The integrity of organic

As the Nation’s leading organic dairy brand, we’re occasionally faced with criticism. It’s a responsibility that comes with our leadership position, it’s something we expect, and something we proudly and successfully defend ourselves against. However recently, it seems the criticism has shifted, and is now being directed toward the organic industry as a whole. This is unfortunate not only because it undermines consumer confidence in the USDA Organic Label, but the many farmers whose livelihoods are dedicated toward supplying organic foods as well.

We’ll be the first to admit that the organic industry isn’t perfect, but for the past 20 years it’s been one of the most regulated and scrutinized food production systems in the world. It’s converted millions of acres of farmland and kept many more millions of pounds of pesticides out of the environment. And a lot of that has to do with investments made by larger companies who’ve entered the category. To say that big corporations are corrupting the integrity of organic food is in our opinion, obtuse. The scale and financial support from these larger companies is exactly what’s needed to help grow the organic industry.

That growth of course hinges on our ability to meet consumer demand, but more importantly we need to work harder to create greater demand by offering new choices and opportunities for people to enter the organic category.

Four years ago we decided to offer milk drinkers another choice by introducing Horizon Organic milk plus DHA. To us, introducing DHA (a valuable nutrient that helps support the brain, heart and eyes) seemed like a no-brainer… more than 99 percent of all infant formula sold in the United States is supplemented with DHA.  Our source of DHA is non-hexane extracted, non-GMO and does not deplete the world’s fisheries.

We figured, why not keep giving toddlers and kids an easy and nutritious way to get the DHA they need after they’ve moved off of infant formula, or better yet, breast milk? And the overwhelming popularity of our DHA-supplemented organic milk shows that consumers are voting in favor of that choice.

Despite its many benefits for people and the planet, and the steady growth of the market for organic foods over the past two decades, we need to remember that organic remains a very small part of the overall U.S. food market.  The Organic Trade Association estimates there are only 4.6 million organic acres under cultivation in the U.S., out of more than 900 million acres of farmland. Our focus should be on growing that number, and working together to do so, rather than infighting that undermines consumer confidence.

 

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