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Back to Experts' Summaries

The Quality of Canadian Milk

While “milk quality” implies good nutritional content and food safety, increasingly, animal welfare is part of the larger concept. Canadians are not only interested in the nutritional value of milk, they’re also concerned about how it is produced.

Renée Bergeron Renée Bergeron, PhD, agr

Director, Campus d’Alfred, Associate Professor, Animal and Poultry Science, University of Guelph

Highlights

Canadian milk is safe and ethically produced:

  • The use of artificial growth hormones (e.g., rbST) is not permitted in Canada.
  • Measures are taken to prevent antibiotics from entering the Canadian milk supply.
  • Programs to monitor milk quality and animal welfare have been established in the dairy industry.

Safety of the Canadian milk supply

Most concerns about milk safety revolve around added hormones and antibiotics.

  • Hormones: Recombinant bovine growth hormones (rBGH), also known as recombinant bovine somatropin (rbST) are artificial hormones that can increase milk production by 10% to 15% but at some risk to the health of the animals. Although permitted in the US, the use of these hormones is banned in Canada and Europe.
  • Antibiotics: If ever a dairy cow becomes sick and antibiotics are required, the cow must be clearly identified and her milk properly discarded for a mandatory withdrawal period until the medication has cleared the cow’s system.

A producer who violates these rules is subjected to severe fines.

Canadian Quality Milk program

The Canadian Quality Milk program (CQM), approved by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, requires farmers to create their own on-site safety protocols and standard operating procedures. The CQM program comprises eight Best Management Practices that dairy farmers must meet (see Table). All are inspected when the validator audits the farm.

Facets of the CQM Best Management Practice
1. Dairy facilities, pesticides and nutrient management
2. Feed
3. Animal health and biosecurity
4. Medicines and chemicals used on livestock
5. Milking management
6. Facility and equipment sanitation
7. Use of water for cleaning milk contact surfaces
8. Staff training and communication

Animal welfare

At the farm level, animal welfare can be assessed by input measures (e.g., feed, bedding, staff training) and output measures (e.g., milk production, health, fertility) that can be quantified and scored by trained observers. An on-farm animal care assessment program for the dairy industry is currently being developed to add input and output animal welfare measures to the existing CQM Best Management Practices.

With all these measures and practices in place, Canadians can be confident that milk produced in Canada is of the highest quality.

Keywords: hormones , antibiotics


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