Will Buying Organic Milk Delay Your Retirement?

In yesterdays, Wall Street Journal on-line blog The Juggle there was an article titled “Crossing Organics Off The Grocery List” which was written as a response to the American Academy of Pediatrics report about organic foods.  Author Liz states that she is not going to purchase organic milk because she wants to save for her retirement and organic milk is no better for her two girls anyway. I am not going to challenge whether Liz is a good parent or not because I recently was a victim of the internet judging me as a parent with this article. I will breakdown her arguments here as to why not purchasing organic milk will cost her more in the long run and show her other places she can save the same amount of money in her grocery bill without hurting the health of her two daughters.

Some mathematics facts

  • Organic Milk costs per quart $2.10
  • Regular Milk costs per quart $.698
  • Difference $1.40
  • Increase cost per week assuming your family consumes 4 quarts per week $5.60 (this is very high estimate of consumption)
  • Increase per month $22.40
  • Increase per year $291.20
  • Increase for 18 years $5,241.60

Facts about rBGH, which is commonly found in non-organic milk:

What is rBGH?

rBGH (recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone) is a genetically engineered variant of the natural growth hormone produced by cows. Manufactured by Monsanto, it is sold to dairy farmers under the trade name POSILAC. Injection of this hormone forces cows to increase their milk production by about 10%.

How does it affect humans?

Research is still being done on this in the US but it has been linked to cancer and other serious illnesses. There are also some scientists that believe that since the hormones are passed on through the milk it can have serious effects on children and their development because the hormone effects the endocrine system which is very sensitive. Some have gone even further to suggest that it could cause fertility problems in women, but more research needs to done to really assert that claim. The European Union and Canada ban the use of rBGH because of the effects it can have on humans!!!

Other items in non-organic milk

There is a high residue of pesticides and fertilizers present in non-organic milk.

As Ecokaren of  EcoKaren.com wrote in her comment to the WSJ article:

The article you are quoting also said, “Eating organic meat, they said, could reduce the risk of disease related to antibiotic resistant bacteria. They noted one study that showed that teenage girls who eat more red meat from animals treated with hormones have a great risk of breast cancer later in life. The pediatricians called for further research into the potential health effects of low-level estrogen exposure from food.”

So if eating conventional meat increases your chance of breast cancer but drinking conventional milk doesn’t? Where do all that pesticides and drugs end up in cows – just in the meats but not the milk they produce?

Antibiotics are also found at higher levels in non-organic milk. According NaturalCheck.com, antibiotics in milk could cause bacteria resistant to the same antibiotics used to treat people for infections. If people are exposed to these bacteria, effective treatments would be harder for doctors to find. It is possible that people who are highly allergic to beta-lactam antibiotics could have a reaction to milk that tests positive for these compounds. It is also possible that routine exposure to antibiotics could foster the development of new allergies.

So what are the costs?

Health costs of one illness from getting ill from a bacteria that is antibiotic resistant cost costs per patient suffering from an antibi0tic- resistant (ABR) infections ranges from $18,588 to $29,069 (from Tufts.edu). So there surely is a cost to Liz and her family in co-payments and other costs not just her days missed from work to care for her child.

So some of you may think the example was extreme but there is a lot of science that supports the notion that synthetic hormones can cause young women to develop early. If a child does develop early there is a cost of new clothing and personal care items for one year for one girl if developing early due to hormones.

I am not even going to detail the cost of cancer because I think we all know it is way more than the cost of organic milk.

Ways to save the same amount of money

  • Do not purchase soda/juice or less soda/juice certainly that can save at least $6 per week
  • Reduce eating out or coffee purchases by one day a week a Starbucks grande Caramel Macchiato costs $3.40 (which is not made with organic milk)
  • Pack your lunch one day a week
  • Buy a little less new clothes per year
  • Reduce your cable bill one less premium channel
  • Reduce your cell phone plan (you could probably buy some organic fruit with the extra savings)
  • Or you could just work an extra month or two before retirement, we are only talking about $5,241.60

We all make choices and there are trade-offs in life with everything but organic is a good choice to make. What I think gets lost in the organic vs conventional debate is not that organic if better. Somehow people really want to say organic does not matter because it does not have more vitamins that other milk, it is milk, it does not have more of anything beneficial (though some may argue with that statement lets agree on this point for this discussion). Conventional food does have more things that can be harmful to our health like hormones, pesticides and other toxins. When there are ways we can keep these harmful things our of our kids bodies and out of the environment it is win for all of us.

I wanted to demonstrate the numbers on this topic because ironically I learned about the benefits of organic milk in 1998 from my environmental economics professor my senior year of college. He discussed just this topic and that was the last time I bought non-organic milk!

What do you think? Do you buy organic milk?

The prices used above were based on today’s cost at my supermarket for milk (you will note that non-organic milk was on sale this week but I still used the sale price)  

Save 30% and the Environment at Gap stores

WWF-Canon / Martin HARVEY

So it is give and get time at the Gap brand stores (including Old Navy, Banana Republic, Piperlime and Athleta). From August 26-29th you save 30% off you purchase and they give 5% to the charity that you choose. You can choose between the following charities:

 WWF- For more than 45 years, WWF has been protecting the future of nature. As the world’s leading conservation organization, WWF works in 100 countries to deliver innovative solutions that meet the needs of both people and nature.

Feeding America- Feeding America is the nation’s leading domestic hunger-relief charity. We plan to invest funding from Give & Get into a network that brings damaged but edible local produce from the field to those in need.

(RED) to benefit the global fund- The Global Fund, the recipient of (RED) funds, is the world’s leading financer of programs to fight AIDS, TB and malaria. Programs supported by the Global Fund have averted 5.7 million deaths worldwide.

Big Brothers Big Sisters- For more than 100 years, Big Brothers Big Sisters has operated under the belief that the ability to succeed and thrive in life is inherent in every child. We match mentors with young people in communities across the country.

Teach for America- Teach For America is a national corps of recent college graduates who commit two years to teach in urban and rural public schools. We plan to use funding from Give & Get for programs that try to sustain more alumni in the education field.

The Leukemia and Lymphona Society-  is the world’s largest voluntary health organization dedicated to funding blood cancer research, education and patient services. We plan to distribute funding from Give & Get to our local offices.

If you do not choose a charity they will NOT give the money to charity.

Here is the catch it is really by invitation only that you get this discount. So follow me on Twitter and I will tweet a link from Gap so you can use it too follow me @greenforu

Picture courtesy of WWF