A project of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine will monitor the transition of dairy cattle from conventional to organic farming to understand changes in animal health, milk quality and milk safety.

The transition normally takes about three years, and the US$1.1m study will allow veterinarians and food scientists to analyse milk samples from five transitional herds in New York to ensure animals are healthy, and farms remain in good fiscal health.

Although accounting for less than 1% of the US milk market, organic milk is the fastest-growing segment of the natural food market. The number of certified organic cows in the United States increased by 277% in the last seven years.