Emerging Sector

Grass Point Farms corners marketplace with “humane” line of pasture-based dairy products.

According to recent market research, many consumers want to purchase dairy products from farms that adhere to higher standards of animal and environmental care. A Whole Foods Market nationwide survey reports that 48 percent of consumers believe humane animal treatment is important.
Thorp, Wis.-based Grass Point Farms, a new dairy manufacturer that offers pasture-raised dairy products, hopes to become the market leader by offering consumers the first national line of certified-humane, pasture-based dairy products.
The number of supermarkets asking for so-called humane products is also increasing. In fact, a year and a half after the first certified-humane products hit store shelves, New York-based D’Agostinos Supermarkets is encouraging all of its livestock, poultry, dairy and egg suppliers to seek the “humane-raised and handled” certification through Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC). The 23-store D’Agostinos chain now carries five Grass Point Farm cheeses and plans to carry the company’s milk products in the future.  
Nick D’Agostino, president of D’Agostinos Supermarkets, says his company learned about HFAC from a supplier. “A lot of people would enjoy meat and dairy more if the concern about how the animal was treated is taken away,” he says. “That is why we were looking for a way to be certain the products we sell have truly earned the right to call themselves humane. We spent some time evaluating HFAC. The fact that the organization uses third-party certification, and is supported by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, was important to us. Its credibility and Grass Point Farms products bring many benefits to the marketplace.”
Grass Point Farms is comprised of nine family farms that graze dairy cows on Wisconsin’s rich grasslands, employing traditional rotational grazing methods used by the region’s original farmers. Successful “graziers,” as they are sometimes called, spend years creating an ecosystem in which soils, plants, wetlands, woodlands and cows coexist in a balance that supports the cows’ natural behavior.
Chad Pawlak, president of Grass Point Farms, says grassland grazing greatly enhances a cow’s health and vitality. A typical dairy cow takes 6,000 bites of grass each day, he says, and for each bite the cow harvests for herself, consumers benefit from reduced costs associated with the farmer harvesting the grass, processing it into bale form, storing the grass and then delivering the grass as a meal.
Pawlak argues conventional dairy farming takes a toll on animals. “Too many cows spend their entire life on cement, never even seeing sunshine for years. Feed on some lots is so dense that it literally blows the cows up and makes them physically uncomfortable. Many are milked several times a day which is hard on an animal,” says Dave Wilson, whose family farm in Antigo, Wis. is one of Grass Point Farms’ producers and investors. “I would like every consumer to know that buying pasture-raised dairy products is the only way to be sure where the milk comes from, how it is produced and how the animals are treated.”
To meet Grass Point Farms’ standards, farmers must graze their cows when it’s in season in the spring through October; the rest of the time, herds rely on harvested grasses and some organic grain. As part of the grazing requirement, the company’s producers must abide by written grazing standards. “This is the first set of written grazing standards,” Pawlak says. “On top of that, there are 23 pages of ‘certified humane’ standards a Grass Point farmer must agree to follow.”
Tail docking is not allowed, he says, nor is the routine feeding of antibiotics. “Farmers wanting to ship milk to Grass Point Farms are not allowed to use bovine growth hormone (BGH) either.”
Grass Point Farms also includes a farm labor requirement. Its producers must have “more than 50 percent” of the farm labor provided by the family. The idea behind that requirement, says Pawlak, is to assure people who buy Grass Point Farms dairy products that the milk was not produced on large-scale corporate farms.
Four Wisconsin processing plants are under contract with Grass Point Farms. Its current offerings include 11 varieties of cheese in both retail as well as deli packaging, along with milk and butter. In the fall, Palak says, the company will add sour cream and cottage cheese to its product line.
These products are being sold at lower prices than organic dairy products, but for more than so-called “conventional” dairy products. “It lets consumers decide what’s important to them,” Pawlak says.
For more information, visit www.grasspoint.com.

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