Good article in the NYT (A Milk War…) today about the entrance of Walmart’s private label organic milk, Great Value. Walmart gets this milk from Aurora Farms:
Activist groups, as well as some organic food retailers and dairies, contend that the company where Wal-Mart and the other big retailers get their milk operates large factory farms that are diluting the principles of organic agriculture and delivering customers a substandard product. They argue that Aurora’s cows do not spend any significant time roaming pastures and eating fresh grass; instead they live on a diet high in grains.
I wrote about this briefly when I found a box of Kellog’s Organic Rice Krispies in our cupboard (Racing the organic train). As promised, Walmart has indeed brought out low-cost organics. The race is between organic going mainstream and organic getting so watered-down as to become nothing but a marketing term.
As Melanie Warner writes,
The controversy turns on how closely Aurora adheres to the principles behind the organic food movement. Many organic farmers say grass feeding is essential for organic dairy production because it is part of a cow’s natural behavior. Milk from grass-fed cows, they say, is also higher in beneficial fatty acids than milk from cows fed grain, making it more nutritious.
At Aurora’s Platteville operation, about 40 miles north of downtown Denver, 4,000 cows are put on grass only when not being milked or when they are nearing the end of a lactation cycle. That totals about two to three months a year. The rest of the time they stay in dirt-lined outdoor pens where they eat from an ample trough filled with a mixture of hay, silage, corn and soybeans.
It’s still early in the race, but right now “greenwashing” is in the lead.