In the business of dairy farming, there are two key drivers: quality of milk and the health of the cows. On large, industrialized dairy farms that are completely mechanized, these factors tend to be viewed as less of a concern due to supply and demand for large quantities of milk. Female cows are repeatedly impregnated and subjected to the use of synthetic hormone recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBGH) to increase milk output. This hormone forces a cow to produce unorthodox quantities of milk, making them prone to infection. The most frequent type of infection is of the cow’s udder (mastitis). Treatment requires the use of antibiotics. As a result traces of these antibiotics and hormones have been found in samples of milk along with other dairy products. According to a report published by Humane Society of the United States the nation’s largest animal protection organization— HSUS (2010) claims:
Clinical mastitis is the most commonly reported health problem in the U.S. dairy
industry, responsible for 16.5% of recorded dairy cow deaths. The trauma caused by milking machines to teat tissues and genetic selection for extremely high milk yields have been identified as predisposing factors for this painful swelling of the cows’ mammary glands. Most cases of mastitis are caused by infections by pathogenic bacteria introduced through the teat opening.
The composition of cow’s milk varies with stage of lactation, age, breed, nutrition, health status of the udder, and has obvious nutrient concentration differences when compared with that of human milk (Haug, A., Hostmark, A. T., & Harstad, O. M., 2007). There are numerous factors that negatively contribute to the quality of milk humans consume, such as flies, feces, poor nutrition, bacteria, rodents, and cross contamination by humans. Another complicating factor is the increased levels of Insulin Growth Factor-1 hormone production caused by the use of rBGH. While this hormone is necessary for proper growth in children, it also contributes to the growth of tumors in humans. However, there are types of processing in place to protect human health.
In 1864, Louis Pasteur developed a process quite effective at reducing bacteria in milk. A process, known as pasteurization, virtually eliminated milk borne microorganisms and associated illnesses, increasing the safety of milk consumption. Pasteurization’s effectiveness can be diminished if the process is in some way altered or not properly completed, resulting in milk that may be polluted with bacteria. Another challenge with the pasteurization process is that some microorganisms can survive the pasteurization process by forming spores as barrier protection against the heat. Despite the improvement in the quality of the milk through pasteurization, there are still occasional outbreaks of milk-borne diseases. For this reason, it is vital that all facets of the industry, from production to distribution and consumption, are closely monitored.
The American Heart Association (AHA), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recognize obesity is a serious health concern for children and adolescents in America and have recommended children drink skim or low-fat milk because whole milk contains a considerable number of calories from fat. According to Sifferlin, A. (2013) stated that:
Since 2005, both the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Heart Association (AHA) recommended that children drink skim or low-fat milk after age two. Because whole milk has more calories from fat than skim, 1% fat or 2% fat versions, the thinking was that the lighter varieties would help youngsters to avoid weight gain and curb the growing problem of overweight and obesity in childhood. (p. 1)
Dairy products have no fiber or complex carbohydrates and are high in saturated fat. Leading researchers believe the combination of hormones, proteins and high fat content, coupled with milk additives may be a leading cause of obesity among the adolescent population. An equally important point to consider is studies have shown that individuals who consumed low-fat milk often gained more weight than those who drank whole milk. This is mainly because reduced fat milk products often have increased sugar to help maintain flavor.
Fat-soluble vitamins A, D, Calcium and Phosphorus are the building blocks essential to bone health. The predominant proteins in cow’s milk are lactalbumin, and A1 beta-casein. The biological function of these proteins is to carry calcium and phosphate to the stomach for efficient digestion. Cow’s milk contains a higher amounts of fatty acids in which the concentrations are double that of human milk. For humans, these differences affect the digestibility and absorption of nutrients causing negative effects on calcium metabolism and induce loss of bone mineral content also known as Osteoporosis. Another daunting statistic concerning milk products is 65% of all adults are unable to digest milk after infancy due to a lactase enzyme deficiency. A lactose intolerant person cannot digest or metabolize (break down) the sugars found in milk. Because of this essential enzyme deficiency of the digestive system consumption of dairy products containing lactose or milk sugar may lead to adverse complications such as abdominal cramps and diarrhea. This intolerance should not be confused with milk allergy where people are allergic to the proteins in milk.
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