I thought I had heard them all-that is, all the reasons for choosing organic dairy foods. This new one I had to share with readers:

During a recent "girls' weekend" dinner at an upscale restaurant in Las Vegas, we complemented our waiter on his "metro sexuality." For definition: a metrosexual is a 21st century term that describes a straight, urban male in his late teens to mid 30's who is good looking, stylish, fashionable, trendy, cultured and well groomed. A metro sexual is very conscious about his image and appearance and often invests in manicures, facials and massages. In other words, a metrosexual engages in many, and sometimes more of the same upkeeps as his girlfriend.

When the waiter learned I worked in the dairy industry, he said that his mother attributed the increase in metrosexuality to the hormones in milk. For this reason, he advises guys who are uncomfortable being a bit soft around the edges to drink organic milk.

Yes, this is a true story, but not one I want to discuss any further. I am just sharing it with you to convey how there are many, many reasons why one chooses organic. Most consumers buy organic because of personal health concerns, as well as the desire to support the environment. Many believe organic dairy foods taste better and have superior nutrition. Moms often serve organic milk to their daughters because of the aforementioned hormone issue. (They are trying to slow down their daughters' maturation.) Whatever the reason, the organic foods business is booming, and consumers are demanding more variety and more options.

Nationwide, the market for organic foods grew from $3.6 billion in 1997 to $10.4 billion in 2003, according to the Organic Trade Association (OTA), Greenfield, Ma. Today, organic food sales make up almost 2.0% of total U.S. food sales. With the organic foods market growing at an average of 20% annually, while the rest of the food industry comes in at 2% to 3%, OTA projects that sales will reach $14.5 billion by the end of this year.

Fruits and vegetables account for the largest share of organic foods sales (42%). Beverage (15% share) and dairy (13%) are second and third in line. Organic dairy sales would likely be much greater than the $1.4 billion posted in 2003. The problem is supply, not demand.

As more dairy farmers convert to organic practices to meet the demand of the growing number of consumers choosing organic, the desire for variety increases. In response, suppliers to the dairy industry are now offering organic product lines-from cultures to sweeteners, and colors to flavors, the organic ingredient industry is booming. Some suppliers, recognizing that organic is only going to get larger and more important, are setting up entire facilities for organic ingredient processing.

What you need to know about selecting ingredients for organic dairy foods formulating is that to be marketed as organic, products must be certified as being produced according to the National Organic Program (NOP) by accredited agents. NOP has defined and standardized four types of labeling statements based on the percentage by weight of organic ingredients in the product, excluding water and salt. These are:

• 100% organic. The product must contain 100% organically produced ingredients.

• Organic: The product must contain 95% organically produced ingredients.

• Made with organic ingredients. The product must contain at least 70% organically produced ingredients.

• Products containing less than 70% organically produced ingredients may identify the organic content within the ingredient statement and information panel.

The demand for organic dairy goes beyond the dairy foods business, as exemplified by La Farge, Wis.-based Organic Valley/CROPP Cooperative's marketing of organic dairy products for further processing. From dry powders to shredded cheese, and sour cream to butter, Organic Valley is making it possible for organic prepared foods manufacturers to include dairy ingredients.

Blaser's USA Inc., Comstock, Wis., a cheese marketer that recently debuted flavored organic cheeses for the deli department, is also providing retailers and foodservice operators a line of frozen, creamy organic soups based on organic milk.

Are you ready to go organic? Not sold yet? I met this wrestler who swears by it!