Today’s episode is about hormones and antibiotics in dairy.
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Carla Wardin and her husband Kris are dairy farmers in St. Johns, Michigan, where they milk 400 cows and raise corn and alfalfa to feed them. Carla is also an agriculture representative for U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, which is a position that puts her in touch with consumers who have questions about how their food is produced. Carla has a master’s degree from MSU in English Literature and worked in corporate jobs and as an adjunct professor before deciding to become a dairy farmer nine years ago.
In this episode, Carla discusses the most common questions she gets about hormones and antibiotics in milk and shares information about dairy farming practices, including her own experiences on her Michigan dairy farm.
Here are the resources we mentioned on the show:
- Carla’s blog Truth or Dairy
- Carla on Twitter, Facebook , Instagram and U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance
- Melissa’s research article on rbST in the Journal of Nutrition Education
- More information on rbST from Elanco Animal Health: Truth About Dairy
- Farming and ranching information and resources from the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance
Note: After the interview I spoke with a representative from the National Milk Producers Federation and found that about 20% of the milk coming from farms in this country is sold in bottled form (so it’s considered fluid milk, or class I). Most of those products at the retail level have an absence claim on the label regarding rbST use, i.e. “no added hormones” or “our farmers pledge not to use synthetic hormones”. So if a farmer, and the cooperative that handles and markets that farmer’s milk, wants to serve a milk bottling processor, they will usually have to agree not to use rbST (Posilac). The largest end use for milk in this country (although not the majority) does NOT go to bottled/fluid packaging; it’s made into cheese and about 30% of milk ends up in that form. Most of those products do not have any label claim regarding rbST use. Some of the farmers and cooperatives supplying the cheese market may use rbST (Posilac) and some may not (only Elanco knows for certain). But cheese companies by and large are not prohibiting the use of rbST. Same holds true for many other dairy uses, such as ice cream, yogurt, and butter, although you can probably find the “no rbST” claim on some of the brands in those categories.
I also followed up with a representative from Elanco Animal Health, the makers of Posilac (rbST), and while they are not able to share specific details about how much Posilac is sold or where it is used, they did confirm that it is still being sold/used in the U.S. and also several countries throughout the world. In addition, while labeling is voluntary, if a manufacturer wishes to make a claim of “rbST free” on a label, they must also include this wording: “No significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rbST-treated and non rbST-treated cows.”
Disclosures: Melissa/Sound Bites has a partnership with USFRA and Carla is a USFRA ‘Face of Farming’