Milk is considered a staple in the American diet, as it has been for decades. As an excellent source of calcium and vitamin D, cow's milk is often praised in the media as a superfood. However, recent news and discoveries are challenging milk's golden status in America. Because of its ethical implications, associated health risks and dangerous additives, milk is one of science's lead suspects in the country's health crisis. But how, you might ask? Here are seven reasons why you might want to consider never drinking milk again. 

1. Inhumane Living Conditions

According to the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, In the factory farming industry, calves are ripped from their mother only one day after being born and fed milk replacers (often containing cow blood), while their mothers are kept in crowded, dirty, inhumane conditions. During this time, the mothers are milked for profit, but milking in such horrible conditions makes the mothers susceptible to infections of the mammary gland, such as mastitis. 

As manufacturers attempt to streamline the process with automatic milking, cows become more susceptible to infection. Although a healthy grass diet and humane living conditions could help in the prevention of illness, instead, factory farmers have been experimenting with genetically modifying the cattle to be resistant to the infection causing bacteria. 

2. Physical Abuse

After being pumped full of hormones and antibiotics and being artificially inseminated, the female cows, as mentioned before, are often separated and unable to nourish and care for their young. Along with the sexual abuse that accompanies forcefully impregnating the mothers year after year, there's a dark and not yet widely known habit of physical abuse in the dairy industry.

In 2010, ABC News went undercover on a dairy farm and found that dairy cows lived in tight quarters and were subject to much abuse. Their findings showed that some cows were hit with tools when they wouldn't move and some were subject to an unnecessary practice called "tail docking," where the tail is cut off without anesthesia (now illegal in California). 

3. Milk Beyond Infancy is Unnatural

Just like humans, calves rely on their mothers to support them through infancy. Different from humans, however, after infancy cows stop drinking milk and they never drink milk from another species. In fact, humans are the only species who drink milk past infancy or even drinks milk from another species. 

Cow's milk is designed specifically to meet the needs of cows. And obviously, their nutritional needs are quite different than humans because of their four stomachs and their tendency to gain thousands of pounds over a short period of time. Because of this difference, cow's milk is the leading cause of food allergies in infants and children.

This allergy is the result of the human body's inability to digest lactose. After two years of age, the human body reduces the amount of lactase (the enzyme that digests milk) it produces. This timing coincides with the natural age for infants to stop breastfeeding. 

4. Hormonal Risk Factors

Most know that added hormones can cause major health problems, but not everyone realizes how many hormones are swimming around inside a glass of milk. Dairy cows are given a growth hormone called rBGH which stimulates the liver to release IGF-1 into the milk of the cows.

Through pasteurization, this level increases further and when ingested, it is not destroyed by human digestion. Instead, it crosses into the bloodstream where it effects other hormones in the body. These effects can have some very serious health consequences. In the past, research has shown that IGF-1 causes normal breast cells to turn into cancerous cells.

5. Bad for Your Bones

Milk's claim to "build strong bones" has Americans clearing the shelves of grocery stores. Unfortunately, milk's super bone-building qualities are not the absolute best. 

When animal protein (like milk protein) enters the body, it causes the pH of the body to become very acidic. Because calcium is an excellent neutralizer, the body's response to acidity is to pull from its calcium stores. This calcium is then excreted from the body for an overall calcium loss. The body's stored form of calcium is in the bones, so with milk consumption or increased acidity, the bones can actually become weaker. 

6. Environmental Destruction

Sally Bornbusch

The dairy industry has also been under fire for being extremely destructive to the environment. The effect of dairy farms, especially large farms, is extremely detrimental to the surrounding area.  

According to the EPA, a 2,000-cow dairy generates more than 240,000 pounds of manure daily (roughly 90 million pounds a year), and the runoff manure from the farms are harmful to the groundwater, rivers and streams.

Much of this runoff can end up in drinking water and major waterways, which is pretty dangerous to our health. According to the EPA, the runoff from factory farms is the major source of water pollution, as well as smog production. 

7. Plenty of Alternatives

milk, sweet
Mollie Simon

Cow's milk is a significant source of saturated fat when added to a diet, especially higher fat variations of milk. But other options, such as almond milk, have the same amount of calcium as cow's milk and replace the saturated fats (found in cow's milk) with unsaturated fats (aka the healthy fats).

There are plenty of other options to get the recommendation of calcium, that do not come out of a carton. Seeds, beans, cheese and leafy greens are easy ways to boost your calcium content while getting your fill of vitamins and minerals.

Milk in America

Specifically, milk in America, as previously mentioned is produced with rBGH and rBST, both synthetic versions of a cow growth hormone. It's actually found in most non-organic dairy products, unless noted. While there seems to be little evidence that the hormones are bad for human consumption, Europe and countries like Canada, Australia and Japan have banned it due to economics, animal welfare and an opposition to using technology to increase food production. 

Beyond the growth hormones, other have claimed that the estrogen in milk could increase a woman's risk in procuring breast or ovarian cancer. Others have even said that the hormones could cause some children to experience early puberty.

GIF courtesy of Giphy

Compared to the 1970s, Americans have increasingly stopped drinking milk. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, back in the 70s, the average American drank nearly 30 gallons of per year. Today, the average American drinks about 18 gallons per year.

It might be hard to give up on a childhood staple, but ditching your milk habit could be one of the best decisions you can make. Giving up on milk is not only beneficial for the animals and for the environment, but for you and your health.