New Tool Grades Integrity of Organic Labels
STRATFORD, Texas — Shoppers can now choose between organic dairy products produced by large-scale factory operations and those produced by family farms.
Mark Kastel, co-founder and senior farm policy analyst with the Cornucopia Institute, said there are now essentially two organic product lines. One maintains original standards including better nutrition, care for the environment, humane treatment of animals and economic justice for farm workers. Kastel argues that the other is all about profit and gaming the system.
He said since both lines share the same USDA logo, his institute created a mobile-friendly Organic Dairy Scorecard to help consumers spot the difference.
"So this is a way to vote with your pocketbook for better food for your family and to save the livelihoods of these hard-working farmers,” Kastel said.
He pointed to one case in which career bureaucrats at the USDA recommended Aurora Organic Dairy, with large-scale operations in Texas and Colorado, be decertified as organic and banned from commerce after evidence of willful violation of the law. Kastel said political appointees stepped in and let the company off with a one-year probation.
Aurora's CEO maintains the company strictly adheres to organic guidelines, and notes that the company has been certified throughout its history.
Kastel said the organic dairy movement was founded in part so that family-sized farms could survive by milking cows. He said the scorecard is a way for shoppers to support the livelihoods of small-scale farmers.
"They're now being crushed by the same factory farms with thousands of cows that have driven most of the conventional milk producers out of business."
Kastel said the good news is that consumers in just about every geographic market can still access authentic organic dairy products. Austin-based White Mountain Foods ranked "excellent," and Texas success-story Whole Foods' store brand ranked "very good" on the scorecard.