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Organic Dairy Label Being Corrupted by Factory Farms

Consumers who want to see how their favorite organic brands fared on the
Cornucopia's ratings scorecard can click here

From: The Cornucopia Institute <>

Contact: Mark Kastel, 608.625.2042

Organic Dairy Being Corrupted by Factory Farms
New Study Highlights Both Corporate Exploitation and Ethical Brands

CORNUCOPIA, WI: A smoldering five-year debate in the organic community had
gasoline thrown on it when one of the country's preeminent organic watchdogs
released a report this week alleging a handful of leading marketers are
shortchanging organic consumers.

The report and scorecard, rating 68 different organic dairy name-brands and
private-labels, was produced by The Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based
farm policy research group. It 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.

"Consumers who pay premium prices for organic products do so believing that
they are produced with a different kind of environmental ethic, a different
kind of animal husbandry ethic, and social justice for family farmers," said
Mark Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst for the Institute and the report's
primary author. "Our report, Maintaining the Integrity of Organic Milk, and
the accompanying dairy brands scorecard will empower consumers and wholesale
buyers who want to invest their food dollars to protect hard-working family
farmers who are in danger of being washed off the land by a tidal wave of
organic milk from these factory mega-farms."

The Cornucopia Institute¹s report was a year in the making and involved
in-depth research and surveys of the nation¹s dairy product manufacturers
located in every region of the country. Company owners and senior
management had to approve and personally verify their responses to the
Institute¹s 19 survey questions. Brands received scores ranging from "five
cows" (ranking as the best) to "one cow" (substandard) based upon an
analysis of the responses and other outside research. The scorecard and
report can be easily viewed on the organization¹s Web page at
<> .

The good news in the survey, according to Kastel, is that "the vast majority
of all name-brand organic dairy products are produced from milk from farms
that follow accepted legal and ethical standards." But consumers should
also know that nearly 20% of the name-brands now available on grocery
shelves scored a lowly one cow packages show cows idyllically grazing on grass-covered pastures, with glowing prose attesting to the marketer's commitment to organic ideals, the
milk might well have come from dairies that confine their cows to dirt
feedlots and small sheds," Kastel added.

The scorecard¹s release comes amidst a growing national debate occurring in
the organic farming community over the rise of confinement, factory farms in
organic dairying. Public interest groups have accused the USDA of
purposefully ignoring the matter for years, which has allowed these gigantic
farms to gain a foothold in the marketplace.

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 organic industry¹s growth and success has been built on a loving
collaboration between family-scale, ecological farmers and consumers hungry
for quality food produced in a sustainable and environmentally sensitive
approach," Kastel said. "But some companies are willing to cut corners to
make a buck, and they are hoping consumers won¹t notice. We are shining a
spotlight on these activities," Kastel added.

Corporate dairy interests haven't been taking Cornucopia's work casually.
The nation's largest milk bottler, Dean Foods, which controls the Horizon
Organic label, has already gone after the nonprofit group by mobilizing some
of their farmers and employees to complain about Cornucopia. And they've
worked with other members of their industry lobby group, the Organic Trade
Association, to go after Cornucopia's funders and supporters.

"Even though there are legions of organic consumers and farmers and many
other public interest groups on record in support of cracking down on the
companies that are abusing their customers¹ trust, I guess we should feel
some pride when an $11 billion corporation and an agribusiness-dominated
trade group are frightened enough to go after us," said the organization's
Board president, Margaret Hannah. "We will continue to bravely speak truth
to power."

A much more anonymous but powerful organic dairy interest was also noted in
the report. The Aurora Organic Dairy, in Colorado, is the nation¹s biggest
factory farm dairy. They produce private-label dairy products for a number
of chains such as Safeway, Wild Oats, Giant, and Costco. "No matter where
you are in the country, if you are a farmer producing organic milk that
truly meets the expectations of consumers by pasturing your animals, you are
most likely facing competitive pressure from Aurora¹s 6000-head factory
farm," observed Kastel.

Addressing Dean's Horizon brand somewhat of a conundrum, Kastel acknowledged. Dean/Horizon procures milk from their own 4000-cow plus farm in Idaho and purchases more from other mega-farms, plus they are helping aggressively develop other factory farms in the U.S.

But Dean/Horizon also purchases 50% or more of their milk from family-scale
producers scattered across the country. "Our research has found nothing to
indicate that family farmers whose milk is marketed under the Horizon label
aren't every bit as dedicated and ethical as farmers associated with other
competing brands," Kastel said.

"We have a moral obligation to produce milk that conforms with the
expectation that our customers have in the marketplace", said Francis Thicke
a family farmer from Fairfield, Iowa. "Furthermore, these industrial
dairies, that are multiplying at a frightening rate, have the potential to
create a glut in organic milk, endangering the livelihood of ethical family
producers all over America."

Consumers who want to see how their favorite organic brands fared on the
Cornucopia's ratings scorecard can visit the organization's Web site at < > .

# # #

The Cornucopia Institute, a nonprofit farm policy research group, is
dedicated to the fight for economic justice for the family-scale farming
community. Their Organic Integrity Project acts as a corporate and
governmental watchdog assuring that no compromises to the credibility of
organic farming methods and the food it produces are made in the pursuit of

Editor's Note:

The New York Times has run a story on our study in their Wednesday, March 22
edition. If interested, you can view the story at:

You should also be aware of the fact that Dean Foods (Horizon) has responded
to our aggressive oversight with a "greenwashing" campaign. Some of their
spin includes:

1. Since The Cornucopia Institute filed legal complaints with the USDA
alleging organic livestock management violations at the Aurora Dairy in
Colorado, Dean no longer buys milk from Aurora Dairy. What this means: They
were happy to buy from this chain of factory farms for years, building their
market share, until we turned up the heat.

2. 80% of Horizon milk comes from independent family farms (as opposed to
Deans¹ two company-owned operations farm in Idaho). What this means: This could be correct if you want to label as "family farms" some of their suppliers that milk thousands of cows, including a 10,000-cow dairy farm in California. In meetings with socially
responsible/religious investors in New York last month, Dean Foods refused
to divulge what percentage of their milk comes from farms with over 1000

3. Dean is investing $10 million to build a "model" farm. What this means:
This project is another industrial-scale farm (planned for 2000 cows) in
"desert-like" conditions in Idaho. Cornucopia has dubbed this "Dean's 10
million-dollar gamble." No legitimate organic farm in the country, even in
areas of bountiful rainfall and plentiful pasture, currently operates with
over 500­1000 cows, and even that is a tremendous aberration in terms of
scale (the average organic farm is probably 50­75 cows).

4. Dean has implemented programs to help family farmers and has created a
market for hundreds of independent farms. What this means: Cornucopia does
not dispute this. Dean pays excellent milk prices, and independent farms
that ship to them are undoubtedly meeting high standards. But other major
competitors (HP Hood and Organic Valley) competitively match their programs.
And we must question Dean¹s commitment to continuing to buy milk from family
farms when they persist in developing more industrial-scale facilities.