Okay, I admit it: I’m going through a bit of an organic revolution over here. I’ve always tried to buy organic produce when possible, which is fairly easy to do during the summer since I live near lots of small family farms and participate in a great CSA. And I get organic yogurt pretty often, especially when it happens to be on sale or I can get a coupon.
But I’ve been inconsistent about buying organic dairy in general. It requires extra effort and sacrifice to buy organic when you’re working with a strict budget or shopping at stores with limited selection (no Whole Foods in my area, sadly!) Sometimes I’ve lost sight of my motivation.
Working with YoBaby on this series of posts has encouraged me to dig deeper into the issue of organic dairy, and it’s definitely inspiring me to try harder to fit organic dairy into my family’s food budget.
See, choosing organic dairy isn’t just about avoiding pesticides and other toxins in our food. It’s also about supporting a completely different way of getting food on the table, encouraging sustainability and the humane treatment of animals:
1. Organic dairy farms treat their animals differently. Over the past few years I’ve heard critics argue that large organic farms seemto be the same as conventional farms. But while large organic farms may follow some of the same practices as conventional, in other ways they are quite different. For example, on an organic farm, at least 30% of a dairy cow’s feed must come from pasture, at least 120 days per year. While conventional farms may allow their cows to graze, it’s not required by law.
And some companies have banded together to take their “organic” label even more seriously. For example, Stonyfield Farms participates in the CROPP Cooperative, which has stringent guidelines of its own that surpass the USDA’s rules.
2. When you buy organic, you’re “buying in” to a different kind of farming. Because organic dairy farms can’t rely on antibiotics and hormones to manage the health of their cattle, they have had to develop practices that are more in tune with nature. On an organic dairy farm, for example, a cow is only treated with antibiotics if it’s ill – and then the cow’s milk cannot be sold for 90 days. Because the cows cannot be routinely treated with antibiotics, the farmers must manage their health by providing clean, healthy and low-stress living conditions. The way I see it, when I buy organic I’m making a statement about the way I want animals to be treated and the way I want farms to operate.
The way I see it, buying organic is like voting with my wallet – and the more of us who purchase organic, the more available and possibly less expensive it will become.
In the meanwhile, I’ve got some ideas for making the most of your organic dairy dollar, which I’ll share in a post tomorrow. Stay tuned!