Got (Real Deal Organic) Milk? Not Unless You Take Action ASAP!

Now that I’ve got your attention…

The action is speaking out  in support of the new, tougher set of organic standards currently under review and the asap is because the review period is almost over. (There’s a comment form  provided here by the Cornucopia Institute.) If the standards are adopted, consumers are likely to get better, fresher milk and they’re likely to get it from the sort of small and mid sized farms that come to mind when you hear the word “dairy.”

Right now, those small and mid sized farms are having a tough time of it. Even consumers who are willing to pay a premium for organic would prefer that premium be as small as possible, and there’s no way genuine farms can compete on price with Industrial Organic, the gigantic factory “farms” that dominate the industry.

How did the factories wind up on the same playing field as the farms? Three guesses, the first two don’t count, as my sister used to say. The factories produce “organic” milk only  because current organic standards have loopholes you could push a barnful of cows through.

Among other things, the new standards mandate unambiguously that cows spend their days outdoors –  on pasture, not in a mudlot –  unless the weather really sucks. That by itself  would return the advantage of “Certified Organic”  to sustainably sized farms because it makes giant factories impossible. There’s no way you could put thousands of dairy cows out to pasture and bring them in daily, even if you had the requisite thousands of acres of pasture.

Needless to say there’s considerable pressure to maintain the status quo, so the more consumer support for change, the better. Here’s that link again, for your convenience.

Then while you’re at Cornucopia you can check out the handy scorecard that rates over 100 brand name and private label marketers of organic milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, and ice cream. (The Institute has been on the dairy case for some time).

Although periodically updated, the scorecard can’t report every change in ownership or practices. But it’s still extremely useful, especially if you have nothing but labels to go by when trying to choose the best. Cornucopia rated the product lines on a scale of zero to five cows, based on criteria like chains of ownership and supply, adherence to organic standards and long-term sustainability.

Happily, the institute says “Over 85% of the name brand products are from companies that rate highly in the study, so consumers in all areas of the country are assured access to organic dairy products of the highest integrity.”

Or at least they’re assured right now. If the factories are permitted to continue driving everybody else out of business, the picture won’t be so rosy.

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  • Anne Said,

    I just sent my letter in. Thank you for pointing this out and supporting real farmers, not large corporations. My husband’s father was a dairy farmer. If enough of us write in, we might get heard.

  • Leslie, I’ve also sent in a comment, probably longer than anyone will ever read! If you don’t mind, I’d like to post a link to your blog entry on my Facebook page to help spread the word. I’m SO tired of the “too big to fail” syndrome; it’s time to help small business and family farms!!

  • Robin Said,

    Great info! It’s a shame to see “organic” dumbed down again.

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