Milk Labeling

Recently, there has been a marketing initiative by some dairy cooperatives to require their dairy farmers not to use bST so that the milk can be labeled rbST-free. This label information could mislead the consumer to conclude that milk labeled rbST-free is safer or more wholesome than nonlabeled milk. The processor/retailer can realize a greater profit by charging more for milk labeled rbST-free without passing on the price differential to the dairy farmer. Monsanto, in response to this labeling activity, undertook a large survey to evaluate retail milk for quality, concentrations of nutrients, levels of antibiotics, and levels of endogenous hormones (milk naturally contains low levels of steroid hormones, bST, IGF-1, etc). Commercial milk that was unlabelled, labeled as rbST-free, or labeled as organic was purchased from retail outlets in most of the 48 states in the continental United States.168 Samples were coded so that they were blinded to academic and industrial testing laboratories that analyzed the milk. Hundreds of milk samples were analyzed and no meaningful differences in the quality of milk, nutrient composition, endogenous hormone levels, or antibiotic residues were found between unlabeled milk, milk labeled as rbST-free, or organic milk. Thus, there were no substantive differences in the wholesomeness of the milk regardless of the management practices used to produce it.

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