Sunday, May 07, 2006

Organic Milk - Why You Should Care

Now estimated in excess of $15 billion in annual sales, the organic dairy industry is said to be at risk by those who are willing to twist, manipulate, and even ignore federal organic regulations in their rush to cash in on this growing lucrative market.

A new report/survey published by the Cornucopia Institute titled -- "Maintaining The Integrity Of Organic Milk" (.pdf document) -- allows consumers to easily identify those organic dairy products that have been produced with the best organic practices. It also reveals some of the "FRAUDS" in the marketplace ...and indepth coverage of apparent government carelessness (for lack of a better term) regarding the organic industry.

The survey rates 68 different "organic" dairy brands and private-label products found across the country. Nearly 20% of the name-brands now available on grocery shelves scored a substandard rating.

"By purchasing organic products, consumers have demonstrated that they are interested in healthy, whole foods, grown without the potential for contamination by toxic agrichemicals or drugs, including antibiotics and growth hormones. And for some, the added bonus of supporting environmental protection and sustainability is a strong inducement. ...We intend this organic dairy brand scorecard to empower organic consumers and wholesale buyers in the marketplace, equipping them with the knowledge to make good and discerning purchasing decisions."
In response to the results of the report, The Organic Consumers Association is calling for an allout boycott of bogus organic milk brands.

Some of the brands named that rated a BAD SCORE include:

Stremicks (Heritage-Foods), Santa Ana, CA: Supplied by factory farm under investigation. Farm paid $300,000 settlement for abusing workers.

Organic Cow (Dean Foods), Dallas, TX (Northeast): Purchased by Horizon, then Dean Foods. Organic Cow is a brand managed by Dean.

Horizon (Dean Foods), Dallas, TX: $11 billion--the nation's largest conventional & organic milk marketer. Owns 4000 cow "farm".

Back to Nature (Kraft): Glenview, IL Produces Cheese products distributed nationwide but landed on the "Ethically Challenged" list.

Visit here for the full report/scorecard.

Organic vs. Non-Organic -- Why Should You Care?

Let's start with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) -- manufactured and marketed by Monsanto. It was one of the first genetically engineered agricultural production products to be sold in the USA.

Designed to boost a dairy cow's milk output and approved for use by the FDA on November 5, 1994, rBGH has played a significant role in the industrialization of dairy production. It has serious implications for animal welfare and poses a potentially serious health threat to dairy cows. The synthetic hormone's impact on human health is still being vigorously debated. It's banned for use in Canada and the UK.

Some of the larger "so-called organic" dairy farms sell off all of their calves at birth and buy conventional replacement heifers at approximately one year of age. This saves them the expense of feeding the calves organic feed for the full two years of their lives prior to their entering the milking line which could result in dairy cows that have been raised using organic-rating prohibited materials (ie. milk replacer/cow's blood, antibiotics, conventional feed containing potential pesticide contamination, genetically engineered feed, poultry manure, etc.).

Consumers should also be aware that milk from factory-farm operations may be less nutritious than that from pastured dairy cows. What cows eat affects their milk's nutrition.

The Danish Institute of Agricultural Research recently reported that organic milk -- defined as produced by pastured cows -- is 50% higher in vitamin E, 75% higher in omega-3 fatty acids, and 200%–300% higher in antioxidants than conventional milk.

And The Union of Concerned Scientists has just released the first comprehensive study that confirms that beef and milk from animals raised entirely on pasture have higher levels of beneficial fats that may prevent heart disease and strengthen the immune system.

Additionally, many consumers believe that their patronage of organic brands connects them more directly to family farmers, who they respect and want to financially support. They feel good about the fact that farming organically allows these farmers and their children to avoid occupational exposure to toxins, which has resulted in conventional farmers having the highest rates of cancer of any occupation.

A Final Note...

"Knowledge is power. And that is evidently what many of the largest corporate players in organic food are afraid of: empowering consumers." Quoted from the "Maintaining The Integrity Of Organic Milk" Report

As you might guess, the Cornucopia Institute is facing a great deal of adversity for their organic dairy survey results from industry heavy-weights, including the Organic Trade Association (OTA) themselves ...a once highly respected, now sadly tarnished organic industry group.

I refer you back to our "USA Food Fight" article. If you are relying on Federal governing bodies (such as the FDA, USDA, etc.) to protect your health and oversee food quality -- and safety -- in the USA, think again.

Perhaps a new label is required on ALL our food products:

"This product, in whole or in part, contains genetically altered ingredients and/or ingredients produced by factory farming and/or genetic-engineering methods."

But then we'd have to inform the public about factory farming, and that could stir up a whole bunch of trouble for the heavy-hitters, wouldn't it?