When it comes to food, we all want to feel confident that what we are feeding ourselves and our loved ones is good for us and from a trusted source. And sometimes it’s hard to know if what we are buying meets both of those standards. There are so many marketing terms on food labels today that it’s hard to know what they all mean. And while any claim that’s part of a label must be true it isn’t always honest. To understand what I mean by that let’s first define true vs honest. True means in accordance with fact or reality. Honest means free of deceit and untruthfulness; sincere.
As part of our Honest to Goodness Dairy promise we will not use marketing terms that are deceitful and dishonest. That’s why you won’t see “antibiotic free”, “GMO free”, “rBST free”, “natural”, “family owned” or “local” on our label. To understand why let’s dive a little deeper:
Antibiotic Free – All milk is antibiotic free. Before milk is unloaded from the truck into the bottling plant it is tested for antibiotics and other drug residues. Any milk that tests positive is discarded. So, placing “Antibiotic-free” labels on milk implies that other milks have antibiotics and that’s misleading. Regardless of what the label says, all milk is antibiotic free.
Non-GMO- Right now there are only 11 GMO crops available in the United States; alfalfa, soybeans, corn (field and sweet), canola, cotton, sugar beets, summer squash, papaya, apples and potatoes. Which means only those with a GMO variety can have a non-GMO variety. Did you notice milk isn’t on that list? Now, what if cows eat a GMO variety of plant? In that case, those plant genes get broken down in the body during the course of digestion and are no longer active. So, it is misleading to label milk as GMO-free since it has always been GMO free.
rBST Free- BST (recombinant bovine somatotropin) is a hormone cows naturally produce. rBST is a synthesized version of this hormone that is identical to the naturally produced BST hormone. The important thing to remember is that all milk contains the hormone BST (synthetic or natural) so milk from cows treated with rBST is indistinguishable from milk from cows that are not. Either way, milk contains BST and it is broken down during digestion so it is no longer active and has no effect on our body. All of this to say that labeling milk as rBST-free is confusing and serves no purpose, so you won’t see it on ours. (But, in case you are wondering, we don’t treat our cows with rBST as a management choice.)
Natural- This label has no defined meaning by the FDA and therefore has a very vague definition. In general, it suggests that the food has no additives or synthetic substances but doesn’t imply anything about the way an animal was raised or how it was fed. Milk is a natural product. Does that really need to be stated on the label? We don’t think so, so we didn’t put it on ours.
Family Owned- 95% of dairy farms are family owned. Putting “family owned” on a label makes it sound like large, faceless corporations have taken over the milk aisle. They haven’t. When you buy milk you are supporting a dairy family just like ours.
Local- Seems odd that we wouldn’t label our milk as “local” doesn’t it? There are 2 reasons for this. One, there is no formal definition of “local” so it could mean made in the USA or your neighbor down the road. Second, many dairy farmers are local to their milk market since milk is a highly perishable product. In general, milk makes it from the farm to the grocery store within 48 hours. So labeling ours as “local” isn’t a fair statement to other dairy farms within our area.