While an allergy made deciding to remove dairy from my diet a relatively easy one, there are those that make this choice for different reasons. It may be that you have decided that a vegan lifestyle will be beneficial for your health. Or you have decided that ethically you can no longer condone and support the feedlot farming industries that supply the majority of dairy and beef products in the United States.
Modern milk production has resulted in milk that is very different than the milk our ancestors drank only century ago.
The introduction of rbGH (a synthetic growth hormone) to increase dairy production has been controversial and many companies, such as Ben & Jerry’s, go out of there way to ensure they do no use milk from cows injected with rbGH.
Estrogen in elevated amounts has also been found to be present in the milk from the typical US dairy cow. This is a troubling development, especially in a society that consumes dairy multiple times a day in huge variety of products.
Free-range cows that are raised naturally are milked for about six months after they have given birth. Compare that to the American cow that is milked for ten months a year. This artificially long milking time is made possible by artificially impregnating the cow while she is still producing milk from her last pregnancy.
Pregnant cows produce milk that has far higher levels of estrogen than their non-pregnant sisters. The closer they are to delivering, the higher the estrogen. One study suggests 33 times higher!
Why does this matter? Increased estrogen levels have been linked to increases in cancer rates in men and women. Breast cancer has been linked to estrogen imbalance, but there is also research showing a relationship between increased estrogen from dairy and prostate cancer.
The modern farmer is keeping his dairy cows artificially and almost perpetually pregnant in order to massively increase milk production levels and, he hopes, his profits. Not only is this practice distasteful if you have any sympathy at all for the cow and its wellbeing, but the added risk to our own health is not something to be ignored.
Consumers of dairy products must weight these risks and educate themselves on what they are truly putting into their bodies. Those of us that have chosen a dairy free lifestyle must also advocate not only for the health of our friends and family but also for more humane practices in farming.