Thursday, November 03, 2005

Big business tries to change the meaning of Organic

Some of the rules do need changing. But the involvement of big companies is a bit scary. And yet as organic food grows, more big players will be involved.

Dean Foods' Horizon Organic [...] gets about 20 percent of its production from a 4,000-cow organic dairy in Paul, Idaho, which is small in comparison with many conventional dairy farms but huge by organic standards.

Mark Kastel, senior farm policy analyst at Cornucopia, a group representing small dairy farmers, contends that Horizon is able to run such a large farm because it dilutes organic principles. Earlier this year, his group filed a petition arguing that the Idaho farm crams too many cows into a confined area, where most of them do not graze on pasture but instead consume a high-grain diet.

"These factory farms are trying to cut corners," Mr. Kastel said. "When you feed more calorie-dense grains, you get more milk."

Horizon, which also buys milk from 305 family farms, says it is making changes and will divide its Idaho operation into two separate farms so that there will be three to five cows for each acre of pasture.

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