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What are some “true” organic dairy products?

June 10, 2012

Our book club just finished reading “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan and it touched off a lot of debate about what is truly “organic” and what isn’t. I wanted to learn more.  The Cornucopia Institute is a solid resource that rates dairy farms and their products.

Just who is the Cornucopia Institute?

The Cornucopia Institute is a progressive farm policy research group in Wisconsin.  Basically, I gather, but can’t confirm, they are lobbyists for family-scale farmers. But, in case you are put off by the term lobbyist- wait: the two founders of Cornucopia come from legitimate science and research backgrounds. Mark Kester, one of the co-founders, did extensive research on rBHG, revealing that cows were dying and whole herds were suffering from serious illnesses soon after they were injected. This crucial research led him to get involved with the development of the bill to regulate organic farming in Congress.  The other co-founder, Will Mantle, has written numerous articles on environmental, resource, food and health issues for national magazines and weekly newspapers.  He has also been a consultant on recycling, mainly for the municipal and industrial sectors.

So, in the end, I feel comfortable with using their research as a tool to answer my questions. The Cornucopia Institute publishes the Dairy List and Score Card- arranged by cow star ratings. (clever!). Here are some of the ratings of farms you might know.

The highest rating is 5 cows and the top score is 1200.

5 Cow Rating: Outstanding

  • Seven Stars-  (yogurt): 1190
  • Hawthorne Valley Farm- (yogurt, cheese, raw milk sales on the farm): 1190 (went up slightly from last year)
  • Butterworks Farm- (yogurt): 1190

4 Cow Rating: Excellent

  • Organic Valley- (full line dairy): 1115 (went down slightly from last year)
  • Amish Country Farms-  (fluid dairy): 1100
  • Whole Food Markets (365 Organic)-  (fluid milk products): 1070
  • Stonyfield- (yogurt, fluid milk) : 1035
  • Lifeway – (kefir): 1025
  • Nature’s One (infant formula): 1100

3 Cow Rating: Very Good

  • Ben and Jerrys- (ice cream): 780 (went up from last year)
  • Similac (Abbott Laboratories)- (infant formula, fortified with DHA/ARA- please see related Cornucopia report for possible side effects): 930

1 Cow Rating PRIVATE-LABEL (some or all factory-farm milk or unknown source, but better than conventional) Note: information based on ”industry sources” no private-label supplier participated in the study

  • Trader Joes (fluid milk products): 0
  • Wild Oats: 0
  • Costco (Kirkland or High Meadows): 0
  • Target (Archer Farms): 0
  • Horizon (Dean Foods): 0
  • Safeway (O Foods): 0
  • Kroger (Naturally Preferred): 0
  • Giant (Nature’s Promise): 0
  • Albertsons (Wild Harvest): 0
  • ALDI (Friendly Farms): 0

0 Cow Rating NO COWS (Ethically Deficient) Most produce or purchase factory farm milk – none were open enough to participate in this study

  • Back to Nature (Kraft): 0
  • Organic Cow (Dean Foods): 0

Any surprises for you? I was totally taken aback that Trader Joe’s milk got a 1 Cow Rating..and bummed.

To view a full list please visit: http://cornucopia.org/dairysurvey/index.html