Hormone-Free vs. Organic Milk

Dear Cooks:

I try to buy the healthiest food for my family but I am on a budget. I have heard that it’s important to buy organic dairy but it can get really expensive. Am I ok with the milk that is labeled “Hormone-Free?”

Thanks –


A Confused Mom

Dear ACM:

We agree, it can get confusing when it comes to dairy and what you should be buying. Organic milk can be twice as expensive as regular milk, so you want to be sure it’s worth the extra expense.  Food certified under U.S. Dept. of Agriculture regulations as organic must be produced without most synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. Antibiotics, growth hormones, and feed made from animal parts are also banned. Hormone-free just means no synthetic hormones have been added, as cows naturally produce hormones.

As for as organic milk vs hormone free, neither will have the hormone added, but the hormone “free”-only will still have pesticide residue. Organic milk comes from cows fed an organic diet – grain or grass. In most cases, organic cows are treated better (more room per cow, most organic cows graze in an open pasture), while conventional cows don’t have much room to move around. So that to me even means healthier milk since cows treated better tend to be healthier anyway, thus not needing antibiotics, etc.

Is organic worth the extra money? Research has yet to prove an adverse health effect from consuming the low levels of pesticides commonly found in U.S. food. But for the most vulnerable groups — children and pregnant women — going organic whenever possible for fruits and vegetables that carry the heaviest pesticide load makes sense.

Basically read the labels and make the choice that makes the most sense for your family, and your budget. Sorry there’s no clear-cut answer!

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