The Cornucopia Institute, an organic watchdog organization, has released a report (PDF) on the “organic-ness” of 68 dairy name brands and private labels. While cow-conscious consumers might assume that the word “organic” on the label means that their milk mustache comes from a happy cow grazing in non-pesticide-laden pastures, that’s not always the case; guidelines for organic certification can be variously interpreted, and the USDA is lax on enforcing regulations. Says the Cornucopia press release:
[The report] profiles the growth and commercialization of organic dairying and looks at the handful of firms that now seem intent upon taking over the organic dairy industry by producing all or some of their milk on 2000- to 6000-cow industrial-style confinement dairies.
The report finds that while the majority of name-brand organic producers do hold to high legal and ethical standards, 20 percent garnered a “one-cow” substandard rating (out of a possible five).
A booming, lucrative $15 billion market for organic food and a severe national shortage of organic milk are two factors that industry observers mention as driving the “get organic milk from any source” philosophy.
The top companies — Aurora Organic Dairy and Dean Foods, which owns Horizon Organic, Organic Cow of Vermont and Alta Dena — did not respond to the survey that Cornucopia sent out, for which they received a score of no cows. The two producers control 60-70 percent of the organic dairy market.