On last week’s Huffington Post blog, Dr. Julianne Malveaux decries the practices of milk “charlatans,” who she claims, “combine the concern about pesticides and additives with their own desire to grab hold of the profits available to those who can distinguish the food they produce from ‘ordinary’ food.”

Malveaux argues that milk producers who identify their products as “hormone-free” are being dishonest and misrepresenting the truth. She says, “Animals produce hormones. Whether milk production is enhanced by rBST, a synthetic version of the bovine hormone cows naturally produced, or not, it is not ‘hormone free’.” Because the “organic” label meets certain Dept. of Agriculture requirements, for Malveaux it means something, while claims of “hormone-free” milk don’t.

The concern for Malveaux is that consumers are being exploited: “The difference comes when a consumer, concerned that her newborn is ingesting too many chemicals, decides to go with the ‘hormone free’ milk at an extra dollar a carton, and gets nothing different than if she’d chosen a carton that does not say ‘hormone free.’ The consumer’s fears are being exploited. She’s reading a label, but not seeing the fine print. Hormone free milk is presented as being ‘better’ or ‘safer’ than milk produced using rBST. But it isn’t!”

Here’s what the cap on a gallon of milk I bought yesterday says:

Is this misleading? I don’t think so. I don’t see claims of “hormone free” milk. The label simply says there aren’t any synthetic hormones added and even points out that “no significant difference” has been shown between the two kinds of milk.

Are consumers not responsible for educating themselves? Shouldn’t they take some more time before deciding to spend $1 more per gallon, and if they want to spend more for peace of mind, shouldn’t they be allowed that freedom?

Malveaux’s piece follows the work of a group called the National Organization for African Americans in Housing (NOAAH), a non-profit advocate for low-income citizens, which last December “called on the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to stop dairy processors from deceptively marketing ‘no rBST’ milk.”

Malveaux and the NOAAH want to protect people from themselves by expanding the role of a nanny government: “Low-income consumers, especially, wanting the best for their kids are pushed into spending money they can ill afford for a product that is exactly the same as a cheaper product. It’s time for the FDA to step in to require dairy processors to do the right thing.”

What exactly is the right thing? Should the FDA require labels like the one above? Or should they ban advertising that states a true fact: there are no hormones added to the cows that made this milk. As it stands, the relevance and importance of that fact is up for the individual consumer to decide. And that’s as it should be.


  • http://www.schlacks.org John Powers

    At any FFA (Future Farmers) milk judging competition (yes there are such things), any number of 15 year olds can discern the difference between milk with synthetic hormones, and organic milk. Perhaps the consumer can judge too.

    In addition, our local “organic” brand irradiates the milk they sell, giving it about 3x the shelf life of regular milk.

    Maybe the price signal to the consumer is valid in this case, indicating a better product by a higher price.

    JBP