As I’ve mentioned, I’ve recently made the decision to cut back on animal products & dairy. I’ve never been a big meat eater, but I’ve definitely devoured my share of cheese, milk, and Greek yogurt. About a month ago I decided it was time for a change.
My decision to reduce my intake of animal products, dairy in particular, is 2 fold. (Well actually more like 8 fold, but for sake of time, let’s say 2.)
- Hormones & antibiotic use in cows
- Pain & disease prevention
I grew up a big milk drinker. I loved it. A glass of milk with every meal, in my cereal, whenever I was thirsty… My mom & I went through a gallon of milk every few days. Yet when I was 22, I was diagnosed with osteopenia (the ugly little sister of osteoporosis). Obviously there are many factors that lead to osteoporosis, but I still started to lose my blind trust in milk. Did you know that China has almost no osteoporosis, but consumes very little dairy? (Can you hear my wheels start to turn?)
Let me first say that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with milk or dairy- it’s not a bad thing per se. But I do wonder what happens to the milk we’re drinking when so many things have to happen in order to produce enough milk for us all to enjoy. Hormones are pumped into cows to make them produce more milk to meet consumer demand. The cows are also loaded with antibiotics to help prevent udder infections from constantly being milked. None of this sounds good for the cow, and none of this sounds good for me. (Ever hear the phrase “you are what you eat”? How about “you are what you eat eats”?)
This point hit home when I was reading the book Food, Inc. (The same Food, Inc. as the documentary, but not exactly the same story. I’ll give a more in depth review later!) There is a section in the book called “Promoting Growth at Any Cost”, which talks about the genetically engineered growth hormone called recombinant bovine growth hormone, or rBGH (also rBST), which is used to increase milk production in about 22% of all dairy cows in the US. (The FDA’s approval of the hormone was based on a study by Monsanto- if you’ve seen the movie, warning bells should be going off in your head. If you haven’t seen it, I’ll tell you about it when I review the whole book.)
Use of rBGH increases udder infections by 25%, thereby increasing antibiotic use. Antibiotic use in animals is widespread- the problem with that is antibiotics cause bacteria to become resistant, meaning infections become harder & harder to treat.
The artificial hormone also increases the hormone ‘insulin-like growth factor-1’ (IGF-1) in cows. Elevated IGF-1 in humans is linked to colon, breast, and prostate cancer.
The US is the only industrialized country that hasn’t banned rBGH/rBST use.
This is just a small snippet of the bigger picture, but it’s enough to get me listening. Such hormones and antibiotics aren’t used in ALL cows- it’s possible to find milk that doesn’t have these artificial additives with a little research & education (many organic brands don’t use it, but you might have to do a little digging- use of hormones does not legally need to be included on the label.)
But for me, that’s not the only piece of the picture. The main reason I’m cheating on my long-standing relationship with dairy is more personal…
Check out part II of breaking up with dairy.