Organic, Non-Hormones Added, and Conventional Milk – What’s the Difference?

Don’t bother telling the dairy cows that it’s Thanksgiving, or Easter, or Christmas. They don’t care. As far as they’re concerned, they must be milked each day, every day of the year.

And that milk has to be picked regularly as well. Milk haulers need to be able to do their jobs 365 days a year, in bad weather and in good, without complaint.

Conventional, Organic and Non-Hormones Added Milk

There are three different types of milk that we haul: conventional, organic and non-hormone added.  It is important to note that all milk is safe and nutritious. What is different is the philosophy behind the different types of milk.

There are many reasons why dairy farmers and consumers opt for one type of milk over another. Here are the basic differences between the three products – and what it means for us as haulers.

1. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) inform us that Conventional dairy farmers contribute the largest volume to milk production in the country, as well as account for the most milk sales.

These farmers use conventional grain and feed, and supplemental hormones and medications when necessary, to manage their herds’ health, milk production and feed program.

The use of supplemental BST (bovine growth hormone, which also naturally occurs in cattle), for instance, increases a cow’s production, allowing the farmer to generate more revenue, maximize efficiency and make sure the cows have everything they need.

These farms typically have larger herds and higher milk yields; some require multiple pick-ups in a single day. 

2. Organic dairy farmers choose to farm more naturally. They adhere to very strict, carefully regulated practices for raising, grazing and managing the herds – without the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, supplemental hormones or certain medications.

The USDA’s National Organic Program sets rules and guidelines that these farmers must follow to be certified organic. They have paperwork and hold records to prove that everything is organic, from the corn they buy to the grass the cows graze on to the number of days the cows graze.

Organic milk hauling is also strictly regulated, and Earl T. Wadhams has rules to govern how we pick the milk up. Organic co-op routes are specifically designated on exclusive routes.

Typical organic farms are smaller, so it takes more farms to fill the trailer. The routes are longer and, because there are fewer plants that process organic milk, haulers may have to travel further to get to delivery destinations. The extra costs involved at the farm level, plus hauling, are some of the reasons why organic milk is more expensive.

3. Non-Hormones added dairy farming is the middle ground between conventional and organic. These cows are raised in a manner similar to conventional dairy cows. They receive the same feed but are not supplemented with additional BST.

According to the American Dairy Association and Dairy Council, from “carton to carton, bottle to bottle, there is no significant difference in the level of hormones in any milk.”

What Happens if the Milk Doesn’t Get Picked Up?

Milk from a cow is collected in a large bulk tank in the milk house. Typical farms have space enough for two days’ worth of milk. If it doesn’t get picked up by then, the farmer is forced to dump it, and make room in the tank for more milk. This is a worst-case scenario, in which the farmer suffers a great loss.

Fortunately, that seldom happens. It’s the hauler’s job to slog on through the weather, or despite whatever mechanical or logistical problems we might encounter.

Mark Stevenson

Mark Stevenson

As ETW’s Director of Milk Operations, it’s Mark Stevenson’s job to look at the big picture. Right now, he’s working hard to ensure that the new satellite communications system that is installed in all the trucks and terminals is being used, and used correctly. Thanks to Mark, there’s also a smooth transition between dispatch, terminals and drivers. He’s a problem-solver – whether it is staffing issues, maintenance glitches or customer challenges, he’s the go-to-guy. He makes sure loads are full, equipment is well maintained and staff members are satisfied.