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Organic Milk: More Costly and Difficult to Find in 2012

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Wellness related image Photo: Getty Images

Anyone with a 2012 resolution to go more organic may face some trouble this year. The good news is that organic farmers can’t produce enough organic milk to meet the demand.

According to the Agriculture Department, when compared to last year’s sales, there was a 17 percent increase in whole organic milk between the time period of January to October. This means that more people are understanding the value and benefits of consuming organic goods, and even paying more for healthier food choices.

The bad news however, is that this year, organic milk may be even more difficult to find and even more expensive than before. For the first time, a vast amount of farmers are switching from organic milk production to conventional milk. The result -- even big stores like Target are finding it tough to keep organic milk on the shelves.

So why are these farmers moo-ving from organic to non-organic? Why might we be utterly out of luck when it comes to purchasing organic milk this year?

To put it simply, organic farmers are not getting paid enough for their milk.

The New York Times explains further describing that there's been a “sharp rise in the cost of hay and grain fed to cattle, which is partly because of increasing demand for corn for ethanol.”

Although the cost of organic grain and hay have risen, farmers aren’t being paid any more for their organic dairy. The result — a hungry cow that doesn’t produce as much milk, farmers that aren’t getting paid enough, and a smaller supply.

Not to mention, organic is a lot more work for farmers. Unlike conventional cow milk, cows that produce certified organic milk are not to be given antibiotics or growth hormones and they must be fed organic food that is grown without herbicides or pesticides.

So what does this mean for the consumer? Although it is unfortunate that the prices may be going up, it’s important to remember that every item you choose at the grocery store is a vote.

Supply will only go up if demand goes up first! It’s unfair that organic and healthy foods are generally more expensive, but we can hope that our purchases make a difference.

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EmpowHER Guest

As a traditional dairy producer, I can relate to what the organic farmers are going through; high feed costs make it difficult to be profitable. ALL dairy farmers are facing the same feed cost issues. I wish all dairy farmers, organic and traditional, were paid more for the milk they produce. As traditional milk producers, we face many of the same challenges organic producers deal with. We are all dairy farmers who care for our cows with the goal of producing a quality product.

If there’s no organic milk available at your grocery store or you don’t want to pay $8/gallon for milk, I hope you’ll purchase traditional milk. I can assure you traditionally produced milk is healthy, nutritious and comes from well cared for cows that live on family farms. I’m confident to tell you traditional and organic dairy producers give excellent care to their animals. Both provide quality feed, fresh water, comfortable housing, and medical care as necessary. Both traditional and organic milk must go through the same tests for quality and safety before reaching the store shelf.

January 10, 2012 - 10:53am
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