Antibiotics in Milk

I don’t know much about animal agriculture on a personal level.  We are a crop farm, so when I started to get questions regarding the use of antibiotics in milk production I headed to the source for some good information.

And here he is…let me introduce you to Derrick Josi, also known as Tillamook Dairy Farmer! 16427705_1270168536364131_3185010092142991911_nTillamook Dairy Farmer has been on a mission to let people know more about the diary industry and milk (check out and like his Facebook page).  Derrick is a fourth generation dairyman in the heart of Tillamook, Oregon.  They raise their cows on 450 acres, milking 500 jersey cows every single day!  Much of the milk his cows produce is used for (obviously) milk in the grocery store, cheese (my favorite, Tillamook Cheese), and even coffee creamer. 

The photo below is one of this very dairy farmer getting his morning coffee creamer, straight from the source!  Now that is real cream!15826167_1243084212405897_9125355541175885199_n

I asked a few questions of this Dairy farmer specifically about antibiotics and their cows that they milk, here is what he had to say…

Do you use antibiotics on your dairy cows?
Yes we do. We use them sparingly when they are needed. For example if a cow gets mastitis or Pneumonia. 

This was shared on his Facebook page awhile back…

16002924_1253058034741848_1094932578939830172_n“I was excited to video how we handle cows that are on antibiotics for you tonight! Got in the parlor and looked at our white board where we write the girls number and treatment. Only to find out that on our farm of five hundred milk cows we have zero cows being treated. Which makes it really hard to video our procedure. On the flip side it’s a testament to our procedures. Usually we average 3-5 cows being treated.”

Do antibiotics show up in your milk, even in trace amounts?
Antibiotics do not show up in our milk. When we have a cow being treated her milk withheld and dumped. It is tested before we allow her to be milked into the tank. Our milk is tested by the milk truck driver before he allows it to leave the farm.  If our milk were to test positive the whole tank of 5000 gallons would be dumped. We would be fined and lose the revenue from the milk.

What is the best way for me to know that I’m getting the safest milk possible when buying at the grocery store? For example should I buy organic, hormone free, all natural, or just regular? 
All milk is safe and healthy at the store.  They are identical in taste and quality.  All types are tested and free of antibiotics (yes, even organic is tested).  Anyone who tells you there’s a difference is trying to sell you something.

So my answer to the “issue” of antibiotics in milk, is that there actually is no issue at all,  all milk sold at the grocery store is antibiotic free!


So is it worth it to buy organic just because you don’t want antibiotics?

Not in the least.  Like was said before, yes antibiotics are used on cows that produce the wonderful milk that we all enjoy.  But that doesn’t mean that it gets in your milk, the milk is tested and safe.  I actually sat down and looked at the price difference between buying organic versus conventional and wow was I surprised!  Organic milk at my grocery store is $6.79 a gallon, regular milk is $3.69.  It’s almost twice the cost!  And when I do the math, it would cost my family $483.60 more a year in just milk!!! 

I hope this helps to clear up some misconceptions.  If you have any questions be sure to post them!  Also a big thank you to Tillamook Dairy Farmer for helping us all to see a little of the reality that is Dairy Farming.  Check out his Facebook page where you will get, in his own words, “…a live experience on the day to day activities on my dairy. Sometimes it will be sarcasm like the meme about the cold weather. Other times cute and heartwarming pictures of cows and calves (just wait till spring when they are back out on pasture).”

Here is another link that has some great information:
Milk & Antibiotics: What you need to know

What Crops are GMO’s?

What crops are GMO’s?  This question I’m guessing is a very popular one.  I’ve personally typed it into Google a number of times, I’m sure there are many others out there who have too!  So it’s not surprising that even our local grocery store might be a little confused.  There was an ad that ran in our local paper last weekend.  It was from our local grocery store, Fred Meyer.  In the ad were a few things that looked “off” to me.  A photo of the ad is below, can you see what I’m talking about?

gmo free plantsYes, GMO Free herbs, GMO free vegetable plants are both listed as for sale at Fred Meyer…well yee haw what a deal right?!  Finally some options of where to get your GMO free gardening plants, but wait…there is no such things as GMO herbs and there is no such thing as GMO tomato plants, lettuce, onions, egg plant, peppers….  So what the heck Fred Meyer?  What’s with the misinformation?  Are you trying to confuse consumers more?  As a consumer do you feel duped?  I’m going to throw it out there that I don’t always remember exactly which crops off the top of my head are GMO, so here is a quick reference.  Currently there are only ten, and while they extend into many different food items, there truly are only ten crops that are GMO, (a few as you can see that will be out there and more available this year).


I’m not upset with Fred Meyer.  Maybe this was an honest mistake, maybe this was a marketing ploy, maybe this was…well I don’t know what this was to be honest.  But I think that if you’re going to be a source for people to buy their food you have got to take some responsibility for the type of marketing and messages that you send to consumers.  Consumers (I would include myself in this category) while feeling the need to know what is in their food and what they put in their body are overwhelmed with fear marketing, misinformation, and shoddy science.  So who do they trust?  Who can they turn to and in a convenient place, why not the grocery store?

In my perfect world, companies that are trusted, such as your local grocer would speak up about GMO’s, they would do their due diligence to look at the science and share that with their customers.  I feel like more and more companies are running scared from losing one sale to a small percentage of people who are believing the fear of Food Babe and Dr. Oz, before they even have a chance of learning the truth behind the science.

I feel like a broken record at times, but folks it is going to take ALL of us to feed the people in this world as it grows and grows.  It is going to take science, technology, organic, conventional, small and large farms to get food to our tables, so why not help be a proactive participant in that process?  Fred Meyer, I’m calling you out a little here, take this chance to start a conversation, be a reliable source, not just one that jumps on the bandwagon of fear marketing, but one that consumers can trust.

For some good reading on the science of GMO’s check out these sites:

Take the GMO Quiz: How much do you know?

10 Things you may not know about GMOs

What is a GMO and Why Should I Care?

Q&A with Simplot Scientist Nicole Nichol

Did you Know Insulin is a GMO?

The Biggest Concerns about GMO Food aren’t really about GMO’s

Bacteria Made Natural GMO Sweet Potato

There is a distinction between GE (Genetically Engineered) and GMO (Genetically Modified Organism). Because the term “GMO” is more familiar with the general public, I am choosing to use this terminology in this blog.


Dissecting the article…”Dissecting Organic”

There has been a flush of misinformation going around lately about organic versus conventional food choices and farming.  Just recently an article was published in the Statesman Journal entitled, “Dissecting Organic, what it means, plus pros, cons.”

I saw this article on Facebook and was pretty astonished at how much misinformation went into the article.  Considering here in Oregon we grow over 280 different crops, many of which are the foods that we all love to eat, I really hoped for some type of farmer input.  But unfortunately the article was written all about how farmers farm, without any farmers input to speak of.  So first of all I would like to invite this author out to our farm, it might be too late for the article, but after seeing what we are up to, and what many farmers conventional or organic do, I think it would provide a different tone for any future publications.  I went through the article and found 5 points that I think were a misrepresentation of both the conventional and organic farmers.

Claim 1: “Organic farmers also use natural fertilizers, rotate crops or use mulch to manage weeds, and they do not use pesticides.”
My biggest frustration here is that she is claiming that organic farms don’t use pesticides.  When they actually do.  Many times at higher rates because they are less efficient that our synthetic ones.  It might actually be interesting to note that Bt, which is the insecticide that is produced by GMO corn is also allowed under organic standards to be sprayed on the top of organic crops.  You can find the list of approved organic pesticides here.  The other things she mentions, natural fertilizers (also used by some conventional farmers…especially ones near daries and waste plants that have it available), rotation of crop (constantly done on our farm), using mulch to manage weeds (not done as much but is used mostly in our hazelnut orchards).

Claim 2: (Nutritional difference) The answer is not 100 percent certain, though several studies have been performed, and more are in progress.
This one is true, there isn’t a total consensus on the nutritional difference.  You can find study after study that claims one is better than the other, or they are not at all different.  For example there was one from Stanford in 2012, claiming little nutritional difference.  It is interesting though, because at the end of every article it seems, no matter what they have found in their specific “study” they all seem to have consensus on the fact that in the end if you eat more fruits and vegetables, and wash them before you eat them, you are doing more for your health than making any other decision.    There is a really cool website, Safe Fruits and Veggies that actually gives you a calculator to see how many servings of a specific food (if the food is at its highest residues the USDA allows) you would have to consume to have any effect.  For example, a woman could consume 10,877 servings of lettuce in one day without any effect even if the lettuce has the highest residues.  That is pretty amazing and puts a lot into perspective.  Let’s all remember that anything, even oxygen and water can be toxic at certain levels.

Claim 3: …the use of fast-growth fertilizers in conventional growing means that plants spend more of their energy on getting as large as possible, while less energy is allocated to building nutrients.
I have never heard this claim before.  But I would go back to my explanation for claim 2 here.  I will say however that I have not ever heard of a “fast growth” fertilizer.  Maybe it’s used in other crops that I don’t grow, but I would be curious to see what she is talking about here.  I will say that the food crops we grow have to fit into a specific size, larger isn’t better.  Actually if our peas or green beans get too big, we are docked on our price.

Claim 4. Organic growers, however, utilize tactics such as predator insects, insect traps, beneficial microorganisms and careful crop selection (disease-resistant varieties) to control crop-damaging pests.
This is true, but again, so do conventional farmers.  It is written as if the use of these methods is solely done by organic farmers, and that just isn’t true.  We also use the same tactics to utilize thresholds in our crops.  On our farm we have used insect traps, pheromone traps, and beneficial insects as well.  We also have planted disease resistant crops and continue to try to find new ways to do more with less.  And I know that you will find this to be something that all farmers have done for centuries!  The days of spraying just because it feels good, or you love to spend the money, well, those days never were!

Claim 5. Organic farming practices keep the environment in mind. They are designed to protect the environment by conserving water and soil quality and reducing pollution.
I believe that all farmers keep the environment in mind.  We all work to conserve water, keep our soil quality up, all while reducing pollution.  I would even bet that many conventional farmers have a smaller carbon footprint per acre than some organic farms considering all the tillage they have to do to keep up with the weeds, not to mention how many times they go over their fields with pesticides that aren’t as effective.  Fuel is fuel.  And for organic growers it takes more fuel to get the same nutrients, the same results, as it does conventional.  I’m not saying it’s good or bad, but all types of farming practices have their give and take.  No matter what kind of farm you have, pests and weeds come along for the ride and they have to be managed.

All farmers take care of the land and are some of the biggest environmentalists, I would dare say many were environmentalists before environmentalist was cool.  Treating the land well doesn’t just make us feel good, it pays dividends year after year. Our soil gives back what we put in, this knowledge has been in our blood since we were born into this life and later chose it because the passion we have for farming can’t be denied.

Just a few examples would be our crop rotation that allows us to give the soil a break from the same crop over and over again.  We use no till and minimum tillage practices when we can to also allow beetles and worms to continue working hard for us under the soil surface.  This also reduces our carbon footprint, saves us money in fuel, and decreases tractor wear and tear.  When we do work the ground we do it with as little compaction as possible, because it’s good for soil structure and our plants don’t want to grow in compacted soil that isn’t healthy.  We mulch around hazelnut trees when they are small to conserve water through the summer.  We plant cover crop in areas with high water washing through to save our topsoil.  We have a state of the art irrigation system that allows us to get the exact amount of water where we need it in a timely manner.  Really the list goes on and on.  And these are things that all farmers do, because I’ll say it again, if we don’t treat our land well it won’t treat us well, and that puts a farmer out of business very quickly.

FullSizeRender (4)a

Even after all of these claims, here is the biggest frustration that I have, this nurse, who I am sure if very competent in her field, wrote this article without any sources and any input from farmers!!  Yet people from across this state are reading her words and taking it at face value.  In my opinion there is no excuse for putting an article out there for the public to see without any input from the people that actually do the work.  I would be extremely skeptical if I read an article about nursing that was written by a farmer, without any input from someone in the actual field.  While the urban and rural divide may be getting larger in the sense of understanding of what the other is doing, physically we have never been more close neighbors than before, especially in the Willamette Valley here in Oregon.  I really hope that this article prompted more people to ask questions, to reach out to farmers, instead to just reach for the organic blueberries in the grocery store without any hesitation.

I have said it before and I will say it again.  I don’t mean to be down playing the value of organic agriculture is having in Oregon.  It’s a viable and growing market that does well for our state and many of our state’s farmers.  But let’s not try to hurt the conventional farmers just to increase the market share of organic farmers.  There is room for all types of agriculture in this state, because we have a lot of mouths to feed, and we as consumers have more choices than ever as to what we feed to our families.  Let’s try to reach more for fruits and veggies rather than french fries and milkshakes.  That in the end would do more for the health of our families than any amount of organic versus conventional decision.


%d bloggers like this: