A Sheepish Ingredient in Milk

If you drink store bought dairy milk, it isn’t just made of milk – it’s usually got vitamin A and vitamin D added.  Even organic milk:

Organic Skim Milk, Vitamin A Palmitate and Vitamin D3.

As you can see, the vitamin D used is vitamin D3. And it’s most likely made from sheep wool. Don’t get freaked out though:

  1. Vitamin D3 does NOT contain meat. It comes from lanolin, the oily substance in wool. That wool comes from live sheep that are periodically sheared.
  2. Sheep need to be sheared in any case, and using the wool to create vitamins is more environmentally friendly than discarding it.
  3. Many people don’t get enough vitamin D. It’s naturally available in cod liver oil, beef liver, sardines, tuna, eel and eggs – which most people don’t get enough of to meet their vitamin D needs. Milk producers have been adding vitamin D to milk for decades.

By the way, if you are vegetarian or vegan and buy non dairy milk, such as almond or soy, it is fortified with vitamin D2, a plant derived form of vitamin D.

What does worry us:

Not enough information on the sourcing of vitamins is available – nor are regulations clear. This is true for all vitamins and minerals added to foods. For example, to create vitamin D3, the wool is processed with chemicals and then irradiated. While this isn’t the end of the world, most consumers don’t realize how much processing their vitamins have been through.

Bottom line: While it is a bit weird to know about the vitamin source, we’re not going to stop drinking milk because of this . . .

Get Fooducated

  • Brian Klein

    Another good reason to allow raw milk sales, so they don’t have to add the D3 back into the milk after destroying it through (ultra) pasteurization and homogenization.

    • CT

      Actually, there is very little vitamin D in milk. The vitamin D is added as a fortification step. So raw milk isn’t going to provide you much at all in the way of vitamin D.

      Vitamin A is added to milk if the milk has been separated into skim and cream (the vitamin A stays with the cream).

      • Brian Klein

        Well, raw milk from a grain fed cow would not have any vitamin d, as the cow would rarely see the light of day, and that’s how they get vitamin d. Pastured cattle during the summer months would see hours and hours sunlight, therefore would produce more vitamin d, and you would see some of it in your raw milk. I don’t think the levels are incredibly high… most food sources of vitamin d are very low. The best food to eat for natural vitamin d I think is salmon. Fermented cod liver oil is another good source.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sara-Smithy/100001641909428 Sara Smithy

          And 15 minutes of happy sunshine a day. Free Vitamin D.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sara-Smithy/100001641909428 Sara Smithy

        Vitamin D is added to milk because without the D, the body cannot absorb calcium – something that milk has in abundance.

        • Lori Wheeler

          But milk is not your best source of calcium, plant foods are :) Milk is acidic and not a healthy food choice except if you are a calf, then it’s perfect :)

  • Sarah Mat Good

    An angle I hadn’t considered. Thanks.

  • louise@cakeandcalico.com

    Wow – what an astonishing post. I had no idea wool was used like this. Bizarre!

  • malachite2

    http://www.activistpost.com/2013/02/aspartame-in-milk-without-label-big.html

    But the addition of artificial sweeteners that aren’t listed on the label should bother people and even make them stop drinking milk (from suppliers who don’t list it).

    Surprised that fooducate hasn’t picked up on this latest dairy industry effort to corrupt what is a fairly good food (i.e., milk).

  • J in VA

    Isn’t D2 the form of Vit D that is not recommended because it is poorly absorbed?
    Everything I’ve read about vit Dsupplements says to get D3.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sara-Smithy/100001641909428 Sara Smithy

      Yes you are correct. This is why soy milk fortified with Vitamin D2 is not recommended as an appropriate health-benefit replacement for standard milk – especially for children.

      • Lori Wheeler

        Children should be only drinking breast milk and then once weaned not be drinking milk from another species! Mammal’s milk is for their own species as a good nutritional start in life until they can eat solid food, be it grass, other animals (if it’s a carnivore) or fruit, veggies etc.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sara-Smithy/100001641909428 Sara Smithy

    I’d rather get my Vit D in milk and sunlight than the old way – cod liver oil. Yuck.

  • http://www.andreawrites.ca/ Andrea T

    After I recently reading someone’s mention on Facebook that lard is a good source of D I investigated and learned that the second best source for vitamin D is lard from pastured pigs. Pastured is important and it makes total sense: Like human skin, pig skin produces vitamin D in the sunshine. I also learned that herring is the third best source but that it’s got a lot less than pork. I just did a quick search on the Weston A Price website, which is where I remember getting the information in the past. Here’s a snippet from one of the articles on the site (not the same one I’d previously read):

    “Bacon fat from pastured pigs also comes replete with fat-soluble vitamin D, provided it’s bacon from foraging pigs that romp outdoors in the sun for most of year. Factory-farmed pigs kept indoors and fed rations from soy, casein, corn meal, and other grains, are likely to show low levels of Vitamin D.” I encourage you to read the entire article and do some Googling of your own for “vitamin d lard” and “vitamin d pork”.

    • Lori Wheeler

      Well not sure where you live but in North America 95% of meat including pigs comes from factory farms. Do some research to see how they are confined and housed, it is sickening. Pigs make great pets just like dogs, although bigger but they are also smarter. The way humans treat them is inhumane and disgusting. Look on Facebook for Esther the Wonder Pig <3

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000075349174 T.t. Watson

    I don’t see nothing wrong with it.

  • http://petehaase.com Pete Haase

    D3, aka Cholecalciferol, is used in rat poisons and is toxic to cats and dogs. Wikipedia explains more near the bottom. Shouldn’t we be concerned with the artificially isolated D3 that causes soft tissue stiffening (heart problems)? There are some milk options w/o D3 added, but I have to travel 80 miles to get it.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cholecalciferol