Oh no! My favorite milk may not be so guilt-free after all. Common Dreams reports that “more than a dozen factory farms producing dairy and meat products for stores nationwide engaged in widespread organic fraud for years as the USDA stood idly by. Here is more:
A months-long investigation by the Cornucopia Institute discovered that 14 farms around the country producing so-called organic products have been defying USDA regulations, keeping animals tightly packed in facilities with no real access to the outdoors, while federal management routinely ignored pressure to investigate conditions.
The institute filed suit against those farms on Thursday and called on the USDA to remove the industry management body, the National Organic Program.
Organic fraud is “unconscionable,” said Mark A. Kastel, Cornucopia senior farm policy analyst. “The job of the USDA is to oversee the certifiers and ensure that they are doing their job. It is quite possible that, in this case, there could have been a conspiracy and/or negligence that the certifier was responsible for.”
After what the Cornucopia Institute called “years of inaction” by the USDA, the watchdog group conducted an independent investigation into the conditions of a number of farms currently creating products for labels that market themselves as humane, environmentally conscious, and economically fair.
None of them passed muster.
Current organic rules dictate that animals designated as organic must have their “health and natural behavior” accommodated, allowing cows to graze and chickens to roam. Among the farms named in Cornucopia Institute’s lawsuit is Horizon Dairy, a grocery store staple that depicts a happy, animated cow as its logo; but aerial photographs taken during Cornucopia’s investigation show that Horizon farms, as well as the “vast majority” of large-scale farms that label themselves organic, “had 100% of their animals confined in giant buildings or feedlots,” conditions which violate federal standards for organic farms, the institute says.
Other well-known brands whose dairies failed to measure up in Cornucopia’s investigation were Herbruck’s and Organic Valley.
“The federal organic regulations make it very clear that all organic livestock must have access to the outdoors and that ruminants, like dairy cows, must have access to pasture,” Kastel said.