Despite Horizon brand, dairy giant Dean Foods really doesn’t get organic

By Tom Philpott

Dean Foods is by far the largest U.S. dairy processor. According to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Dean processes 40 percent of fluid milk consumed in the U.S., which it distrubutes in a dizzying array of brands. Its dominance extends to organic milk, too — Dean’s Horizon brand is the largest supplier of organic milk.

Dean’s Horizon organic milk generates plenty of controversy. For years, Horizon has been sparring with the watchdog group Cornucopia over its farming practices, like use of conventionally raised heifers on its certified-organic farms. Cornucopia also goes after Dean for putting additives in its “organic” products. The latest dust-up is over a new Horizon product called “Fat-Free Milk Plus DHA Omega-3.”

According to Cornucopia, the DHA in question is a “synthetic additive” banned under organic standards. Horizon counters that it has been using the synthetic DHA for years in some of its organic-milk products, with the approval of the USDA. Cornucopia shoots back that DHA-laced formula has been shown [PDF] to cause adverse reactions in babies — and adds that USDA recently acknowledged [PDF] that it was “incorrect” to allow synthetic DHA in organic products in the first place.

But the purpose of this post isn’t to referee the latest dispute between Dean and Cornucopia. Rather, it’s to question the vision for organic being promoted by Dean with its Horizon products.

The organic-farming movement in the West was galvanized 70 years ago by the great British scientist Sir Albert Howard. His theory of agriculture can be summed up like this: healthy soil produces healthy plants and animals, which in turn nourish healthy humans. In short, there’s no need to tart up properly grown food with all manner of synthetic additives to make it “healthy.”

Read full post at Grist

11 responses to “Despite Horizon brand, dairy giant Dean Foods really doesn’t get organic

  1. Certified organic is a joke. Politics and business ‘as usual’ has made it so.

    There is no company, no organic outfit, that is not in on this joke. It has become just another profit scheme, another swindle. They–the certified organic merchandisers–will tell you a line and sell you a product and maybe they even believe the line they tell you and the product they sell.

    But people, you’ve been had. It’s over…

    Cornucopia is just making a little game of their own too. If they tell you it’s over, then they lose out, lose their tidy little ‘ organic watchdog (bow wow, bow wow) profit scheme’ and they don’t want that…..

    ….of course not. But, it’s over!

    Read this as well:

    Read my comment there and the others.

    Grow your own. Feed your own. Milk your own. Find a farmer, a neighborhood market. Fight the law. And forget ‘certified’.


    • Nedlud-
      If organics is a joke, then why are you certified???

      • What makes you think I’m certified organic?

        Perhaps because my o.p. corn was tested for GMOs? (One does not imply the other automatically, though naturally they may be very sympathetic.)

        But another way to look at the trap, since you seem to be thinking along such lines: I believe being an American citizen is a joke too, because it is not a democracy or a republic at all, it is in fact a burgeoning fascist police state. But here I am–a citizen of the USA–and not one bit proud of it. Were I ‘certified organic’ it is not something I would be proud of either, for it is essentially robbery and racketeering and fraud, by people of greater means (wealth and power) done to people of lesser means.

        You see?

        If, as appears, you read my other comment over at Farm Wars and the article posted there, thank you.


  2. The Green Table

    Thanks for this eye opening article. I know I need to know more about the foods I’m eating. I constantly found myself rereading sections and shouting out to my husband, “did you know…”! I find it scary that the food we’re eating is getting so diluted with corporate marketing schemes conjured up by the same corporate agribusinesses. I’m a member of a CSA and try to buy organic when it’s available at the supermarket, but unfortunately, I don’t always have access to get all my products from the farm. I constantly find myself questing everything I buy now.

    Even for someone who wants to eat organic, sustainable food, I find it so difficult.

  3. Lately I’ve switched from “Organic” milk to Snowville Creamery in Pomeroy OH. I have been told they treat their cows humanely and certainly the milk is not growth hormone laden. Hopefully grass fed cows, but maybe I hope for too much. The small dairies around here probably grain their cows. I plan to visit Snowville soon and will post my results.
    Would love to have my own cow, but that may be a complicated project…Settling for chickens, coming soon.


    • grandpappymike

      MJ you may be able to find a farm that supplies raw milk in your area. Here is a link.

      The sale of raw milk may be illegal in your state, but you should contact and visit one of the farms from the link provided and speak to them about it. Ask questions about how the cows live, what they’re fed, especially in winter. My personal preference would be a farm with no more than 25 cows. That’s about as many a single family farm can properly manage. That’s just my opinion and I am usually wrong about most things and my wife can vouch for that.

      • Yes, 20-25 cows is about the maximum one can care for and not be so mechanized (automated) that the animals involved cannot develop their own individuality, identity and purpose….if they are so inclined.

        I’m what’s been called a ‘whisperer’ (I can sense and communicate with animal intelligences, moreso than most people) and it is amazing the range of ‘smartness’ (alertness, awareness) in various different bovines, just as an example. People think a cow is a cow is a cow, but that is not so….

        Animals within each species vary greatly in intelligence and the really smart ones cannot develop under large herd conditions. They frequently will be the first to give up and die, just as really creative humans often die young or live tragic lives when their ‘creative energy’ is stunted by the herd (or government) mentality that makes everyone conform excessively. Stupid animals and, likewise, stupid humans do better naturally in tight regulated (government-oriented) confinement.

        But not everyone is stupid. Though it (stupidity) seems to be becoming more prevalent as we continue to automate and regulate.

        ‘USDA organic certified’ by the way, cares little for such things as smartness. It rather dislikes it. To them, a cow is a cow is a cow, and a farmer is a farmer is a farmer; you control one, you control them all….that’s their goal.


    • cool, Marj! chickens, yeah.

      I just referred Troy to Clintonville Cmty Market for raw milk (my old stomping grounds), but you might find a place closer to you.

      I met a male couple in CA who bought some land in the mnts, had two cows and a garden. Had solar panels on their roof which completely powered all their energy needs and they lived off the grid. their house was very tiny, but living off the land like they did was admirable.

      • grandpappymike

        I bet it was whole lot less stressful too.

        • yeah, but you definitely gotta have a mindset for it and a good partner. I felt claustrophobic in their house even if I lived alone. I couldn’t imagine sharing it with someone.

          I suspect that’s how most of us are going to live in the future…

          funny thing about that house, too — I can handle small spaces if the ceiling is high and theirs wasn’t

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