Udderly Organic?

Organic. What is it? Exactly? Typically, what it means to the consumer and what it means to the distributors are no where near the same definition. And most retailers don't care as long as it sells.

OK, what's my beef today? Milk. It does come from beef, doesn't it? You know cows?

How many of us believe if we buy organic milk, we are doing our bodies a favor? It gets my vote. Even if it does cost more. Nearly double in some stores.

Can I tell the difference? Yes. The taste. The look. The quality. I'd swear by it.

So what's up?

A change is about to occur in the industry. And I believe a good one.

What's On The Horizon?
In 2006, the organic dairy products industry were at a $2.7 billion high, 4% of all dairy products sold. (Organic Trade Association) To which, the company Horizon takes home most of the "cheese".

Currently, the Department of Agriculture has stepped up to the plate: Finally. Only after years of certain companies abusing the system and consumer watch groups making a clarion call to expose these companies. The new USDA draft rules for organic milk requires that "cows be on pasture at least half the year and get plenty of fresh grass." (Steve Karnowski, of the AP, 11/23/08).

And you thought they were grazing all year round on tasty clean greens? Wrong. With the ambiguity, the top producing companies rarely have cows that graze under the blue skies.

Milking The System
How do they get by with calling it organic? The standard for "organic" is highly contaminated. Hopefully, that will and is changing.

In arid Western states, these companies were feeding their cows organic grain while keeping them locked up in feedlots. You see the standard was that "diary companies are to have the cows graze in the pasture". Was there a convenience leaving out how long the cows were to graze? Makes you wonder. Hmmm. So certain companies like Horizon, my trusty milk distributor, took the easy route for the almighty buck. They graze their cows just enough to say its happening, then calling the results as organic and charging consumers out the you know where sides.

Who Took The Lead?
The two companies in question: Aurora Organic Dairy and the milk I buy, Horizon. Wisconsin-based Cornucopia Institute were the milk-police and led the charge. Aurora produces private label organic milk for national and local retailers. Horizon, is the largest national organic dairy brand and a unit of Dallas-based Dean Foods Co.

Did you know Dean Foods is the country's largest dairy processor and distributors? Right here in our own back yards.

The complaint from watch-dog organization, Minnesota-based Organic Consumers Association has been that consumers are not getting what they think they are. This has not been short in coming, as resolve over it has been "udderly" long over due. MBCA called for boycotts and spread the word via the Internet which in turn caused consumers awareness to take action. RESULTS: Class-action lawsuits. USDA comes out of slumber. Standards improved.

My kudos to these associations for creating an avenue for consumers to get personally involved along with giving the diary industry a chance to amend their integrity.

What Are The Trends?
The following was taken, in part, from an interview Ronnie Cummins, National Director of the Organic Association.

  • Wal-Mart is now the number-one seller of organic milk in the country.
  • Latest polls show 75 percent of Americans say they are shopping for healthier food.
  • About 12 cents of every grocery store dollar are going for foods that are labeled as either natural or organic.
  • Organic purchases are growing at 20 percent a year, whereas conventional food sales tend to grow about 2 percent a year.
  • This 20 percent-a-year growth has been steady ever since 1991.
  • It appears that it will continue through the end of this decade, so by then most food sold in grocery stores will have a label that says 'natural' or 'organic'.

Mr Cummins question is and should be ours as well: "If we let these gigantic corporations like Horizon and Wal-Mart take over the industry, will it really be organic?"

The Proper Criteria

  • Cows must be raised from birth as organic.
  • Cows must be pastured every day during t he growing season.
  • Cows must spend a minimum of 120 days a year under the skies.

This is what organic has always meant in terms of raising cows, and it is what it should mean now.

On The Sunny Side Of The Farm

Meanwhile back on the farm, almost all the organic farmers in the country are actually practicing real organic standards.

"The bad news is that the market leader, Horizon Organic, and their junior partner, Aurora Organic, are flagrantly violating organic standards to the point where we, the Organic Consumers Association, had to call for a boycott. We have never called for a boycott against an organic product before. This was going too far, so starting in early April, we called on consumers across the country to start boycotting the products of Horizon Organic and Aurora Organic, and to boycott the brand names that the leading retailers are selling from Horizon and Aurora at Wal-Mart, Costco, Safeway, Giant, Publix and Wild Oats." Ronnie Cummins, National Dir. of OCA (Organic Consumer's Association) 4/02/07

How Do Consumers Advocate Proper Organic Standards?

  • Educate yourself on organic standards.
  • Do NOT turn your food choices over to the food industry.
  • Research and find what products are truly organic.
  • Boycott the products from companies who lack integrity.
  • Go to your local stores and ask them why they are selling out to these large companies when they are violating the standards? Don't stop at a store manager.
  • Write letters to these companies.
  • Spread the word. Believe me, one voice at a time will make a difference.
  • Join a watch group and or start one of your own.
  • Find companies that are doing a great job and support them!!!
  • Or in this case, quit drinking milk. According to some research, cow's milk is not made for humans anyway!!!! That's another story!!!! But that would mean, you'd have to give up Oreos!

Milk Resources:

*For more about raw milk click here!
*For the complete interview with Mr. Simmons go to http://www.organicconsumers.org/

Copyright © 2008 by Pilates Worx 4 Life. All rights reserved. Check out website: www.pilatesworx4life.com