Milk from organic farms may or may not have more Somatic Cells. True, some may be cleaner than traditional farms but others may not and from the research I have looked at and my experiences it is all across the board. Farms that pasture their animals leave them much more susceptible to environmental pathogens that cause mastitis. Additionally, because antibiotics are not allowed to be used at all on organic dairies these infections do not always clear up as quickly leading to high somatic cell counts.
Milk with those high somatic cell counts (greater than 400,000) are typical used in processed dairy products like yogurt, or ice cream. The milk you drink is usually much lower in SCC, as it is a different grade. Most processing plants give incentives on their milk prices for having lower somatic cell counts.
I am not saying that traditional, raw, organic, or any combination of those is right or wrong. I think you just have to be aware that every farm is different and I would personally be hesitant to drink raw milk from traditional or organic farms unless I knew the somatic cell count and had been out there personally. Pasteurizing takes a lot of the risk out of drinking milk, even if that means sacrificing some of the good stuff.
If my only source of milk was pasteurized, homogenized milk from a factory farm I would drink water. I personally am very lucky to be able to purchase milk from a small family farm, that regularly tests their milk and uses 100% grass-fed, pasture-raised techniques. Pus aside, the quality and nutrient density of the milk is what I am after.
All farms are required to regularly test their milk for SCC, culture for bacteria, and antibiotic residues by the USDA. It’s unfortunate that in our current system a gallon of milk could come from a farm with 15 cows with partial grazing, or from a 1000+ cow operation with TMR mix and a rotating parlor. And you wouldn’t know the difference.
100% pasture raised would be a rough way to go, especially in Michigan winters. Hopefully they are supplementing with some forage when it gets snowy. 🙂 And there are some definite advantages to grazing your animals from a health perspective as far as CLAs and Omega-3s.
I am really not trying to hassle you, so I hope it doesn’t come off that way. I just have been on some really nice, well run (grazing!) farms that sell to regular markets. I have also been to some organic farms that have freestalls and are a mess with lame cows. AND I have been to some pasture-raised organic farms that don’t treat their mastitis cases with antibiotics (because then the animals have to be removed from the herd) and the animals sometimes suffer because of it. Glad to see you found one of the good ones!
PPS… I buy milk from Organic Valley because I have been on 5+ of their farms and they have been all really fantastically run. If only they didn’t homogenized and did a lower pasteurization temp and I would be thrilled!
The farm we buy from is not certified organic, and they bale their own hay for winter feeding. I have been out there many times, and they regularly treat sick cows as needed, which isn’t very often. I don’t think certified organic is neccessarily the best choice, because most are grain based, changing the fat & nutrient profile of the milk. My goal was to find a farm that raised their cows as close to nature as possible. God invented the cow, and they were designed to eat grass and be outside. The more we screw around with that the worse it gets. Keeping it simple is most often the best choice, with milk and everything else.