Redefining Organic

April 1, 2005
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Redefining Organic
Lori Dahm, technical editor
The debate and controversy over which organic-labeled products actually uphold the federal organic standards has begun industry-wide — a sign that the organic trend has become extremely lucrative.
Within the dairy industry, this manifestation involves Aurora Dairy in Platteville, Colo. This 5,600-cow factory farm has successfully negotiated an exemption to the organic requirement that cows have access to pasture, based upon Colorado’s arid climate.
Compared to traditional organic dairy farmers producing organic milk who operate with smaller herds such as 70 cows with full access to pasture, farm factories such as Aurora Dairy seem antithetical to the organic dairy label.
As an industry insider, I wonder whether such large dairy cow herds kept inside can truly be raised without the use of antibiotics, because disease is a problem when a large number of animals are raised in close proximity.
For the contingent of consumers who buy organic to support animals being treated better, a farm factory setting is definitively inconsistent with the organic label.
But many consumers are motivated by the bottom line. For example, I expect that the increasing availability of organic products at lower prices — the private label versions — is possible because of farm factories such as Aurora Dairy. And I must admit that I enjoy the price of private label organic butter being $2 less per pound than branded organic counterparts.
I’m an organic advocate, so I would (reluctantly) dish out more money in order to support the small organic dairy farmer. But I’m not sure the public at large is ready to revert to higher prices for organic products.

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