Panelists in taste tests rated organic milk lower than milk from conventional or pasture-fed cows, according to University of Missouri food science research.
"Clearly, organic milk was the least liked among the samples, whereas conventional milk and milk from pasture-fed cows were rated similarly,” said Laura Valverde, a food science master's student.
One hundred panelists sampled the three kinds of milk, which were purchased directly from Missouri on-farm dairy operations.
Organic milk scored the lowest in taste tests that rated flavor, liking and mouth feel.
"Panelists could not discriminate between conventional milk and milk from pasture-fed cows, other than a distinction of overall appearance,” she said.
One reason for organic milk's low scores could be the cows' feed. The organic cows were fed with clover, hay, grass and barley. While hay was part of the feed of all cows, clover gives milk a rather strong flavor and barley can be a source of off-flavors, she said.
"We could not determine if the difference in liking was because panelists were unfamiliar with organic milk or if there was anything objectionable in the organic milk,” said Ingolf Gruen, food science researcher and Valverde's graduate advisor.
Public concerns about the use of rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone) have helped boost sales of organic milk.
"The widespread belief among organic milk consumers is that organic milk is superior to conventional milk. However, organic milk superiority has not been scientifically proven,” Valverde said.