By Sarah Tewhey of


The letters BGH and rBST are beginning to pop up on dairy packaging. They stand for Bovine Growth Hormone or recombinant bovine somatotropin. Lately these little letters have been the subject of bitter debates between consumers, dairies and the manufacturers who have learned to synthesize this hormone in the laboratory.

Scientists have discovered how to grow synthetic Bovine Growth Hormone from bacteria and can now give it in above natural quantities to cows as a dietary supplement. Cows treated with the synthetic hormone produce significantly more milk. The manufacturers have recently promoted the hormone and now it is in use in many dairy farms. A label reading "this product comes from cows not treated with BGH" has become something seen only in health food stores, small farms and companies such as Oakhurst Dairy in Maine that have pledged not to accept milk from treated cows.

All cows naturally produce Bovine Growth Hormone. Even without hormone supplements small amounts of this hormone are found in cow milk and meat. The amount of hormone residue in treated cows does not seem to be any higher than in untreated cows. Residual Bovine Growth Hormone is supposedly destroyed when milk is heated during pasteurization.

The safety of BGH in human beings has never been officially tested. Those pushing the hormone are adamant that BGH has absolutely no effect on milk, or on the dairy cows that are receiving the supplement. They state that the hormone offers a great economic advantage to dairy farmers because it brings increased milk production.

BGH has been a cause debate not only for obvious reasons concerning the ethical treatment of animals, but because it may pose a threat to human health. Because of more frequent milking, cows treated with the hormone may have a higher rate of udder inflammation, also known as mastitis. This inflammation requires that cows be given more antibiotics. Unlike BGH, it is known that antibiotics in milk actually do reach people. The antibiotics that we receive through milk, meats and other animal products are contributing to antibiotic resistance in humans.

Turning living dairy cows into milk machines for the sake of increased profits is not only of questionable ethics, but we may pay for it in the long run with our health. While research on synthetic Bovine Growth Hormone is not complete its probably better for now to be safe and choose milk from untreated cows.

Noss-Whitney, E, Rady-Rolfes, S. (1999) Understanding Nutrition. (8th ed. ), Blemont, California: Wadsworth Publishing Company.
Weil, A. (2001) Eating well for optimal health. New York: Quill.

copyright 2003



Sarah Tewhey is a student and teacher of Yoga, Ayurveda and the healing arts. She completed two years of study with Dr. Vasant Lad at The Ayurvedic Institute and a B.S. at Lesley University in Mind/Body Studies with a specialization in the female healing process and its relationship to modern medicine. Sarah is currently a student in the Masters program at Southwest Acupuncture College in Albuquerque.

Sarah, a highly dedicated vegetarian for over ten years, is also the owner of Shubha, a women owned and operated small business in operation since 2002 that is dedicated to creating hand-crafted, high-quality yoga/relaxation related products. Shubha is unique in the expanding eco-conscious yoga and health movement because they are a 100% solar powered small business and all of their products are manufactured in New Mexico using the energy of the sun.

Because their goal is to create products with minimal environmental impact they have started a line of organic cotton eye pillows and organic cotton yoga mat bags. Organic cotton yoga products made with solar power is a combination that Sarah, as a student and teacher of yoga, feels very excited about.

Many of the yoga products coming out today are made with silk or leather, neither of which are in line with my own ethics or the ethics of my business

-Sarah Tewhey

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