HARRISBURG, Pa. - Pennsylvania is stopping dairies from stamping milk containers with hormone-free labels in a precedent-setting decision being closely watched by the industry.
Synthetic hormones have been used to improve milk production in cows for more than a decade. The chemical has not been detected in milk, so there is no way to test for its use, but some retailers have been promoting “hormone-free” products in response to demand.
State Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolff said advertising one brand of milk as free of artificial hormones implies that competitors’ milk is not safe, and it often comes with what he said is an unjustified higher price.
“It’s kind of like a nuclear arms race,” Wolff said. “One dairy does it, and the next tries to outdo them. It’s absolutely crazy.”
Agricultural regulators in New Jersey and Ohio are considering following suit, the latest battle in a long-standing dispute over whether injecting cows with bovine growth hormone affects milk.
Effective Jan. 1, dairies selling milk in Pennsylvania, the nation’s fifth-largest dairy state, will be banned from advertising on milk containers that their product comes from cows that have never been treated with rBST, or recombinant bovine somatotropin.
The product, sold by Monsanto Co. under the brand name Posilac, is also known as recombinant bovine growth hormone, or rBGH.
It has been approved for use in the U.S. since 1994.