Certified Organic Milk Is Not What It’s Whipped Up to Be

I grabbed another story today put out by Rady at her great blog called Food Freedom. Tom Philpot comes down on Horizon certified organic milk in this piece. It is rather easy to note the deceptive labeling of these products and that consumers are being skimmed for sure.

I had taken my shot at Organic Valley late last year when they banned raw milk sellers and herdshares and canceled some contracts nationally. At a meeting I attended last week, two OV reps and I discussed the action by the OV board. It is strictly a matter of liability and a tarnished public perception that could cream their sales should there be an sickness outbreak from an OV producer (ya know, how the national and state media outlets run crazy when two or more people get diarrhea for the raw milk). This is similar to the Whole Foods decision to take all raw milk off its shelves a month earlier. All of this has increased the demand for real milk from those who decide to deal in the true white stuff. Well, enough of my intro and on to tonight’s post giving Horizon milk a good whipping.–Augie

Despite Horizon brand, dairy giant Dean Foods really doesn’t get organic

By Tom Philpott

Dean Foods is by far the largest U.S. dairy processor. According to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Dean processes 40 percent of fluid milk consumed in the U.S., which it distrubutes in a dizzying array of brands. Its dominance extends to organic milk, too — Dean’s Horizon brand is the largest supplier of organic milk.

Dean’s Horizon organic milk generates plenty of controversy. For years, Horizon has been sparring with the watchdog group Cornucopia over its farming practices, like use of conventionally raised heifers on its certified-organic farms. Cornucopia also goes after Dean for putting additives in its “organic” products. The latest dust-up is over a new Horizon product called “Fat-Free Milk Plus DHA Omega-3.”

According to Cornucopia, the DHA in question is a “synthetic additive” banned under organic standards. Horizon counters that it has been using the synthetic DHA for years in some of its organic-milk products, with the approval of the USDA. Cornucopia shoots back that DHA-laced formula has been shown [PDF] to cause adverse reactions in babies — and adds that USDA recently acknowledged [PDF] that it was “incorrect” to allow synthetic DHA in organic products in the first place.

But the purpose of this post isn’t to referee the latest dispute between Dean and Cornucopia. Rather, it’s to question the vision for organic being promoted by Dean with its Horizon products.

The organic-farming movement in the West was galvanized 70 years ago by the great British scientist Sir Albert Howard. His theory of agriculture can be summed up like this: healthy soil produces healthy plants and animals, which in turn nourish healthy humans. In short, there’s no need to tart up properly grown food with all manner of synthetic additives to make it “healthy.”

In his In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan showed that the practice of isolating and synthesizing certain nutrients and adding them to food is a mug’s game, a marketer’s trick. It turns out, we don’t understand all that much about human nutrition, but we do know that eating foods in their whole state tends to be healthier than loading up on isolated nutrients in the form of supplements and additives.

Can synthesized fats be better than the stuff made by cows eating grass?

Meanwhile, a growing body of research suggests that cows fed on grass produce milk with a healthier fat profile than grain-fed cows — higher in the very kinds of Omega-3 fats that Dean is injecting into its “organic” milk in synthetic form. “Fat-Free Milk Plus DHA Omega-3″ is a deeply absurd product — the natural fats have been stripped out, replaced by ones conjured up in a lab. In promoting such concoctions, Dean is straying away from a solid notion of organic, and moving into the marketing-driven, hyped-up world of “functional foods” — which is probably where a company of its vast size belongs, anyway.

It’s a free country, but I don’t see how Dean should be allowed to use the USDA organic label as a fig leaf for its latest move away from organic principles.

Visit Rady Ananda’s  great blog Food Freedom. I run her RSS feed on the left panel, as I cannot compete with her food freedom coverage. Also, make sure you browse my iShop for eBooks on real health and nutrition. (free samples for all!)– Augie

4 responses to “Certified Organic Milk Is Not What It’s Whipped Up to Be

  1. Too bad that corporate-managed raw milk is having such problems. Yea, I’m crying crocodile tears over this… NOT!

    Raw milk should come from small family farms that consume their own product. I’m delighted to see the Big Biz organic sector whimper in cowardice over some bogeyman fears… with some luck, we’ve got eight doelings on the way to fill that need… 🙂

  2. As a Doctor what routinely does house call to the folks that provide me with raw milk, and to farmers who sell to organic valley and horzion milk companies, I see no difference in there attitudes. They adhere to organic standards and are very aware of where there product goes to and who the product are consumed by. The don’t just look at the bottom line like many other farmers that are in conventional milk productions whose live stock never get into the sunlight or a large barn for the sake of a paycheck.

    When I did a hair minerals analysis of organic dairy cows versus inorganic dairy cows, all the organic farmers were more that happy to give up some hair to be tested, but the inorganic farmers did not want to know what there cattle were like in comparison to organic cows and it was very hard to find a inorganic farmer to cooperate for the study.

    It’s not fair to beat up on the organic farmer no matter where they sell there milk, it is still organic, no matter if it homogenized not.

    dr rich olree

  3. Let’s not forget that “Fat-Free Milk Plus DHA Omega-3″ with the synthetic additive is ultrapatuerized to make it sterile and homogenized. The Fat-Free is a money maker for them since the cream and milk fats taken away is sold back to you in more expensive products. The product I bought did not taste like milk, had little taste in fact, and we had to throw it out.

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