Guide to Decoding the Milk Aisle
We’re sure there’s been a time or two that you’ve found yourself a little stumped while browsing the dairy case. Grass-fed. Non-dairy. a2 protein. Organic. Antibiotic-free. What does all of this mean when it comes to milk? We’re here to help you choose milk that’s best for you by defining the popular labels found on milk containers.
Your Handy Milk Aisle Guide
The number of milk choices has grown considerably over the years. We’ve gone from choosing among whole milk, 2%, or 1% to studying rows and rows of cartons, jugs, and bottles. As you scan the labels, keep this glossary of terms in mind.
Antibiotic-Free Milk: Dairy farmers, both traditional and organic, use antibiotic medications to prevent illness and heal ailing animals. When milk is produced by healthy cows that haven’t needed antibiotics, it can be packaged and sold under the antibiotic-free labeling. This distinction can be given to both traditional and organic milk.
A1 and A2 Proteins: When cows produce milk, it naturally contains both A1 and A2 casein proteins. Many milk producers bottle the milk with both proteins, which is fine for most consumers. For those who have digestion troubles when enjoying dairy products, a milk with only the a2 protein may be easier to digest.
Dairy-Free Milk: Milk can come from plant sources, which means it’s dairy-free. As you shop, you might notice cartons made from things like almonds, cashews, coconut, hemp, or rice. These are good milk-like options for those who are lactose intolerant or who need to avoid dairy products to manage health issues.
Grass-fed Milk: This label means the cows are allowed to graze and enjoy grass during their time on the dairy farm. Nutritionally, milk from grass-fed cows (versus grain-fed herds) is higher in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a healthy fatty acid that may help prevent heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers, according to the American Dairy Association North East.
Hormone-Free Milk: Dairy farmers in the United States may choose to treat their cows with genetically-engineered hormones to help increase milk production and keep milk supplies flowing. The Center for Food Safety explains these hormones are called rBGH or rBST and may cause health issues for the animals, including udder infections and lameness in the legs and hooves. Milk labeled hormone-free is produced without these additives.
Organic Milk: The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) outlines the steps dairy farmers must take to earn and use the USDA Organic Seal on their products. The USDA defines the term organic as it applies to the purchase of dairy cows, land, medications, vaccines, and food the cows have access to during their milk production years and how the milk is handled during processing.
If you typically have trouble digesting traditional milk or prefer a hormone and antibiotic-free milk that’s Animal Welfare Certified by Validus, we encourage you to try a2 Milk® to complete your next cup of coffee or bowl of cereal. Here’s our store locator to find the closest cartons to you!