Archive for February, 2008

February News

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

Feeding our Families

Today the choices in food can seem overwhelming. We are concerned about nutrition for our children and ourselves. By now, we have all heard of the importance of organics, and how to avoid growth hormones and pesticides.
We also know the best choices consist of fresh food, local food, and of both balance and variety in the foods we consume.

Unfortunately, it is often difficult to ascertain if we are actually purchasing what we think we are. With the increase of organic and “natural foods” available, the gray cloud surrounding what we are truly buying can put us into a fog. As megacoorperations such as Walmart get into the organic market, some of the valued qualities of organic farming is lost. For example, many organic suppliers such as Trader Joe’s and Cascadian Farms (owned by General Mills) rely on frozen veggies imported from China. Reports have shown that US inspection to verify USDA organic standards in China are absent. To further disenchant us, Cornucopia Institute reports: “ China has a history of institutional and governmental corruption and fraud. A recent survey conducted by the Beijing Consumers Association looked at labeled organic products and found that approximately 10% were “counterfeit.” This is not the first report of improprieties of this nature in China. Furthermore, China’s industrial revolution has created one of the most serious pollution and toxic waste risks on the globe. According to a September 2006 New York Times story, toxic sludge is commonly dumped directly into the Yellow River and other tributaries and canals that are used for irrigation. There is also a history of using human waste for fertilizer in some regions of China, a practice explicitly prohibited by the USDA’s organic regulations.”

Some have referred to organic dairy products as the gateway food into the practice of purchasing other organic food. It is not surprising that the organic dairy industry has suffered a negative impact from elevated consumer demand. Horizon Organics (owned by Dean Food) now supplies 55% of all organic milk sold in the US. Horizon provides dairy that “ comes from a cow whose milk production was not prompted by an artificial growth hormone, whose feed was not grown with pesticides and which had access to pasture.” However, it does not ensure that the cows don’t spend the majority of their time in feed lots eating grain not grass. These issues are more then animal rights issues, they also effect the quality of the milk that is produced.

Obviously, this topic is much more expansive then I can tackle in my little monthly forum post. I am limiting this month’s “feeding the family” to dairy choices. Next month, we can try to tackle produce. I hope that during our discussion and play tomorrow we can can discuss practical solutions for our families. For those who can not attend, I would like to share a break down of the information that I was able to obtain regarding the quality and availability of dairy in our area. Here are my findings, please comment with any new or contradicting information.

Horizon Organics:

Horizon is sold widely in our markets. However, as noted above, the quality of the product is in question. In buying Horizon, you can be sure that you are avoiding rBST, pesticides, and antibiotics. Still, “Last week, Cornucopia registered a complaint against Horizon with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, alleging that the company does not offer sufficient grazing time on pastures at two of its large dairy farms.” (Orlando Sentinel.com) It should also be noted that PCC Natural Foods stopped carrying Horizon due to their practices.

Trader Joe’s:
Since TJ’s sells under a private label, it is not publicized who the individual stores suppliers are. This information can be found by asking at your local store. By calling the University Place store I learned that all of the TJ’s stores in the PNW comes from Sunshine Dairy on Oregon (www.sushinedairyfoods.com). Sunshine Organics is also carried by Pioneer Organics, a local home delivery grocery service. There is a very favorable write-up of Sunshine on their web page (www.pioneerorganics.com)

Smith Brothers

This 87 year old farm in Kent, Washington has undergone major recent changes. With the recent law passed by the federal government regulating milk prices for farms who both produce and handle their own dairy, Smith Brother’s would be forced to pay into a pool to buy and pack it’s own milk. This would be an expense of one million dollars each year. Smith Brothers now only packages the milk it sells. Upon calling Smith Brother’s, I was only able to learn that milk now comes from “various Washington Farms”. Smith Brothers still offers home delivery service (a huge plus), competitive prices and milk free of rBST. They also now offer Organic milk. However, since the source can’t be verified, the quality can not be either.
Organic Valley:

“Organic Valley is America’s largest cooperative of organic farmers and is one of the nation’s leading organic brands. Organized in 1988, it represents 1,183 farmers in 32 states and one Canadian province” (greenbizwire.com). Organic Valley ‘s mission statement and values seem to be right where they should. I haven’t been able to find any information to contradict these values and practices stated on their web page. I have, however, found articles praising OV efforts to support local family farms and the environment. More info can be found at www.organicvalley.com.

Wilcox farms:

Wilcox is no longer an option for dairy. The Tacoma Tribune reports that Wilcox will be closing it’s Roy dairy by the end of march. The company is now working with Darigold to “ensure that consumers have a continuing supply of dairy products”.

Kirkland and Safeways “O” Organics:

These two labels are both supplied milk from Aurora. According to the Organic Consumer association, Aurora falls short in it’s organic practices.