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May 10th, 2006

Not Quite Organic… But Mostly

One of the positive consequences of my being vegetarian a number of years ago is my understanding the differences between organic, natural, and “dear god, what is that thing on the ingredients list?” foods. But things got a little cloudier when the USDA started labeling things as “organic”.

The problem is that it’s relatively easy to get stuff labeled as “organic” even though the situation might not be all wine and roses. Let’s take, for example, milk. Organic milk. When I say that, I think of happy cows on a nice, green farm somewhere in Wisconsin where they aren’t just milk machines but are treated as actual animals. Lots of people would probably agree, even though the USDA’s label doesn’t dictate that type of environment. It’s interesting, then, that some co-ops and stores are pulling Not Quite Organic foods such as Horizon Organics’ milk. A percentage of Horizon’s organic milk comes from – you got it – big farms where cows are more machines than animals. Yuck.

Horizon, which is owned by Big Milk company Dean Foods (gah), claims they want to up the USDA’s standards a bit. That’s good, because the USDA’s organic seal is pretty flimsy. Horizon is in a predicament because technically, yes, their stuff is organic – but people might think of different things when it comes to organic milk, and those people will need to look elsewhere.

I know that for me, the USDA’s organic seal doesn’t hold that much weight. I appreciate that it’s there but, it’s more important to really understand where the stuff is coming from. It’d be nice if the USDA set out to fix that problem, and I hope they do.

Posted in Miscellaneous

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