When three 8-ounce packages of shelf-stable milk landed on my desk last week, I took notice: They were organic, they were in aseptic packaging that required no refrigeration until opened, and they were small enough to fit into a child s lunch box. The Horizon Organic milk products were Strawberry Reduced Fat Milk, Reduced Fat Milk, and Chocolate Reduced Fat Milk.
Organic milk is a growing segment of the fluid milk market. According to Information Resources, Inc., there was a 26.6 percent increase in sales in the last 52 weeks, with 48 million gallons sold annually; however, that is only 1.6 percent of the fluid milk market share. It sells at higher prices than nonorganic milk.
According to Horizon Organic, growth hormones naturally occur in all milk. Cows sometimes are injected with additional growth hormones to increase milk production. Organic milk comes from cows that are not given added growth hormones and are fed organically grown feed.
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Government regulations mandate that all milk be continuously tested for purity, safety, and quality, according to the Dairy Council. These tests begin at the farm and continue through milk processing. Antibiotics are never added to milk. Milk is tested to ensure that antibiotics used to treat cows are not present.
"Buying organic foods is a personal preference," says Karen Bakies, registered dietitian with the American Dairy Council & Dairy Council Mid East. "The nutritional content will be the same. They will have the same vitamin and mineral content, but the production is different."
Also intriguing was the idea of milk packaged just like "juice" boxes. Of course I would never drink warm milk; I would refrigerate it and then send it in a lunch box with a ice pack.
At Giant Eagle, 6930 West Central Ave., among the aisles of organic products of produce, frozen organic products, and refrigerated organic products, I found those little Horizon Organic milks ($1.39 each) in the refrigerated case. ("The concept of aseptic packaging is popular in Europe," Mrs. Bakies says. "It s a concept here that has grown more slowly.)
I also noted the increasing availability of organic produce. Most of the organic produce at major supermarkets is not grown locally; much is shipped from California.
Among the foodstuffs I found in the organic food section of the Giant Eaglewere flour, cereals, spices, oils, and cookies. Brand names are adding organic lines, such as Mott s Organics (applesauce). Brands include R.W. Knudsen s organic juice boxes, Back to Nature, Amy s and Cascadian frozen products, and organic snacks. There are even organic wines.
At Meijer at 7240 West Central, organic foods are interspersed within food aisles alongside their nonorganic counterparts. Healthy Living sections are at the ends of some aisles.
But among the products, those little packets of organic milk stood out: I was fascinated by their packaging, their size, and how useful they are in packing school lunches. Like conventional milk, organic milk for school lunches is a great source of calcium for kids during their bone-growing years.