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Boycott Feedlot "Organics"

Updated on February 14, 2009
Is this your image of an organic dairy cow? Think again!
Is this your image of an organic dairy cow? Think again!
Aurora Organic Dairy. Photo by the Cornucopia Institute.
Aurora Organic Dairy. Photo by the Cornucopia Institute.

The carton shows a smiling cow and talks about "clean water, fresh air, organic pasture and exercise."

But is that the reality?

The organic dairy industry has been invaded by impostors. Organic foods are now a $14 billion industry in the United States, and still growing. You can hardly blame corporations for wanting to get a slice of that. Unfortunately, some of the same corporations that once drove small family farmers out of conventional dairying are now trying to do the same to the organic industry.

Horizon Organics, owned by Dean Foods, now controls 70% of the $ 1 billion organic dairy industry, but its farms are hardly full of happy, smiling cows. Instead, many of Horizon's cows live under conditions little better than feedlots. Though Horizon and other corporate organic dairies may follow the letter of the law, they abuse the spirit, and are working to weaken organic standards even farther.

In addition to keeping their cows under feedlot-like conditions, these large organic dairies often purchase replacement animals from conventionally raised heifers who have spent the first part of their lives consuming feed that may have been genetically modified or treated with chemical pesticides or herbicides, and in many cases may have contained large doses of antibiotics, growth hormones, and animal byproducts. This is of particular concern for dairy products because many harmful chemicals collect in fat cells, including breast tissue, and may pass into milk.

For these and other reasons, the Organic Consumers Association called for a boycott of Horizon and Aurora Organic Dairy products in 2006.

So How Do I Know Who's Really Organic?

Don't give up on organic dairy products just because some companies choose profits over ethics.

The Cornucopia Institute, a respected sustainable agriculture watchdog group, conducted a nationwide survey of organic dairies and rated the results on scales of 5 Cows (Outstanding) to No Cows (Ethically Deficient).

Although more ethical nationwide organic dairies are available, the best choice is locally-produced, grass-fed dairy products. Milk from cows raised and fed exclusively on pasture has many health benefits for the consumer, including higher levels of healthy Omega 3 fatty acids and many vitamins and minerals, as well as being more humane and better for the environment. You can find information about local organic dairies at Local Harvest or Eat Wild.


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