A journal

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Saturday, September 29, 2012

All Organic Milk is not created equal

Since the kids turned one we have been starting the process of converting them to drinking whole milk instead of formula.  You would think it would be an easy decision to give them organic milk.  I mean it has to be better for them that regular old hormone filled good enough for adults milk, right?  Well it turns out it's not that easy. Not all "organic" milk is created equal and just like everything that is labeled "organic" you really have to do the research about the company producing the product because the term "organic" is not regulated by the government. My pediatrician told us she recommends Horizon Organic Whole milk with DHA so I went out and bought the (9$ a gallon!) milk.  Then I thought I'd better do some research on this company.  Boy was I disappointed!  I started reading about Horizon and that it was owned by Dean Foods and that it uses factory-farmed cows for the production of their milk and is notorious for stating that cows have "access" to pasture but that in reality actual spend very little time eating from those pastures.  I ran across the Cornucopia Institute website  which published an Organic Dairy Report and Scorecard in 2006 and continuously updates it.  The Cornucopia Institute's "mission statement" is below and it appears to be a legitimate research group that is operating to provide the most accurate information about organic agriculture.

The Cornucopia Institute will engage in educational activities supporting the ecological principles and economic wisdom underlying sustainable and organic agriculture. Through research and investigations on agricultural issues, The Cornucopia Institute will provide needed information to consumers, family farmers, and the media.
The Cornucopia Institute is recognized by the IRS as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) public interest group. Donations are tax-deductible to the full extent of law.
The Organic Dairy Report and Scorecard ranked dairies on a scale of "5 cows" (best) down to "1 cow" as determined by a 19 question survey filled out by the milk producers. The criteria and study design for the study are here and if you are interested in these issues I highly recommend you read it before looking up your favorite brand of milk on the Report. The main focus of this survey was to ascertain the animal husbandry practices of the producers, which most consumers who buy organic will hold as a core value of their reasoning for purchasing organic animal products. 
So where does Horizon/Dean Foods rank? Ethically Deficient with 0 cows.  Horrible.  I've decided to switch over to Organic Valley which is commercially available in our area and ranks a excellent with "4 cows."  It is an organic dairy produced cooperative rather than a huge agribusiness like Dean Foods.  There is a very nice comparison on this blog's post from 2011.  I really appreciate the Cornucopia Institute's (apparently unbiased, at least as far as I can tell) study that will hopefully help many make smart choices about the food they decide to purchase.     
Later this month I plan to examine another Food Policy called Prop 37 in the state of Ca which will put stricter regulations on labeling of products containing GMOs (genetically modified organisms).   

1 comment:

  1. Thanks! I was drinking milk for a while and only bought Maine's Own, or directly from the little farm up in Portsmouth and it is good to see it Maine's own ranked highly. I don't know how Trader Joe's got to be thought of as a natural foods ethical store. They always rank really low on the ethics list from treatment of tomato growers to this dairy scorecard.



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