Organic Milk vs. Regular Milk: What’s the Difference?

Southeast Dairy Association - organic milk versus regular milk

As a registered dietitian who works for the dairy industry, I am often asked, “Is organic milk healthier than regular milk?” The short answer is no. There is no difference in health benefits of dairy, quality or milk safety between organic and conventional milk. The difference between organic milk vs regular milk lies in the farming practices, rather than the end-product, milk.

Milk showcasing the USDA Organic seal on the label has come from a farm that adheres to the following set of regulations:

  • Cows are exclusively given feed grown without the use of pesticides or commercial fertilizers.
  • Cows are given periodic access to pasture.
  • Cows are not treated with supplemental hormones.
  • Cows have not been given certain medications to treat illness.

Additionally, I am asked why organic milk has a longer shelf life than conventional milk and the answer lies in pasteurization. Organic milk is pasteurized using ultra-high temperature (UHT) processing, in which the milk is heated to 280˚F (138˚C) for 2-4 seconds. Conventional milk is pasteurized using the standard method in which the milk is heated to roughly 160˚F (71˚C) for at least 15 seconds.

The reason the organic milk pasteurization process differs from that of conventional milk is there are far fewer organic dairy farms throughout the country. The milk needs a longer shelf life in order to travel to the grocery store with ample time for the consumer to enjoy.

Whether you choose organic milk vs regular milk, you can rest assured it has the same safety, quality and nutrition.

Lanier Dabruzzi, MS, RD, LD

Lanier Dabruzzi