J500 Media and the Environment


Generic Brands say BUBBYE to rBST in Milk by shemme

Dairy Cow

Photo by *~Laura~* on Flickr.com

Wal-Mart, the largest grocery retailer in the US, made a bold move last week when it announced that its Great Value brand milk will be sourced exclusively from hormone-free dairy cows. Other “budget” retailers like Kroger Co. and Safeway Inc. have changed their house brands to using exclusively hormone-free milk, too.

Why are budget groceries making the switch? Because customers have demanded it.

Not everyone can afford to purchase organic milk, often costing more than $3 for half a gallon as compared to around $1.70 for conventional milk. Store brands, or “generic” brands, offer the same kinds of products that national brands do, but at rock bottom prices. For consumers concerned about what’s in their milk, hormone free options from some of the most affordable brands in the US, like Great Value and Kroger, make a nice economic middle ground between conventional and certified organic.

Growth hormones, often referred to as rBST or RBGH, is marketed under the name Posilac by Monsanto, a giant agricultural company that also makes herbicides, insecticides, and genetically modified seeds. Some of you may remember that just this month Monsanto was lobbying in Kansas to keep milk producers from putting “hormone free” on their labels. We’re not the only ones. Monsanto has been waging big battles in other states as well (see this NY Times article).

Monsanto, are you listening? Consumers don’t want milk from cows treated with your product.

Monsanto may create front groups, lobby our government, and even try to control the media…

But we can all take comfort in knowing that in the end, it’s us – the consumers – who can stop a Goliath like Monsanto by simply voicing our concerns and putting our money where our mouth is. Thank you Wal-Mart, Kroger, Safeway and others out there who are listening!

Learn more about the issues surrounding Monsanto and rBGH at Sustainable Table.

~ Sarah H

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5 Comments so far
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I commend your interest in the food you are consuming, but I would like to set a few “facts” straight. ALL MILK CONTAINS BST. BST is NOT harmful to humans because it is a bovine (cow) specific hormone and therefore the human body cannot use it. All milk on every retailers shelves has the same hormones in the same quantity. These “scare rumors” have been spread by the middle man to increase his income. The increase cost of the”rbST free milk” is all for the middle man’s wallet. ALL milk is rbST free. Cows injected with rbST use it to increase their ability to produce milk. The rbST never enters the milk cow’s milk supply. It only increases her ability to produce milk.

This increased ability to produce milk by cows who are supplemented is actually better for our environment. For every one million cows injected with rbST, the POSITIVE impact on the environment is:

Water – Saves 6.6 billion gallons of water every year

Feed – Reduces the amount of animal feed needed by over 3 billion pounds per year

Land – Decreases the land area required for raising cows and growing feed by over 417 square miles

Fuel – Saves more than 5.5 million gallons of gas and diesel fuel every year

Air – Lowers greenhouse gas emissions by 30,000 metric tons per year

Manure – Reduces the manure generated by approximately 3.6 million tons every year

There is NO test available that can determine whether milk came from cows that were supplemented or not. So why would you spend extra money for something you can’t be sure you are getting? Sure the middle man will tell you that he has agreements with the producers, but with no test available how can you be sure and why should you be expected to pay extra money for something that you can’t be sure you are actually getting.

I am a dairy farmer and I am telling you this because I am also a consumer and I don’t like the way consumers are being misled on this issue. Don’t let the “scare mongers” win. Show them that you are a fully informed consumer! I am a mother too, so I wouldn’t feed my family anything I didn’t know was 100% safe & I NEVER buy anything with a label that tells me what ISN’T in the product (hormone-free, antibiotic-free, etc.). I want to know what IS in the food and you should too.

Comment by richlane

Just to clarify, BST or Bovine Somatotropin, is a hormone that is naturally produced in the pituitary gland of cattle. However, I am talking about SYNTHETIC bovine growth hormone rBST which is genetically engineered using recombinant DNA technology. Recombinant DNA is artificial DNA consisting of strand sequences that would NOT normally (i.e. naturally) occur together.

Posilac, or the rBST developed by Monsanto, is actually produced from a protein generated by a genetically engineered form of E. Coli.

I realize that small dairy farmers may be desperate to find something to bolster production and bottom lines, I know it’s difficult, but I cannot support the use of artificial hormones when I haven’t seen conclusive, published studies clearly indicating its safe when it comes to human (and animal) health.

Like you, I don’t think it’s right to charge consumers a price premium for milk without artificial hormones, unless it’s needed for and passed on to the producer. Because as you told me in a personal e-mail, it doesn’t cost the processor or the retailer anything more to package and sell the hormone-free milk any more than the conventional milk.

As an informed consumer, I’m not concerned so much with the presence of the hormone in the milk (whether it’s there or not) but I am very concerned about the presence of something called “insulin-like growth factor 1” which has been linked to increased risk of breast, prostate and other cancers. This “growth factor 1” has been shown to dramatically increase in levels in cows that have been injected with rBGH.

Don’t you think it’s interesting that rBGH has been banned in Europe, Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand? Would they ban it for no reason? Why does the USDA ban producers from treating chickens and pigs with hormones? Very very interesting, I think.

As for your claims that injecting cattle with rBST has a positive impact on the environment – it’s hard for me to take these claims seriously without knowing the source of these statistics – but I will remind you that you told me (in your e-mail) that attention to nutrition must be a priority. If the cows are producing more milk, they probably need more feed and more water to sustain the increased production. This would seem in contradiction to your claims for positive environmental impact.

As for the manure, the Center for Food Safety points to research showing that hormones entering the waterways from livestock waste has NEGATIVE environmental impact. They’ve even found fish that exhibit significant effects from this pollution in areas of high hormone concentrations (i.e. near large corporate/factory operations).

Also, from the Center’s website:
“In cows treated with rBGH, significant health problems often develop, including a 50 percent increase in the risk of lameness (leg and hoof problems), over a 25 percent increase in the frequency of udder infections (mastitis), and serious animal reproductive problems, i.e., infertility, cystic ovaries, fetal loss and birth defects.

Because rBGH use results in more cases of mastitis, dairy farmers tend to use more antibiotics to combat the infections, the residues of which also may end up in milk and dairy products. These residues can cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals and contribute to the growth of antibiotic resistant bacteria, further undermining the efficacy of some antibiotics in fighting human infections.

Furthermore, recent research has shown conclusively that the levels of a hormone called “insulin-like growth factor-1″ (IFG-1) are elevated in dairy products produced from cows treated with rBGH. Canadian and European regulators have found that the FDA completely failed to consider a study that showed how the increased IGF-1 in rBGH milk could survive digestion and make its way into the intestines and blood stream of consumers. These findings are significant because numerous studies now demonstrate that IGF-1 is an important factor in the growth of cancers of the breast, prostate and colon.”

As for your argument regarding labels of “what isn’t in the product” – would you be satisfied if the labels of conventional milk said “from cows injected with rBST, may contain higher levels of IGF-1,” because after all, that is telling you what IS in the food.

Bottom line, really, is that consumers have spoken and we want milk from hormone-free cows.

~ Sarah Hemme

Comment by shemme

Sarah,

I think you have thoroughly addressed this issue. The misinformation from animal agriculture regarding their business practices is well-documented in a variety of ways.

For example, the recent video exposure of downer dairy cows being prodded to stand with high pressure water hoses, forklifts and electric prods at the Westland/Hallmark slaughterhouse in Chino, CA is touted by the Beef industry as an isolated incident.

However, the PETA investigator who shot the video chose the plant at random. And historically, these random undercover investigations always uncover some sort of animal abuse, which includes sick/downer animals entering the food chain.

With animal agriculture’s repeated denials of these truths, it’s difficult to believe that Monsanto’s and dairy industry’s “truth” about rBST is valid.

With increased milk production in cows, it just makes sense that there would be increased incidents of udder infections, which would undoubtedly be treated with antibiotics. Considering animal agriculture accounts for 50% of all antibiotic usage in the US, it is easy to believe dairy cows are receiving antibiotics to treat infected udders (btw – no one has mentioned that blood and puss from these udders inevitably winds up in the milk people drink).

Ultimately, your conclusion is correct, regardless of whether or not rBST creates potentially hazardous milk, consumers have spoken. They’d rather be safe than sorry and keep all artificial hormones out of the milk.

– David

Comment by dshawla

Nice atroturf Richlane. As far as paying more for something identical, I suggest you apply that reasoning to your own case. If you choose to overwork your cows, I can’t stop you (you heartless creep). I can choose to buy from your more ethical competitors. If they don’t benefit from “increased production” then their price should be increased to reflect this.

Comment by Steven

Steve-First of all there is no need for name calling (heartless creep)?? Really, I will have you know that we take better care of our girls (the cows) than we do of ourselves. Their needs ALWAYS come first no matter hot or cold the weather. What you don’t know about these magnificent animals is that while they are quite large, they are EXTREMELY SENSITIVE! If they have the slightest bit of discomfort, stress, change in routine, feed, etc. their milk production starts to decrease immediately. So as you can see the only way a dairy farmer stays in business is to work night and day (and we do!) to keep these girls as comfortable, stress-free, and healthy as possible. If more people knew more about these animals they wouldn’t jump to such conclusions.

As for an increase in price for those who do not supplement their herd with rbST, I totally agree that the consumer should pay more. However, the farmer should get paid that premium for his extra expenses. However, that is not what is happening. Only about 10% of the price increase that you are paying is going to the farmer, the remaining 90% stays with the retailer & processor who incurred NO extra costs. Now do you understand why we are saying that the consumers are being ripped off?

Comment by richlane




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