More and more people are interested in knowing about the origins of the foods they consume every day – including how it was produced – and the way that dairy cattle are raised makes a big difference to the environment as well as to the health of the farmers, the well-being of the animals, and the quality of the milk.

For many consumers, quality milk is defined by what’s in the milk and what’s not, as well as how milk production affects farmers and the environment — this means milk from cows that:

  • Are raised on pastures where they graze on grasses. And where supplemental feed does not contain animal byproducts. Cows raised on pasture are healthier than cows raised in the confinement of industrialized dairies or concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Cows raised on pasture also produce milk that’s higher in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and other nutrients.
  • Are not given hormones, such as recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH). Hormones make cows produce more milk, but they also make them more likely to become sick. While studies on the effects of consuming hormones in milk are conflicting and ongoing, many consumers have become wary of potential health hazards of ingesting hormones. Some in the scientific communities, such as Health Canada and the European Commission, have expressed concern about the possible linkage of rBGH to some cancers.
  • Are not routinely given antibiotics to prevent disease. The overuse of antibiotics contributes to bacterial antibiotic resistance in animals and humans.

We make all of our buying decisions with our values in mind: that means you’ll find milk on our shelves that was hand-chosen because it is local, organic, and/or sustainably produced. We also carry a large variety of non-dairy milk options!

Terms To Know

Organic: Crops and animals raised organically have not been exposed to synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, genetic modification, growth hormones, or antibiotics. All products labeled “Certified Organic” have been certified by the USDA. However, some farmers classify themselves as “uncertified organic,” meaning they follow organic practices but have not gone through the official process to be certified by the USDA.


There is no official rule about what constitutes local food, but the widely accepted idea is that local food was grown or produced within a 100-mile radius of where it’s sold and eaten. In some instances, however, food originating from within one’s region or even one’s state is considered “local,” depending on the scope of available foods and the location.All of the local cow’s milk we sell at the Co-op is from less than 50 miles away, right here in NC!


Pasteurization is the process of heating foods to kill pathogenetic bacteria. The USDA regulates the use of this word in food labeling and in some cases may require certain foods to be pasteurized. Homogenization, when it refers to milk, is a mechanical process that breaks down the fat globules so that they are uniform in size and distributed evenly throughout the milk. Some milks are pasteurized, but not homogenized—that’s why they have a “plug” of cream at the top.


This term is defined by the USDA only for meat products, which should be only minimally processed and contain no artificial ingredients or added colors. As defined, the term is broad enough to cover most meats. The label may be added to products at the meat manufacturer’s discretion—the USDA does not investigate every claim. On produce and packaged food labels, “natural” is a marketing term, suggesting that the product was created without the use of artificial ingredients. Because the term is not regulated or verified by a third-party certifier for non-meat products, however, shoppers should be wary of the claim.


Cattle, sheep, goats, and bison termed “grass-fed” graze on pasture during the growing season and eat a diet of dry grasses (hay or grass silage) during the winter months and in droughts.


An animal is considered “finished” when its natural growth has slowed enough for it to start putting on fat; this is the stage at which animals are slaughtered for meat. Grass-finished animals continue eating grass until they reach this stage, while most meat animals spend the last several months of their lives in feedlots, eating grain.

Our Values

We know that making good decisions about what to buy can be complicated. We put a lot of time and thought into every purchasing decision we make, so that you can trust all of choices you have at the DCM. We want you to know that every product on the shelves at the Durham Co-op Market has been hand-selected by our team with our values in mind:

Supporting the Local Economy

Environmental Stewardship


Dignity of Workers

If you ever have any questions, concerns, or suggestions about any product you find at our store, we want to hear it! You can always call us at (919) 973-1707 or email us at

Learn More