Just how healthy is that glass of cow’s milk?
Once baby hits that all-important twelve-month mark, many mamas will be looking to ditch the breast pads and get their boobs back. At this point, you may well turn your attention to cows milk, an ideal source of bone-boosting calcium that should offer a nutritious staple for your little ones.
Unfortunately, those of you who do your research, will soon find the whole issue of which cow’s milk to feed baby from the vast array of milk brands available in Singapore utterly mind boggling. It seems that when it comes to cow’s milk in Singapore, there’s a lot of bull to wade through before you actually get to the stuff you need to know.
Yep, marketing gurus have done an amazing job of persuading us gullible mamas and dadas that what we are buying for baby is nothing short of pure, fresh, unadulterated natural goodness, when unfortunately quite often it is anything but. While most of us know only too well the importance of pooh-poohing milk from China, very few recognize that quite often the wholesome stuff from Australia or New Zealand that we fork out mega bucks for is actually very low on nutrients.
Before your bubba tries on his or her first milk mustache, make sure you choose a milk that offers real nutrition and goodness. Here’s an overview of some of the options that are available here in Singers and what they really mean for your little tyke.
Cow’s Milk in Singapore: The Facts Behind the Jargon
Natural Whole Milk: Technically speaking, this is pure, unprocessed milk with nothing added or removed. Let’s get straight to the point and move on: THIS IS NOT AVAILABLE IN SINGAPORE. If you come across a carton of milk that claims to be natural whole milk put it straight back on the shelf… someone’s telling porkies!
It’s worth noting that the AVA in Singapore is pretty chilled out when it comes to how and when companies can use the term “fresh.” In fact, “fresh” can indeed be applied to double pasteurized and ultra-heat treated (UHT) milk provided it is full cream (low fat, skimmed or flavoured milk doesn’t apply). So what does this mean?
It means that while there’s apparently tons of fresh milk flooding the shelves in Singapore’s supermarkets… it is not necessarily fresh. A quick look at the carefully-worded spiel on the label should tell you more.
Here is some of the jargon you will typically come across on cartons of “fresh” cow’s milk from Singapore’s top brands:
- Single Pasteurized Milk – Pasteurization is a basic process that eliminates bacteria from milk so that it is safe for human consumption and can be stored for longer. Bacteria contamination unavoidably happens the minute milk is expressed and increases with any additional exposure or change. For this reason, you should always ensure that any milk you give to bub has gone through a single pasteurization process.
- Double Pasteurized Milk – Double pasteurization involves removing even more harmful bacteria from milk so that it can be stored much longer than single pasteurized milk. Many milks from Australia and New Zealand need to undergo double pasteurization—one time as they leave the dairy and another when they reach the destination—because bacteria builds up en route. While this is great in theory, in practice it means that a lot of beneficial bacteria and enzymes are also removed from the milk and what’s left behind has very little nutritional value.
- Homogenized Milk – Homogenized milk is identical in terms of fat and nutritional content to whole standardized milk; however, it has undergone additional processing known as “homogenization” to break up the fat globules so that they spread evenly through the milk as opposed to sitting on top in a delicious creamy layer (you know the one). Basically, homogenized milk is milk that has undergone even more, unnecessary, processing. What you give to your toddler is all your own choice but remember: The less processing a milk undergoes, the better it is for the body.
- Reconstituted Milk –milk that has been made from powdered milk and mixed with hot water to form a liquid again. AVOID.
- Recombined Milk – milk made by combining cream, butterfat, or milk fat and water with non-fat dry milk solids.
- Permeate – A by-product of an ultra-filtration process that occurs in cheese making. Permeate consists mainly of lactose (milk sugar) and is naturally part of whole milk. Permeate is often added to milk at different times of the year to standardize the protein and fat content. It has no known health risks (yet) but no major advantages either.
- Ultra Heat Treated (UHT) – UHT milk is milk that has undergone extreme temperatures in order to kill any living thing that resides within it. There is nothing left alive, and thus it is shelf stable. UHT pasteurization is overkill (quite literally). According to an article entitled Just Say no to UHT* by Food Renegade, one of the biggest concerns with UHT-treated milk is that the processing involved kills off the enzymes in milk that are required to digest the casein, the casein itself is altered to the point of being indigestible! One very important fact to take note of here is that the majority of organic milk sold in Singapore has undergone UHT processing.
- Organic: Organic milk is typically milk that has been produced by cows that have been raised according to organic farming methods. If you actively seek out organic products and are prepared to meet the hefty price tag that goes along with them, it’s highly likely that you want the best for your bub. But how do you feel about milk that can be left sitting on a shelf for months on end without deteriorating? Just how natural is that? The majority of organic milk that is sold in Singapore has traveled quite a distance to get here and for that reason it is highly likely that it has undergone UHT processing. In terms of nutritional value, it is pretty much worthless, so it really doesn’t make sense to choose this over the other options that are available.
- Feed: Cows are ruminants. Their stomachs are designed to harness the energy of the sun via grasses and turn it into usable energy. Yes, they can eat corn and grain, but baby can eat candy: just because the cows eat something doesn’t mean it’s good for them. When searching for cow’s milk for your baby, you ideally want to find milk that has been produced by cows that are grassfed. Even partly grassfed is a helpful step, nutrition-wise. The milk from grassfed cattle contains five times as much conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), an UNsaturated fat, than that from corn/silage-fed cattle. CLA lowers the risk of death by heart attack, improves your immune system and helps you lose fat and gain lean muscle (Read more: here). You should also note mama and papa, that milk from dairy cows that are “grassfed” is superior to milk from “pasture-raised” cows. Yep, there is a difference. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) definition of “grassfed,” dairy cows must be raised on grass and forage exclusively, for their entire lifetimes. The same rule doesn’t apply to the pasture-raised claim and quite often this description is applied to cows that have a mixed diet.
Phew, think that’s pretty overwhelming? Well there’s also a ton of stuff that the labels probably don’t tell you:
- Hormones: Some diary farms inject their cows with hormones to aid growth. These hormones can them work their way into the milk supply and thus be passed on to hungry toddlers. Several countries have completely banned the use of growth hormones in their dairy cows: Australia, New Zealand and Canada are amongst them. So technically, any Aussie, kiwi or Canuck brand of milk (actually produced in those countries not just from cows from that region), organic or not, are free of hormones. A couple of points of caution though:
- Some brands of milk in Singapore are marketed as being Australian or New Zealand when in fact they are from cows born in Australia or New Zealand that are then transferred to countries like Malaysia or Indonesia for production. The milk produced by these cows is then often labeled “Australian.” There is no guarantee that the milk provided by these cows is hormone free.
- Many people assume organic milk is automatically hormone free. However, organic refers to what type of feed the cows are given, not necessarily whether the cows themselves are hormone free, though most, if not all, organic brands are also hormone free.
- Antibiotics: The majority of diary farms will use antibiotics on their cows if and when they fall ill. Many mamas are concerned about antibiotics in cows milk because there is an ongoing fear that antibiotics used in animals may contribute to antibiotic-resistance in humans, although science has yet to prove this link. It will be very difficult to ascertain which dairies use antibiotics and which do not. However, standard practice is to pump and dump milk that is produced by cows that have been treated by antibiotics.
- Additives: If there’s one thing you should insist on when purchasing cows milk in Singapore, it’s that the milk should be pure. There should be additives and no ingredients whatsoever.
So what’s the best cow’s milk in Singapore?
When you’re searching high and low for milk for your little treasure, the basic rule of thumb you should apply is the less processed, the better. The problem is that overly processed milk has very little nutrients left in it. Furthermore, all the live enzymes etc. that are needed to digest the milk are no longer present. This is one of the leading theories (yet to be proven) around the rise in dairy intolerances in the current generation of kiddos. So… in our humble opinion, the ideal milk for babies and toddlers should be:
- Whole milk (not reconstituted).
- Pasteurized. Not double pasteurized or UHT.
- From grass-fed cows, failing that, pasture-raised cows (not grain fed or slop fed, although no company will include that information on the label anyway).
- Hormone free
- Antibiotic free
The ideal pint of milk?
Can you get your hands on such a milk in Singapore? We have taken a pretty thorough look at some of the popular cows milk brands that are available here on the Red Dot. You can check out our findings here: milk brands in Singapore.