The Cornucopia Institute has published something important for all of us who are truly interested in, and committed to, knowing where our food comes from, and supporting sustainable food sources. Their report card on the so-called organic dairy industry holds few surprises, though they left off one of the best dairies (that would be Claravale).
Also no surprise is that the horrid Heritage paid a $300,000 fine for abusing its farm workers. (Ah, you say, but isn't their milk carton attractive?) Talk about Orwellian language...since when it is "heritage" to abuse the land, animals, and your workers? Well, come to think of it, I guess it is the American way.
Hey, this is rich...the Heritage mission statement (emphasis mine):
We are a family in every sense of the word, making Stremicks Heritage Foods™ rich in ideals; integrity, honesty, (oh, stop, I'm laughing too much!) heritage (right, since 1988!) hard work, growth, and knowledge in what is right (without actually having to do right, of course). We make it our mission to direct all of our efforts at "doing it better" than anyone else. We produce and sell the highest quality products (not even!) at affordable prices for our customers to enjoy. We are committed to bringing new products with premier standards in health benefits into the homes and lives of the consumer. We strive to continue to build a future for sustainable family farming in order to encourage ecological diversity. Our belief in success stems from establishing and conducting our business with consistent morality and fairness in our relationships with fellow employees, customers and consumers, suppliers, and society.
Well, pardon my French, but what a load of merde.
Another good source for giant piles of cow manure and bulls--t would be Horizon, who at $11 billion and with 4000-5000 cows confined in barns and pens (I don't call them "farms") is the biggest purveyor of so-called "organic" milk in the world. (Pictured at right, NOT a Horizon dairy, but the view for the Claravale cows, down in Watsonville.)
From the Horizon website: "Organic dairy is all we've ever done. Founded in 1991, we were already a well-established organic leader long before the national organic regulations were put in place. In fact, our founders played a key role in helping to develop the National Organic Standards and the U.S.D.A. Organic Seal. Today, as the organic industry evolves, Horizon Organic® continues to lead with insight, integrity and unwavering commitment to organic principles."
Oh, really? Hmmm, could we speculate and easily believe that this actually means "our founders helped corrupt the standards of the USDA so that we benefit financially from looser regulations and a diarrheaic plunder of the original integrity of the word 'organic' "? I could, no problem.
From Cornucopia: "They operate two corporate-owned farms, in Maryland and Idaho. Their Idaho facility, milking 4000–5000 cows, was originally a conventional factory-dairy that they converted to organic production. It has, according to widespread industry reports, very little access to pasture. Unlike the majority of all organic dairy farmers in the United States, who concentrate on the health and longevity of their cows, caring for them from birth, the Dean/Horizon Idaho farm sells off all their calves. Later, presumably to save money on organic feed and management, they buy one-year-old conventional animals on the open market. These replacements likely have received conventional milk replacer (made with blood—considered to be a 'mad cow' risk), antibiotics, other prohibited pharmaceuticals, and genetically engineered feed. Many practices on a farm of this nature put ethical family-scale organic farmers at a competitive disadvantage."
More dirt on Horizon/Dean:
Family Farm Defenders: Some pretty serious charges, and this:
As Michael Pollan wrote in the New York Times Sunday Magazine (5/13/01), “On Horizon's dairy farms in the west, thousands of cows that never encounter a blade of grass spend their days confined to a fenced dry lot, eating (certified organic) grain and tethered to milking machines three times a day."
The Vander Eyk factory dairy is located in California’s San Joaquin Valley and near the community of Pixley. Vander Eyk’s “split” operation combines as many as 7000 conventional cows with approximately 3000 organic animals. Dairy cows are reportedly trucked to pasture on the farm but The Cornucopia Institute contends that this is not a practice used for the portion of the herd that is being actively milked.
"The problem is the locating of these dairies," said Roman Stoltzfoos a Kinzers, Pennsylvania, pasture-based farmer milking 130 cows. "If anyone gave two hoots about organics they would have located their dairy where they could have grazed and kept it smaller."
The mammoth Vander Eyk farm has also been targeted for its employment practices. The owner recently reached a $360,000 labor settlement covering 125 workers who contended that were not allowed rest or meal breaks, nor paid overtime, and were not reimbursed for safety equipment they had to purchase for use in their jobs.
Salon has a great article from April, 2005: Land of Milk and Honey.
What most consumers don't know is that at Horizon's big dairies, such as the one in Idaho, the cows are raised in a manner that most experts don't consider organic. According to former Horizon Idaho dairy workers, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of jeopardizing their current jobs, Horizon cows graze for only four or five hours a day and during only three months in the summer. While Horizon claims the cows get plenty of fresh air, that's because the barns are open structures. Their cows can see the fields but mostly aren't walking around in them. "Most of the time, the cows are inside the barn," says one former employee, who worked on the Idaho farm for eight years.
Like the steady stream of Mexican immigrants who milk them every eight hours, Horizon cows work hard. In Idaho, they are fed a steady diet of alfalfa hay, oats, soybeans, and grains such as barley and corn (all organic!), according to a Horizon spokesperson. This starch diet pushes the bovines to produce extra milk. While dairy cows on many pasture-based farms are milked twice a day, Horizon's cows produce enough to be milked three times daily.
If you are buying milk from Horizon confinement dairies after reading this, shame on you.
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I promised McAuliflower at Brownie Points that I would link to her most excellent post on Whole Foods. Today she is another good one: why some organic food is still laced with pesticides. (I do this despite the fact that she's declared a jihad on tomatoes!)
Consider that what and how we eat indeed determines the health of the Earth. Your Earth Dinner™ is an opportunity for you to understand--at least for one night—where each ingredient on your table comes from. The challenge for your dinner party guests is to share the story behind each dish. Who grew the food? How was it grown? What is the geographic origin of the food?
The Earth Dinner™ is a joyful, animated, and inspiring theme dinner party held at least once every year, connecting people to the earth, their food and each other. It can be as planned or as spontaneous as you like.
What a great idea. (Clever food bloggers will realize that Earth Day precedes St. George's Day, a blogfest written up here by Sam of BecksPoshNosh.)
Hey, check this out: CertifiedHumane.org has a list of producers and restaurants that adhere to humane practices for raising livestock. (Looks like another category for my Platial "Chefs and Farms" map.
One more link: RealMilk.com "has links to certain geographic areas where you can purchase milk direct from the farm...raw! There are several small family farms with just a couple of cows for their personal use. They milk daily, by hand, and if you purchase a share of the cow (or goat) you get a portion of that milk."
Finally, go read David Lebovitz's post about Neal's Yard Dairy.
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THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: "Cows are amongst the gentlest of breathing creatures; none show more passionate tenderness to their young when deprived of them; and, in short, I am not ashamed to profess a deep love for these quiet creatures." —Thomas de Quincey
I confess: I love cows, too.
Thanks for visiting.