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Are there hormones in milk?

Raising children, and daughters specifically, I’ve heard the comments regarding hormones in milk and the effect on the rate of puberty in children. Trust me, I have fears about the future of my kiddos; I worry if I can do something different, a simple change, to better impact their lives. Are there hormones in milk? Do you need to pay more for a label stating “no hormones”? Milk is one of the top sources of much needed nutrients; providing dairy for my children is an easy way to assure they are getting the calcium and protein their bodies need. But, I don’t want to tell you to just TRUST me… I want you to make choices based on facts, I want you to know that if you are shopping the dairy aisle it doesn’t need to feel overwhelming and choices can be made on a budget without feeling like your putting your family at risk.
The human body creates a growth hormone known as somatotrophin. It is a protein hormone that stimulates growth, cell reproduction, and cell regeneration. Cow’s naturally create a growth hormone as well; bovine somatotrophin is a protein hormone in the pituitary gland and is essential for normal growth, development, and health. The bovine somatotrophin, bST, is natural in cows and will be found in their milk. Studies have been done to see if this bovine hormone is active in the human body; during the 1950’s natural bST was injected in children with growth deficiencies as an attempt to encourage growth. Spoiler alert: there was no effect. Dairy cows naturally produce a growth hormone and it’s proven to have no effect on human growth hormones.
Knowing that the natural bST was tested not to have any effect on human growth, what about rBST? Recombinant bST (rBST) is a synthetic version of the hormone that some farmers give their cows to help increase milk production. Using rBST can be thought of as a tool, it doesn’t label the farm but allows some farms to make choices based on their operations. Not all dairy farms use rBST on their cows; some sates, Michigan is one of them, have made it illegal for farmers to use rBST in their herd due to customer requests. The FDA has confirmed that there is no significant difference between milk from farms that use rBST and those that don’t. In large print you’ll notice the brand of dairy notifying consumers their products are hormone free while in teeny-tiny print they confirm there is no difference between the milks.
Don’t let marketing strategies install a fear that no “hormone-free” label means something bad, instead we can appreciate that we have food options available. There are both – conventional and organic – brands of milk that are not treated with any growth hormone, look for labels that include “rBST-free milk” or “rBGH-free” or “not supplemented with rBST”. There will be some dairy brands that skip on the flashy advertisements, store brand’s for example; if it’s milk from an rBST free State it will never come from a cow treated with rBST. Try this next time you’re purchasing milk: pull out your mobile and go to the website, type in the 5-digit code (on EVERY dairy product) and you’ll know if this milk is local to you. Michigan friends – our code is #26-xxx, the “26” identifies Michigan and you can be 100% confident your milk comes from a LOCAL farmer who has never used rBST.
So, what is added to milk? Actually – nothing except vitamins A & D. That’s it, cow’s milk is one of the most natural and simplest food options consumers have.


How much dairy should we consume? It’s recommend we have 3 servings (about 3 cups) a day; milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream. Not many other foods in our diet contain as much calcium as dairy, which is vital for strong bones and teeth. Our bones reach maturity in our 20’s, and if we don’t have enough calcium in our bodies when needed (like when we are growing) then our bodies pull calcium from other places. That’s not helpful to our kids, or even ourselves as we….age. If you would like more information on how Milk Means More for our bodies click here, how Dietary Guidelines for Americans continue to recommend dairy click here, or Lactose Intolerance options that still include real cows milk and benefits click here.

Milk simply doesn’t compare to other drinks, it is fresh-local-responsibly produced and healthy for your family. From farm to fridge in 48 hours and contains the essential nutrients to help our bodies & bones. Dairy farmers are dad’s and mom’s too!! We have a shared responsibility to care for our animals and provide healthy, nutritious food for our families. I hope you’ll feel confident purchasing the next gallon of milk for your family, conventional or organic, milk does not have growth hormones added to it.

For more about my farm family follow along on Facebook and Instagram at Michigan Farm Girl. Please leave a comment or send an email if you’ve got dairy questions I may be able to help with.

Xo, Nicole

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