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Cholov Ha-Companies

by Arlene J. Mathes-Scharf

Copyright © 2012 by Arlene Mathes-Scharf. All rights reserved.

Non-Bovine Milk in the US

There was a talk at the AKO Meeting in November and an ad in the Hamodia Newspaper recently which states that people cannot trust that only cow's milk is being sold in the United States, because the testing agencies do not test for anything other than bovine milk. This is a scurrilous argument. The Code of Federal Regulation requires that all milk in the US be of bovine origin as per 21 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), section 131.10. “Milk is the lacteal secretion, practically free from colostrum, obtained by the complete milking of one or more healthy cows.” The large dairy farms in the US are set up to handle only cattle and the highly mechanized equipment is designed only for cows. A report to Congress in 2009 talks about the consolidation of the dairy industry in the United States, with fewer large farms producing more milk. Thus, 47% of US milk was produced on farms with 1,000 head or more. The dairy processors who are buying and bottling milk from farms, and the state government as well, have an interest in being sure the milk is cow’s milk only.

Other milk such as goat's milk that is sold must be labeled as such and commands a significantly higher price in the marketplace. “If you see “milk” being sold, this refers to cow’s milk, based on the standard of identity for “milk”. When milk from other mammals is sold, the term “milk” cannot be used alone – it must be qualified by including the animal (“goat’s milk”, “sheep’s milk”, etc.).

In fact, there are standards of identity for products made from the milk of other mammals (goats, sheep, and water buffalo), like cheeses (21 CFR 133) and ice cream (21 CFR 135). The secular concern is that cow’s milk would be used to dilute these other milks.

The presentation at the AKO meeting and the ad in the Hamodia raise concern that there may be non-bovine milk in the general milk supply even if it is illegal, without presenting any actual evidence of such an occurrence being documented in the US in many years. There are approximately 9 million dairy cattle in the United States. A website promoting camel's milk, which is not yet legal to sell in the United States, says that there are 5,000 camels in the entire United States (half are male animals). If camels’ milk would be allowed to be sold, it would still be labeled as to its origin and would command a premium price. A search for the term “horse milk” stated that: “Horse Milk - A rare and precious commodity”. Anyone selling this difficult to obtain product would want to get a premium price. A search for the term “pig's milk” on-line indicated that it is economically and physically nonviable and if available, it would be very expensive .

Consumers in the United States can be assured that general milk (“cholov ha-companies”) is of bovine origin. Testing as to species is not done, because there is no need. This information should not necessarily be extended to dairy products from other countries, although most Western countries have laws of equivalent stringency and the economics favor selling non-cows milk for premium prices.

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Arlene J. Mathes-Scharf  
Food Scientist - Kosher Food Specialist
Scharf Associates
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Sharon, MA 02067