Our local paper kindly covered our Pennsylvania Representative Glenn Thompson’s Listening Session at the Pennsylvania state farm show last week. School milk was a topic of interest, with advocates pushing sugary chocolate milk on our kids so that they will drink more of it, to support our state’s growing dairy industry. If milk did a body good and supported the health of our kids or our planet, that may be understandable, but unfortunately that’s a myth. Dairy is devastating to both.
Back at the farm show, the newspaper reporter added an audience member’s comment about the wholesomeness of milk, “I’ve never seen a soybean nurse its young. It’s not milk and it’s serious.” Interestingly I’ve never seen a cow nurse a human, and that’s very serious. Milk from a cow is the perfect food for a calf, with perfect amounts of fat, growth hormones, and protein for a 60-pound baby to grow into a 1,500-pound adult. Fed to children, milk grows stuff in their little bodies that isn’t necessarily good. By feeding dairy to children we are adding risk for diabetes, acne and ear infections, along with artery-clogging fat that contributes to heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and cancers, particularly prostate, breast and ovarian. That’s serious.
Milk is the number one source of saturated fat in the American diet, and though many assume that its calcium builds strong bones, research shows the opposite. According to a 2014 study published in JAMA, the more milk teenagers consume, the more bone fractures they later experience. A 2012 study showed that kids who consume lots of milk have the same risk for broken bones as those who consume little. It’s not milk that makes bones strong, it’s calcium from beans and greens, and weight-bearing exercise. I suggest a serving of spinach with school lunch and a mandatory run around the school yard afterwards.
Dairy products are not in our future. Cleaner, healthy alternatives should be our focus. I am hoping that our state representatives can support our hard-working farmers and their profits by helping them diversify, to build their business for a cleaner tomorrow. Instead of producing milk that does a body harm, why not offer incentives to produce healthy milk alternatives. Consider using all those soybeans grown to feed dairy cows to produce soymilk? I’m sure entrepreneurial farmers can think of the best ways to grow their business with new technology and their own know-how. Elmhurst Dairy of New York state is an impressive example. Here’s one of our largest dairy manufacturers who is now in the plant-milk business, making hefty profits instead of continuing to struggle just to keep their dairy milk biz afloat; a win-win-win for the farmer, the consumer and the the earth.
Producing the antibiotic- and hormone-filled milk fed to our kids is a leading cause of fossil fuel use, greenhouse gas emissions, water contamination and overwhelming manure production. Our government could be using subsidies that are presently propping up dairy production and keeping their price unnaturally low, to prop up sustainable solutions for our farmers, so that they can survive as they help our kids get healthy, and be good stewards of our planet.
Dairy cows produce milk for their young to suckle and grow from, just like human moms do. Less calves means more land to use for healthy, whole foods needed for growing human bodies!
By Kathy Pollard, M.S.