5-monodeiodinase (long chain) and decrease of short chain fatty acids.
  • Cancer patients were found to have increased levels of IGF-1 hormone therefore rBGH is a suspected carcinogen. This growth hormone, which mocks the growth hormone of humans, is believed to be the the reason girls are developing earlier than years ago.
  • Canadian and European dairy products, including much beloved imported cheeses, do not contain rBGH as it has been banned.
Milk in the U.S. is treated with rBGH unless labeled rBGH-free or organic. Ben & Jerry's proudly uses milk that does not contain the growth hormone as depicted in the ad above.

Organic farms may not use rBGH, antibiotics, or genetically engineered grain to feed their cows. Almost all dairy cows are grain-fed for convenience. The organic dairy cows are fed grain or hay that has not been treated with herbicides, pesticides or chemical fertilizer.

Organic dairy farms must offer the cows an opportunity to roam. There are some farms, like Horizon, that push the bare minimum of organic standards and basically walk the cows out and around and back in the barn while other brands are more caring of the animals. Conventional farms are most assuredly using GMO grain since it is so widespread in the U.S. while organic farms can only use organic grains, but remember that cows are meant to eat grass not grain so grass-fed dairy is always the best choice.

Grass-fed animals are not crammed together since they need room to graze so routine antibiotics are not necessary.

Organic, rBGH-free, and grass-fed dairy products do tend to be more expensive. And it's understandable when you see how much less milk that cow creates as compared with the poor engorged cow. In addition think about how much more pasture each cow needs to graze as compared with the conventional industrial farm. The price can make it seem an unaffordable option, but if your family is like mine, they drink so much milk that I cannot afford not to make sure their bodies are not pumped up with hormones and antibiotics; their future health is at stake and this is a priority to me. Remember my rule of thumb is to change what your family consumes MOST to have the biggest impact on their health and future.

A Word about Pasteurization:
Years back pasteurization was necessary for sanitary reasons, but today we have indoor plumbing and clean living environments. Many organic brands go beyond regular pasteurization and are UHT, Ultra High Temperature Pasteurized to protect their more expensive milk with a longer shelf life. The high heat of the pasteurization process changes the composition of milk and how it is digested in our bodies. Pasteurization allows the casein (which may lead to lactose-intolerance: bloating, gas, diarrhea, cramps) to move into our blood stream.

Pasteurization of the milk kills valuable enzymes so many believe that Raw Milk, especially fermented (kefir, yogurt) raw dairy is really the best healthful food.

If you are interested, please contact:
Miller's Organic Farm
648 Mill Creek School Road
Bird In Hand, PA 17505
(717) 556-0672

Amos Miller offers raw cottage cheese, kefir, yogurt, cow's milk (whole, skim; in glass, in plastic), goat's milk, goat yogurt, buttermilk, cream cheese, whey, sour cream, cream, cheeses (cheddar, colby, jack; salted and unsalted), butter (salted, unsalted, cultured), and colostrum as well as breads, pickles and other items. The farm is organic. The cows are grass-fed and are fed a high forage diet; they are not fed any grain to ensure a higher quality, more nourishing, and better tasting product. Amos is a good person. You will enjoy speaking with him. Let him know that Annie sent you (I don't get a kickback or compensated for this, it's just so he knows how you found him.)

If you are in Miami, there is a Miami Raw Milk Coop that gets milk from Amos every couple weeks so you can save on shipping and this link offers more information on raw milk. You can also join them on facebook.

Dairy cows that are treated more naturally and humanely with a better quality of life in turn create a better quality, more nutritious and more delicious milk. No matter the choice you make for you and your family, it is clear, organic is much better than conventional, grass-fed is much better than grain-fed, and low to no pasteurization is much better than ultra high temperature.


Links for further information:


  1. This is a very good article promoting healthy products from grass fed animals, thanks! If your readers are interested, we offer a large selection of organic grass feed cheeses. Here is a link,

  2. This is nice post about healthy products. Dairy products is good for our health.Dairy products provides a good source of high quality protein and contains many vitamins (A,D,E and K ) and minerals. These Vitamins and minerals are very beneficial for our health.


thanks for your comments! If you submitted a question or position on one of the points, I'll do my best to research that and respond promptly. Thank you for your part in creating a healthier world for us all.