Organic Vs Conventional Dairy: What Is the Difference?

Tamia Tutson
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    When you visit the grocery store, chances are you're presented with multiple options. These options showcase labels like Organic, Cage-Free, or Grass-Fed. As such, the right purchase is not always evident. This is especially true when it comes to products like dairy and eggs.

    The motivation to purchase organic products is often based on assumptions that the animals had a better life. Many consumers also think that organic products are better for you--and to some extent they are. After conducting our own research, we didn't find any evidence to suggest that either claim is 100% true.

    However, wholesale and organic dairy products are still widely misunderstood, as they exist within their own niche market. This article will explain what wholesale produce is in comparison to organic, and what the major differences are. More than this, we'll provide you with a list of some of the best wholesale and organic dairy suppliers. Regardless of which option you're drawn to, you'll find a supplier that meets your needs.

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    What Is Conventional Wholesale Dairy?

    Dairy wholesale refers to dairy products (milk, cheese, and cream, for example) sold to buyers in bulk. This is done via bulk shipping or an in-person purchase.

    Because buyers normally aren't producing these products themselves, they look to wholesale produce suppliers instead. Moreover, bulk products tend to be a more affordable option as opposed to buying in-store. Popular grocery stores like Walmart, Aldi, and Sam's Club buy their produce from wholesale suppliers. 

    Conventional dairy (inorganic dairy) products usually come from cows raised on large farms with hundreds of other cows. When you think of a dairy farm, conventional dairy farms are usually what come to mind. This is mainly because there are more conventional dairy farms than organic farms, but also because most people are unaware of what an organic farm is.

    As opposed to organic farms, conventional farms contain the following: 

    • USDA Regulations
    • Use of synthetic growth hormones
    • Use of GMOs
    • Use of antibiotics
    • Cows with shorter life spans
    • Exposure to pesticides and other chemicals 

    The above applies to conventional dairy farms, but not all. However, different brands have different practices in place at their farms. So it's best to conduct thorough research before drawing any conclusions. 

    What Is Organic Dairy?

    Organic dairy refers to dairy products that come from livestock that are raised according to organic farming methods regulated by the USDA. While the USDA regulates all dairy products, they regulate organic products to much higher standards. The USDA works with dairy farmers and any produce wholesaler to ensure that their organic products meet the following criteria:

    • All cows on the farm  eat feed without fertilizer or pesticides
    • All cows have access to free-range pastures
    • No cows receive any form of supplemental hormones 
    • No cows are given restricted medications for illnesses 

    These regulations might seem extreme, but it is for good reason. Any product with an organic label must meet the definition of organic. A product is said to be organic if it's produced without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemical agents. 

    If for any reason–usually illness–a farmer administers antibiotics to a cow, it must be recorded. Furthermore, the farmer has to include a statement that the antibiotic was used to save the cow’s life. For example, infections that are not resolved by the cow's immune system might require antibiotics. Otherwise, the infection can result in death.

    Neither farmers nor producers can withhold information stating the use of antibiotics in an animal, as this affects organic product status. The organic certifier must be notified and the animal must be separated from the others to prevent contamination. Additionally, it's good practice for the wholesaler to include this information in the wholesale purchase agreement for that specific batch of products. 

    Finally, some research suggests that there is a difference between organic and inorganic dairy milk fat, protein, and lactose components. Reports also show that on average, the milk production of an organic-fed cow is around 15% less than that of a regular cow. How much milk a cow produces depends on its food quality, quantity, and animal genetics.

    Is There a Difference Between Organic and Conventional Dairy? 

    The demand for organic (also known as conventional) dairy products has increased steadily over the past couple of years. In 2020 alone, organic dairy sales increased from the previous year by over 20% (Statica). Dairy products are now the second-largest sold organic food group behind organic produce. 

    So, why is organic dairy on the rise and is there a difference between organic and conventional? After considering the facts, we know that there is a tangible difference between organic and wholesale dairy products. However, there are still many similarities between the two. Let's look at a few of the key differences first. 

    Differences Between Conventional and Organic Dairy

    The key difference between organic and conventional dairy lies in the agricultural perspective. Conventional farmers use pesticides and chemicals during the growing process, whereas organic farms do not. Conventional cattle farmers also use FDA-approved drugs to treat cows suffering from infections.

    Organic cows are left to handle infections naturally while conventional cows do not. Most importantly, organic cows and producers must abide by USDA guidelines. This includes feeding their cows organic-only food and abstaining from outside chemicals. 

    Similarities Between Organic and Conventional Dairy

    Both conventional and organic dairy provides consumers with 16 essential nutrients. Some of these vital nutrients include protein, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin B12, and vitamin D. While both kinds of dairy provide us with these nutrients, they exist at different levels. 

    Next, both types of dairy follow rigid safety standards, even though organic dairy is more regulated. Both kinds of dairy, mainly milk, are pasteurized–a process involving heat treatment or irradiation, to make the product safe for consumption and improve its shelf life.

    Organic dairy tends to have a higher wholesale price tag, as does any organic product. If you're on a budget, we recommend conventional dairy products. 

    Overall, the bottom line is that there's no right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing organic or conventional dairy. The main differences consist in the way the dairy is produced.

    Both organic and conventional milk provides us with the nutrients we need to keep our bones strong. Though there is research suggesting organic milk is a healthier choice, we can’t definitively state that’s 100% true. Ongoing research will reveal the long-term health effects of organic and conventional dairy. 

    How to Find the Best Organic Dairy Wholesale Products 

    Organic dairy products are not limited to milk and cheese only. Other high demand products include cream, half-and-half, butter, and even ice cream. Regardless of what you're buying, it's important to know what to look for when purchasing wholesale products or fresh produce

    Wholesale dairy products are an important part of our health. Many medical experts believe dairy–milk, to be precise–is the most important source of nutrition for young adults. Even so, not all dairy is good for you.

    When shopping for dairy, be sure to look out for the following: 

    • Dairy products that are free of added chemicals
    • Dairy products from local farms
    • High protein content
    • Low-fat dairy, or healthy fat (omega-3) products (these will normally be organic)
    • Dairy products sold within a week of their sell-by date
    • Dairy product packaging that’s free of tears, leaks, or dents (it's preferable to buy milk from a glass container) 

    Of course, the dairy products you buy and why you buy them is up to you. However, following the above recommendations result in reliable outcomes. These same specifications can be applied to other wholesale products, too, like wholesale meat and wholesale seafood

    What Are the Best Organic Dairy Brands?

    If you're looking to feed yourself or your family an organic diet, finding organic dairy products is one of many steps in the process. Whether you're a business owner or a single shopper, you'll benefit from knowing what farms provide high quality organic dairy products.

    In addition, you’ll save time and money if you go in already knowing what to look for. So much time gets wasted when you stand in a store holding two jugs of milk comparing them to one another. Moreover, if you’re looking to negotiate with wholesalers, you’ll want to go in already knowing what you want.

    Below you'll find our recommendations for some of the best organic dairy brands out there.

    Organic Valley

    Organic Valley grass milk offers both pasteurized and ultra-pasteurized dairy products. Their most popular product is their Organic Grassmilk which comes from 100% grass-fed cows (this means they don't eat grains either). 

    Maple Hill Organic

    Maple Hill started as a small family-owned farm in 2009. Since then, they've gone from having one  farm to over 150. All of their dairy products, even their popular milk, come from 100% organic grass-fed cows in New York.

    Natural By Nature

    Natural By Nature cows are also raised on organic grass-fed diets. Their host farm is located in Southeastern Pennsylvania and they are fully committed to organic farming practices. 

    Green Field Farms USDA

    Green Field is a unique farm because they call their milk "Beyond Organic." They attribute this meaning to themselves because of their farming practices.

    Green Field Farms stands out from the crowd by using soil-free micro-carbons and using manure as natural fertilization. However, during winter they feed their cows corn (which does not take away from the organics), so they're not 100% grass-fed. Still, that's not an issue for most. 

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    Frequently Asked Questions About Organic and Conventional Dairy

    What Does Organic Dairy Mean?

    Organic dairy refers to dairy products that come from livestock that are raised according to organic farming methods regulated by the USDA. All Organic Dairy products will use the term "Organic" or "Eco-Friendly" on their labels.

    Are Organic Dairy Products Better for You?

    Organic dairy, especially milk, has been found to have a higher nutritional value than conventional milk. However, there are no studies that can guarantee this 100%.

    Organic dairy products are created with a more animal-friendly approach and have no chemicals or pesticides. For some, that means it's healthier; for others, not so much. 

    Is It Worth It to Buy Organic Milk?

    Many health experts state that organic milk is worth the extra money because there are no added hormones or chemicals. Additionally, the process of getting organic milk is more sustainable and humane, so it does increase the food cost.

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