The New Zealand dairy industry “has been hit by a safety scare after a toxic chemical was found in milk produced in the country.”
Cattle farmers use a product called dicyandiamide (DCD) to slow down Nitrogen turnover into Nitrate (NO3) thereby making a cow’s urine less likely to leach into and kill off grass. Given that cow’s urine and dung is the largest source of nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions in New Zealand I can understand they want to reduce it’s effects. It’s more financially viable to treat the cow’s than simply to reduce stock levels. Both NO3 and N2O can leach into lakes and rivers, causing algal and weed growth and problems with drinking water. So this DCD sounds like great stuff….when it was thought it didn’t make its way into cow’s milk.
Recently, however DCD was discovered in milk from a dairy farm south of Auckland. Research on non-lactating cattle has shown no effect on things such as ammonia, lactic acid and fatty acids. Research on lactating cattle isn’t so readily available (that I could find). This is probably due to the fact that DCD was never thought to be found in lactating cow’s milk. There are no international standards on safe levels of DCD in food and so the discovery is worrying for this reason. My source says it can be damaging to humans however at what levels I don’t know.
For me the concern here is the overriding factors:
- Are we demanding too much dairy production?
- Are we eating too much dairy if we are struggling to maintain production in a safe and non toxic manner?
- Are certain countries taking up the slack and thereby damaging their environment?
- What else is in milk?
Regarding point 4 there is evidence of cow’s milk containing hormones and antibiotics. It is highly processed and treated. Yet we continue to feed ourselves and our children a high amount of it relative to the rest of our diet.
There are alternatives to cow’s milk:
- Nut milk
- Rice milk
- Human milk
- Soya milk
While I am not a vegetarian (anymore!) I find this news source interesting. I can’t bring myself to drink much milk – I use it in baking (but should and probably could substitute it) and try to eat leaner meat than beef but I do still consume both irregularly. The key, as usual, is balance.
- Initial evaluation of the effects of dicyandiamide (DCD) on nitrous oxide emissions, nitrate leaching and dry matter production from dairy pastures in a range of locations within New Zealand.Downloaded from http://www.massey.ac.nz/~flrc/workshops/12/Manuscripts/Gillingham_2012.pdf
Effect of the Nitrification Inhibitor Dicyandiamide (DCD) on Rumen Function. Downloaded from http://www.thedairysite.com/articles/3157/effect-of-the-nitrification-inhibitor-dicyandiamide-dcd-on-rumen-function