health news
July 17, 2012 posted by

Do You Need Milk? How About The USDA?

A pretty good article on milk came from the NY Times last week, that probably ended up hurting the credibility of the USDA as much as it did milk’s. Our government’s food police, as I’ve pointed out before, are the veritable Keystone Cops when it comes to overseeing the nation’s health. But you probably knew that, so let’s get into the scam over milk’s place in your diet.

Mark Bittman’s blog post titled Got Milk? You Don’t Need It, begins by informing us,

“Americans were encouraged not only by the lobbying group called the American Dairy Association but by parents, doctors and teachers to drink four 8-ounce glasses of milk, ‘nature’s perfect food,’ every day. That’s two pounds! We don’t consume two pounds a day of anything else; even our per capita soda consumption is ‘only’ a pound a day.”

He then proceeds down the sordid history of milk recommendations while citing some interesting nutritional facts such as “Sugar — in the form of lactose — contributes about 55 percent of skim milk’s calories, giving it ounce for ounce the same calorie load as soda.”

The post then moves into storytelling, with his own history of growing up with an upset stomach that never really went away until he gave up milk. This anecdote is common. I’ve long ago given up keeping track of those I’ve worked with who’ve seen their health improve sans milk.

Then he comes back to our government, quoting the book Milk that explains how difficult it’s become to make money selling it, “The exceptions are the very largest dairy farms, factory operations with anything from 10,000 to 30,000 cows, which can exploit the system, and the few small farmers who can opt out of it and sell directly to an assured market, and who can afford the luxury of treating the animals decently.”

In fact, if you follow health news you’ve heard that it’s even worse, the FDA has actually targeted small dairy farms and collectives very aggressively over the last few years, spending millions of dollars trying to shut down the dairy farms that actually care about your health.

He closes, most appropriately, with the lobbying scam about milk, schools and osteoporosis, adding, “In fact, the rate of fractures is highest in milk-drinking countries, and it turns out that the keys to bone strength are lifelong exercise and vitamin D, which you can get from sunshine…”

“…The federal government not only supports the milk industry by spending more money on dairy than any other item in the school lunch program, but by contributing free propaganda as well as subsidies amounting to well over $4 billion in the last 10 years.

It’s all pretty thorough and damning to an industry that’s continues to take well-deserved hits lately. He doesn’t get into the nefarious world of pasteurization, which has both ruined the would-be nutritional value of milk (it’s not really nature’s food anymore, much less “perfect”) as well as making it easy for Big Dairy to dominate the industry by using abhorrent animal raising and health practices, but it makes sense to keep the story targeted and there’s plenty of ammo.

As for the USDA, well, before you put any stock in any of their guidelines consider this line.

“To its credit, it now counts soy milk as ‘dairy.’”

Which, to me, confirms the USDA has no credit. How does soy count as dairy? The only similarity they share is a strong lobby. A soy bean is a legume. A cow is, well, a cow. Lumping the two together makes about as much sense as calling a French fry a vegetable. And who in their right mind would ever do that? Oh, wait…

Batter-coated french fries now a fresh vegetable on USDA list

I’ll shut up now.


  • This feels like deja vu. Didn't we already decide that drinking the milk from the tit of another species of animal seems gross? Or that drinking milk from the tit of anything after say the age of 2 is gross?J

  • That's not what your taxes say.

  • When I watched one of the many "underground" documentaries, I was really disappointed in my state that raw milk was a banned food. Not that we are big milk drinkers but we thought it would be good to, at least, try it. The FDA & USDA have NO credibility w/ me anymore – they want to keep Americans sick instead of healthy!

  • Though generally I agree with what you say and enjoy learning from your blog, there was one thing in here that you said that I have to take issue with, dealing on the pasteurization of milk. "He doesn’t get into the nefarious world of pasteurization, which has both ruined the would-be nutritional value of milk (it’s not really nature’s food anymore, much less “perfect”)"I would like to know what you have encountered that makes you believe that pasteurization is a bad thing. Raw milk is DANGEROUS. It contains a lot of bacteria and can easily cause a plethora of diseases. Pasteurization to my knowledge would not affect the chemical makeup of the milk, instead just killing the bacteria that are in there. You use the "perfect nature's food" line when that is easily seen earlier to be an obvious attempt at ridiculing the people who advocate drinking milk. Your paragraph on the nutritional facts is also simply nonsensical. A glass of shakeology also has almost exactly the same calorie count as soda. I know you know that simply comparing calorie counts is completely useless when it comes to nutritional value, not to mention the fact that lactose and high fructose corn syrup are very different creatures when it comes to nutrition. There are several other issues that I have with this article, and quite frankly I am disappointed in the way that this was written compared with previous articles where at least a balanced view was presented as opposed to a mere summary of support for this obviously biased article.

  • Let's rename it the "white liquid with vitamins group". I transitioned from cow milk to soy about 5-6 years ago. My recovery drink of choice is Silk+cocoa+agave. On the rare occasion I work out at a relative's house, I have to gag down cow milk + choco syrup. Nasty."How does soy count as dairy? The only similarity they share is a strong lobby."

  • I don't have time to go into a deep deconstruction of what pasteurization does but it's easily researched. The guy in the video here goes in depth about it on his site, for one.Essentially looking at macronutrients is what Big Food wants you to do. Pasteurization wipes clean almost all the micronutrients in foods, which then must be fortified with vitamins and such. In milk, it kills everything bioactive, including lactase, which is how you digest it naturally why people have lactose intolerance towards milk now. Raw milk is only dangerous when animals are raised poorly, injected with dangerous chemicals and fed sewage. Food borne illnesses barely existed before mass production. The macronutrient and fortified "essential" vitamins is how we got into our obesity epidemic in the first place.But this topic is an aside in this post, which is essentially to say that we don't need milk in our diets no matter what the USDA tells us.

  • @jennifer, the usda and fda's credibility is actually reinforced by your observations: there's more money to be made exploiting sick rather than healthy people; therefore, in keeping with our government's tradition of operating on behalf of large corporations, these particular orgizations appear to be doing a fine job. nice summary steve. these articles always reinvigorate me, but ultimately i wonder when and how things can change. regardless, i am happy to hear that fries are officially a vegetable. along with ketchup and a tall glass of milk, my usda food pyramid approved colonic is nearly complete.cheers,marc

  • Funny, Denis Faye once wrote an article about American's obsession for dumping white liquids on food. Soy, almond, rice, hemp, oat, coconut… as long as it's white it'll probably do.

  • If you're adding milk to the list of shit you're not ingesting, how in the hell do you plan on making Caucasions?

  • This isnt even half of the problems with cow milk. We havent gotten into the additives (stilbesterols, antibiotics, bgh, etc.), the inflammatory response, the correlation with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, ms, and more. But the big issue is the research from the last ten years which has pinpointed the main culprit–the BCM-7 protein fragment from (A1) casein. This appears to be the main culprit for the evils of cow milk, a problem which India, Asia, and only half of France face since their (A2) cows produce a different milk protein.

  • Just curious to what your take is on whey protein in supplements. I know milk products are in a lot of the supplements that I take and are associated with Beachbody programs. Do you see the supplement industry moving away from milk products?

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  • Keep in mind that I'm not saying milk is bad. I'm saying that you don't need it (the article author too). And that the USDA is ridiculous to claim otherwise. Milk has a lot of heathy things. Problems, too, as some of the comments point out, but there are things in milk that are good. Its two protein sources, casein and whey, both offer a lot of benefits. Whey in particular, because of its BV score can be an excellent way to supplement your diet. In some applications it beats out all other protein sources. So while we will likely get more diverse in our protein options I think we'll always offer whey. There's a ton of science validating its effectiveness and, unless that changes it will be a part of our arsenal.

  • I think much of the mislabeling of foods may be due to the Obama appointed head of the FDA, non other than former CEO for Monsanto. Now we have the FDA saying that GMO foods are safe, what a surprise!, really? safe ?!?

  • That appointment has a long legacy in government. We've been appointed wolves to guard the hen house for decades. The first majorly egregious example I can think of, though I'm sure there are far older ones, is Nixon putting oil man Walter Hickle in charge of the Interior (serving to protect the interior by title) only to fire him later because he actually did the job he was hired to do and not rape it for the oil companies. If you look back through TSD you'll see that Monsanto forbids feeding its executives GMO foods at the corporate offices. Yet the state it's safe enough to strong arm the USA and the EU into leaving it off the labels.

  • Great post. Completely agree on most of it. I think the point of the NYT opinion article was a bit misplaced, and he lost track of what is really happening to the milk industry. While I don't agree with how steroids/antibiotics are used to treat our animals, there is no denying the health benefits behind drinking milk.

  • Also, did I read that the food guide recommends 2 cups of milk per day? Since when? I know dairy products have always been a staple on the out-dated food guide, but I didn't realize they were coming right out and telling people to drink milk.

  • "Keep in mind that I'm not saying milk is bad. I'm saying that you don't need it (the article author too)…"This comment post would have been very helpful had it been included in the article itself. I never thought I "had to" have milk in my diet, but reading the article I had the impression it was negative. Glad I read through the comments.

  • I had the same thought Christian and I am glad you pointed that out Steve. I have conversations with people about milk all the time and they say similar things to the article and then end their statement with, "and that is why milk is evil". When the point here is that milk is not mandatory but optional and is better when bought from someone who didn't destroy many of the benefits of the milk in the process. Hard to find. But very beneficial. Thanks for the article Steve.

  • The USDA is a governmental agency in name only. For years it has been controlled by Big Ag and lobbyists for the industry. Ever wonder why it is that a "milk does a body good" commercial is followed by one pushing some sort of calcium pill or osteoporosis drug? If we as a nation have one of the highest per capita consumption of dairy, why are our bones so brittle & weak? If the dairy industry propaganda is right, there should never be a broken bone in this country. Dairy is not necessary for anybody, even those that workout. Check out "Thrive" by Brendan Braizer for info on dairy free recovery.

  • Just for the sake of being accurate, 8 ounces of milk is not two pounds, is closer to 1/2 pound.

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