Tag Archives: Horizon Organic

Horizon Organic is Not Organic

But of course we’ve known that for some time now, right?

Finally, some folks in the food industry are starting to take notice and take action.

PCC Natural Markets will stop carrying milk products from the country’s largest organic dairy company, Horizon Organic, next month because it doubts that the products meet organic standards.

PCC’s biggest concern is that some cows are not receiving enough pasture time, “but there are a lot of other things that have been alleged that need to be investigated officially,” said Goldie Caughlan, PCC’s nutrition-education manager and a former member of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s organic standards board.

PCC is a Food Co-op here in the Seattle area. Their sales method is more akin to that of a supermarket. As far as reputations go, theirs is very well-respected. So when they say “Horizon isn’t what we want”, others in the industry will likely take notice.

Good for them, I say. Playing fast and loose with Organic Standards goes against the initial ideals that the organic movement was founded upon. To call out Horizon Dairy on their bullshit is exactly what is needed.

It’s also the one of the first shots across the bow of the industrial organic companies from those who seek to hold to the movements initial ideals, at least in the financial sense. Yes, some people have talked a good game, but the only way to hold industrial organic accountable is in the one place where it counts — their bottom line.

However, I would not be surprised if Horizon and their associated dairies retaliated in some way, probably legal. There’s going to be a battle for the soul of the Organic Movement. And I think this was only the first out of many future skirmishes.

tags technorati : Organic PCC Horizon Dairy Milk Organic Milk

Organic Milk Update

One of the major contentions within the Organic movement is how some companies are stretching the definition of what “organic” should be. Milk is a prime example of this, where dairy cows are supposed to have access to pasture. Unfortunately, several companies operate under the letter of the law, but not the spirit of it, by ensuring that there’s an access, but no cows crossing the threshold of the access.

Nice, huh?

Gristmill is reporting that this may change here in the near future, with the USDA’s National Organic Program will address this very issue.

the NOP is now considering a proposed regulation that would require all organic dairy farms to meet a certain standard for letting their cows out into pasture. Current USDA regulations only require that organic cows have “access to pasture,” which, says (Samuel) Fromartz, “is akin to requiring a gym membership without mandating regular visits to the gym.”

Big Dairy clearly doesn’t like this, but smaller dairies do, because it will seperate their product from the likes of Horizon. If you’re looking for the first big battle between small organic versus industrial organic, this would be it.

Technorati Tags: Milk, organic+foods

Dear USDA – Clean up Organic Mess

This tidbit is a couple of days late, but I wanted to bring it up as it deals with the Organic Fraud issues I’ve alluded to before.

According to an institute release, a letter today addressed to USDA Secretary Mike Johanns, from Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based farm policy research group and national organic food and farming watchdog, asked the Secretary to personally intervene in rebuilding the once promising collaborative environment that existed between the organic community and its regulators.

The money section?

Secretary Johanns was also asked to mediate a broiling dispute between the Department and the organic dairy industry, which has overwhelmingly backed eliminating loopholes that have permitted factory-style industrial dairy farms to market their milk as “organic” without allowing their animals to graze on pasture.

That paragraph deals directly with Horizon Organics, who, as regular readers here already know, are not really following organic practices. From this we can logically conclude that Horizon Organics is really not Organic.

Horizon Organics – redux

It’s something that I’ve touched upon before, and now Salon covers with a high-exposure front page article(ad viewing needed to read): Horizon Organics aren’t following traditional organic practices.

Ergo, they ain’t organic.

From the article:

What most consumers don’t know is that at Horizon’s big dairies, such as the one in Idaho, the cows are raised in a manner that most experts don’t consider organic. According to former Horizon Idaho dairy workers, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of jeopardizing their current jobs, Horizon cows graze for only four or five hours a day and during only three months in the summer. While Horizon claims the cows get plenty of fresh air, that’s because the barns are open structures. Their cows can see the fields but mostly aren’t walking around in them. “Most of the time, the cows are inside the barn,” says one former employee, who worked on the Idaho farm for eight years.

The article goes on to mention two points:

  • 1. Grass fed is better for the cow than grain fed (something we’ve also discussed here), and leads to better tasting milk. Horizon feeds their cows “alfalfa hay, oats, soybeans, and grains such as barley and corn”, which is far from grass-fed.
  • 2. There is no clearly defined certification method for determining what constitutes “organic” at a farm. This leads to loose interpretation of standards, something in which Horizon clearly takes advantage of.

It’d be easy for me to get into the larger political and corporate positions here, but what it comes down to as a consumer is this…if you have a standard to which you apply when you shop for food, you need to educate yourself on who exactly is selling you your food. This means your grocer, this means the food producers, and this means the farms. Failure to do this means that some unscrupulous corporation is going to take advantage of your ignorance.

Is Horizon Organic truly Organic?

The marketplace has determined that there is room for organic products, even if it means higher prices. For the extra cost it helps ensure that a) animals are treated humanely and b) It helps sustain family farms and allows consumers a viable alternative to corporate mega-farms. It’s an idea that has exploded in the food market over the past dozen years.

So it’s not surprising that once it had been determined that there was a market for such products, some corporate farms sought to get a piece of the pie. Enter Dean Dairy, who has a vested interest in Horizon Dairy. So now, Horizon Dairies have a similar distrubution model as Dean Dairy, including outsourcing milk production to satellite dairies.

That business model has now caused some ethical problems for Horizon Dairies. The Cornucopia Institute has filed formal complaints with the USDA‘s Office of Compliance asking them to initiate investigations into alleged violations of the federal organic law by factory farms operating in Idaho, Colorado and California. These factory farms produce milk under the Horizon Organic label.

At dispute is the dairies compliance to Organic standards. The National Organic Standards Board, appointed by the secretary of agriculture, determines standards that determine what products considered “organic” and what doesn’t. When it comes to organic milk, some of the standards include:

  • Organic dairy cows must eat grain that isn’t genetically modified or treated with pesticides or fertilizers, and the cows cannot be given growth hormones or antibiotics.
  • Dairy cows must have access to the outdoors, shade, shelter, exercise areas, fresh air and direct sunlight suitable to the species, its stage of production, the climate and the environment.

The cows at the locations mentioned by the Cornucopia Institute are reported to NOT have access to pasture, violating one of the above standards which make organic…well…organic. “According to reports, both the Idaho and California operations differ little from conventional confinement dairies other than having their high-producing cows fed certified organic feed”, says Mark Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst, at the Wisconsin-based Cornucopia Institute.

About that certified organic feed:

Craig Muchow, a diversified organic farmer from Gooding, Idaho noted that the Dean/Horizon farm has turned its back on many area farmers after initially seeking their support: “After Horizon converted their large farm to organic they solicited local hay growers and offered us a price-premium to supply them with alfalfa if we also converted to organic production. That worked well for the first few years but then they did away with most premiums and now they have abandoned many small farmers in the area altogether.” According to a number of neighbors, much of the feed the Horizon farm now buys is shipped in on railroad cars and processed by one of the largest corporate agribusiness concerns in the United States.

So now we have an organic farm that treats animals poorly and does not support local family farms. This now begs the question – Is Horizon Organic truly Organic?