Bad News: Your Organic Milk Might Not Be Organic

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By Cooking Panda

What would you say if I told you that if you buy and consume lots of “organic” milk, the chances may be slim that your dairy is actually organic?

Unfortunately, it’s true. Because the U.S. organic market is so gargantuan (it rakes in more than $40 billion in annual sales, which includes imported products from roughly 100 other countries), the USDA allows farmers to actually hire and pay their very own inspectors to certify them as “USDA Organic.” 

Basically, many dairy complexes, such as the High Plains dairy in Greeley, Colorado (a main facility of Aurora Organic Dairy), are so large, it’s difficult to make sure that every complex is abiding by all the strict rules and regulations to meet the USDA organic regulations.

The Washington Post reports that when it comes to milk, organic dairies are required to allow their cows to grass-feed throughout the growing season, rather than get their nourishment in barns and via feedlots.

However, apparently even though companies like Aurora Organic Dairy, which supplies milk to Walmart, Costco and other big retailers, claim that their cows are always grazing, when the Washington Post visited Aurora, that didn’t appear to be the case.

“The requirements of the USDA National Organic Program allow for an extremely wide range of grazing practices that comply with the rule,” Sonja Tuitele, an Aurora spokeswoman said in an e-mail, in defense of this observation.

“We take these assertions very seriously, as we are a 100% certified organic producer, and our organic practices are the cornerstone of our operations,” she continued.

Most consumers pay up to two times as much money for organic milk; in fact, the Washington Post reports that organic dairy sales actually amounted to a hefty $6 billion last year in America alone.

How does this make you feel about shelling out your cash for allegedly organic dairy products? Is it enough to make you want to switch over to a plant-based alternative?

Source: Washington Post / Photo Credit: Pexels

Tags: dairy, grass fed, milk, organic, usda
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Study Says Eating Cheese Won’t Raise Your Cholesterol

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By Cooking Panda

Do you hear that? That’s the sound of cheese enthusiasts around the globe taking a collective, dairy-laden sigh of relief … well, those who were worried about their cholesterol, anyway.

A new study conducted by researchers at University College Dublin has deduced that Irish people who consume a lot of cheese actually do not demonstrate higher levels of cholesterol than people who abstain from cheese — rather, cheese-eaters consume higher amounts of saturated fats instead.

How did they determine this exactly? Well, scientists tested 1,500 Irish people between the ages of 18 and 90. The study participants consumed varying amounts of milk, cheese, yogurt, cream and butter, and then scientists examined body fat and health of the participants.

Cheese consumption in particular was not shown to be associated with increased body fat or with LDL cholesterol, which is a substance that is found in blood that helps the body function properly, when it’s kept at a healthy level. At unhealthy and high levels, LDL cholesterol will actually stick to the walls of arteries in human being’s blood streams, which then will block blood from flowing properly, and could eventually result in a heart attack or heart disease.

However, that doesn’t mean that cheese is necessarily the healthiest food to eat in large quantities unchecked.

“What we saw was that in the high consumers [of cheese] they had a significantly higher intake of saturated fat than the non-consumers and the low consumers and yet there was no difference in their LDL Cholesterol levels,” Dr. Emma Feeney, the lead author on the paper, and a UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science and Food for Health Ireland, said in a UCD report.

“We have to consider not just the nutrients themselves but also the matrix in which we are eating them in and what the overall dietary pattern is, so not just about the food then, but the pattern of other foods we eat with them as well.”

If you’re worried about your LDL cholesterol, or suspect that you need to cut down on risk foods for your health, you probably want to begin focusing on increasing your plant consumption, rather than just cutting down on indulgences like cheese. That means opting for fruits, vegetables, whole grains and starches over animal products more often!

Source: UCD / Photo Credit: Murray's Cheese/Instagram

Tags: cheese, cholesterol, dairy, irish health, ucd
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If You Want A Healthy Heart, Eat More Cheese

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By Cooking Panda

If you are a dairy enthusiast, this is going to come as no surprise to you, but it will probably delight you all the same: researchers from Penn State University have found that eating cheese could possibly be linked to having a positive effect on your heart!

Apparently, even though they aren’t exactly sure what, precisely, in milk proteins and dairy fats actually is beneficial to your cardiovascular system, they are pretty dang sure that they help increase blood flow in the body, which only sounds good to us!

Researchers conducted what sounds like the tastiest experiment of all time, whereby participants were asked to snack on servings of pretzels and soy cheese, and then plain ol’ animal-based cheese, each of which contained the same amount of sodium. Next all participants took blood pressure tests.

Apparently, those who ate real cheese had better blood pressure than those who noshed on the soy variety — which means that dairy actually cancels out the high sodium inherent in many cheeses!

Is anybody else side-eyeing the cheesy pizza-delivery number taped on their wall? Only me? Okay.

“It could be the lactotripeptides in the cheese that act on the blood vessels to promote health or the fat in dairy that makes consuming dairy healthy but no one knows why dairy is good yet,” said Anna Stanhewicz, a Penn State graduate-kinesiology researcher. But although the study suggested the dairy in cheese outweighed the sodium, she admits that the study also only measured short-term effects of eating cheese.

“We want to know how eating this diet will affect people over time,” Stanhewicz said.

The researchers are reportedly currently conducting another similar study; however, they will be extending the time frame to more accurately assess whether dairy consistently can counteract sodium in cheese products.

“We hope to see what happens when people have long-term diets with cheese and the effects it has on a person’s health,” concluded Lacy Alexander, a researcher in the Department of Kinesiology at Penn State.

Sources: Collegian, Tasting Table / Photo Credit: Tasting Table

Tags: cardiovascular health, cheese, dairy, strong heart
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Say Cheese: Feds Just Bought $20 Million Of Surplus Cheese For Food Banks

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By Cooking Panda

You may think America has more important things to worry about than a bunch of cheese sitting around waiting to be bought (and devoured), but it turns out you’d be wrong.

Apparently, America’s dairy industry is actually on the brink of total disaster — more than one billion pounds of surplus cheese (did you even think having leftover cheese was possible?) are waiting to be bought, as the result of too much milk and too few buyers, particularly overseas. 

According to Munchies, this is the largest cheese surplus America has seen in 30 whole years, causing American cheesemakers to watch as their revenues have depleted 35-percent while the cheese stocks have grown.

Luckily, cheese has a dairy-loving savior. On August 23, the USDA announced it will swoop in and purchased 11 million pounds of extra cheese for a cool $20 million. It plans to donate the cheese to food banks and pantries country-wide.

“We understand that the nation’s dairy producers are experiencing challenges due to market conditions,” USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement. The purchase “will help reduce a cheese surplus that is at a 30-year high while, at the same time, moving a high-protein food to the tables of those most in need.”

In the end, he even hints that perhaps this is a win-win situation, because “food banks continue to see strong demand for assistance.”

Here’s the thing though, Americans: Grub Street reports that producers in the U.S. actually originally requested a staggering $150 million from the government for their cheesy woes. That’s more than a micro-nation’s GDP, which means that even after the USDA receives its $20 million worth, there is still a lot of cheese that needs to be consumed — and pronto.

Do your duty, America, and get cheesy.

Sources: Munchies, USDA, Grub Street / Photo credit: Paul Jill/Flickr via Modern Farmer

Tags: cheese, dairy, Surplus, usda
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Yes, You Can Freeze Dairy

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By Cooking Panda

We get it, you’re busy. You like to cook, and you know making your own food is better, but some weeks you end up eating out for every meal. Meanwhile, your giant Costco container of Greek yogurt gets older and older. What do you do?

Don’t let your dairy go bad! Most of it holds up pretty well in the freezer. Just defrost in the fridge before you’re ready to use it.

Milk

Milk and cream of all kinds freeze and thaw pretty well. Make sure the container has enough room to expand. Give it a good shake once it defrosts.

Keep in mind that previously-frozen cream will not whip very well, so stick with the fresh stuff for that.

Yogurt

Yes, you can freeze yogurt. If you like to use only a little at a time – for example, in smoothies – we recommend spooning portions into ice cube trays. Once completely frozen, transfer the cubes into a freezer-safe bag or container. That way you don’t have to thaw the whole thing every time you want a small portion. The texture might change a little, making it grainy, so this works best for Greek yogurt, which is already pretty thick.

Eggs

Eggs freeze best with the yogurt method. Whisk together the whites and yolks until combined, then spoon three tablespoons (roughly equivalent to one egg) into each ice cube tray segment. Once frozen, transfer to a freezer-safe container and store for up to six months.

Cheese

You can absolutely freeze cheese. Either freeze in its original package (like a bag of shredded cheddar) or wrap in plastic wrap and then throw in a freezer bag (like a block of Parmesan). You might want to grate it before freezing, too. The texture will change somewhat and become crumbly, so only do this with cheese you are planning to cook with, like hard cheese or anything melty. That really expensive imported stuff you want to eat by the slice? Not so much.

Butter

Butter usually freezes well, as long as it’s well-sealed. It lasts in the freezer for around six to eight months. Try freezing it in half cup portions for easy use.

Cream Cheese

Full-fat cream cheese freezes pretty well, although the texture can change slightly once you thaw it. Once defrosted, use it promptly in cooked dishes, dips or sauces. Don’t freeze the low-fat stuff though.

Tags: can you freeze, dairy, keep food longer
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