Those of you who know me are probably aware of the fact that I am an "AgVocate". No matter where I go, I am always eager to have a conversation with someone about agriculture and food topics. But I must admit, I was caught a bit off guard when I found myself busting myths about agriculture in the local bowling alley.
A group of friends had decided to get together for some mid-week fun. We are all 30 somethings, well educated, and, I would argue, well adjusted (despite what you might think about Millennials). This particular group of friends are the ones I refer to as the "Wine group". You see, when you are married to someone who works as a winemaker, you tend to hang out with people who work in the industry. Nonetheless, on this particular occasion we found ourselves with buckets of beer on the table instead of the usual bottles of wine.
Since we were in a bowling alley, I made a crack about how we should be drinking White Russians. For those of you who miss the reference, go watch The Big Lebowski, RIGHT NOW. Ok, no wait, finish reading this post first :).
You see, in The Big Lebowski the main character is a huge fan of White Russians. If you have never had a White Russian before, it is a mixture of vodka, coffee liqueur and cream/milk served over ice. I joked that we would probably have to bring our own milk, since I doubted they have it behind the bar at the Rollin' Stones in Penticton.
At that point, my one friend piped up and asked "Do you just buy regular milk at the grocery store?" The question caught me a bit off guard, but I answered, "Of course. Regular 2%".
She proceeded to tell me how earlier that day she had been in conversation with her colleagues at work. One had mentioned how she only buys organic milk because she doesn't want her kids "pumped full of growth hormone."
I have certainly heard this statement before, but it never ceases to amaze me how some people continue to have these misinterpretations of the realities of our food and farming systems in Canada. In order to set the record straight, I assured my friend that no milk produced in Canada contains growth hormones, and that the only animals that may receive synthetic hormones are beef cattle.
By this time there were a few other friends from our group listening in, so I took the opportunity to continue (once a teacher, always a teacher). I shared that when it comes to antibiotics, farmers will choose to treat their animals appropriately in order to address their illness, just like we do with humans. But, I quickly added that treated dairy cows have their milk separated from the rest of the milk, so it doesn't enter the tank. Everyone was surprised to learn that the milk is tested at the farm, and that if it contains traces of things like antibiotics, the farmer has to pay a fine and the milk is dumped.
The conversation stopped there since I had to go bowl my next frame. However the next morning I sent my friend some additional information so that she can share with her colleagues. You may find them interesting and informative too.
My friend did share this information with her colleagues. Apparently they were surprised by the information, and wondered why these facts are not more widely known.
I wonder the same thing. Canada has one of the safest food systems in the world. When I go to the grocery store, I feel confident knowing that whether I buy conventional or organic the food is strictly tested and is safe to consume. I also know that if I happen to buy something organic, it is going to have the same nutritional value as the conventional alternative. It is not "healthier" because it is organic.
I believe in choice. I believe that many Canadians are privileged to have the financial means to make whatever choice they want to in the grocery store. If you are buying organic milk because it supports your values, that's great. But if you are buying organic milk because you think it is healthier, or safer, please watch the video above. I believe in choice, but I believe it should be an informed choice.
By the way, in case you are wondering, beer does not improve my bowling game. Maybe next time I will stick with a glass of milk - just regular old 2%, thank you very much.
I was raised as the seventh generation on a mixed livestock farm near Guelph, Ontario. Currently I am living in the beautiful Okanagan region of BC, where my husband works for Blue Mountain Winery. I maintain my close ties to Ontario agriculture through my job with AgScape (Ontario Agri-Food Education Inc.) and hope to bring a national, and global perspective to agricultural issues.