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Cornucopia Institute Provides Further Clarification on Silk Importation of Soybeans from China

In last week's Organic Bytes #174, we informed our readers about a new survey from the Cornucopia Institute that ranks mainstream soy brands based on how much they source their beans from U.S. Farmers.  Of the many companies profiled, the survey shows that Silk is importing soybeans from China. Many of you noted that according to the website of Silk, which is now owned by Dean Foods, the company claims to source all of its soybeans from U.S. Farmers. Here is more information on that topic from the Cornucopia Institute's Mark Kastel:

We stand behind the facts and background presented in our comprehensive report on the organic and "natural" soy foods market.
Here are some of the high points of what we know about Dean Foods' (WhiteWave) soybean procurement practices for their Silk product line:

  1. Silk, a pioneering brand in the organic marketplace, used 100% organic soybeans in their products prior to their acquisition by Dean Foods.
  2. Dean Foods is an $11 billion agribusiness giant and the largest milk processor in the United States. They own over 50 milk labels around the country, including Horizon Organic, a brand that heavily depends on factory farms each milking thousands of cows.
  3. According to reports by farmers and farmer-owned cooperatives, after Dean Foods purchased the company, they discontinued buying some or all of their organic soybeans from domestic organic producers and told the farmers that their decision was based on price-a price that American farmers could not match.
  4. Dean Foods gradually started introducing additional varieties and flavors, many made with "natural" soybeans. These are conventional soybeans. The percentage of their products manufactured with organic soybeans declined steadily over the years, and recently plummeted.
  5. Dean Foods' statement about buying all North American soybeans was recently put up, presumably, since we had announced the imminent release of our report. We have no way of verifying whether the information is accurate. Unlike their two competitors in the refrigerated dairy case (Organic Valley and Wildwood), Dean Foods refused to transparently participate in Cornucopia's study-depriving their customers of an independently verified review of their practices.
  6. In terms of Dean Foods buying a "small portion" of their soybeans from China in the past, that seems to contradict the reports from organic growers in the United States, and the company has never released any hard data on their purchases.
  7. Recently, Dean Foods reformulated their Silk product line changing almost all their products over to "natural" (conventional) soybeans. They did this, quietly, without telling retailers or changing the UPC code numbers on the products. Many retailers reported that they didn't find out until their customers noticed and complained.
  8. To add insult to injury, not only did the price of Silk products not go down when they converted to cheaper conventional soybeans, but they now reintroduced three products with organic soybeans and raised the price on those.  Greedy profiteering plain and simple.
On a recent visit to Whole Foods in Milwaukee (May, 2009) the store was offering 25 different Silk soy milk products, in different sizes and flavors, including creamers, of which only one (1) was organic. So much for Dean Foods and their WhiteWave division's commitment to the environment, consumer health and the hard-working family farmers that produce certified organic soybeans in this country.

Mark A. Kastel
The Cornucopia Institute
608-625-2042 Voice
866-861-2214 Fax