Milk, It Does the Corporation Good

Horizon Happy CowThere’s a disturbing article today in Salon on Horizon Farms, a nationwide producer and distributer of organic milk. Turns out “organic” doesn’t actually mean the Horizon’s dairy cows are raised in a humane manner. Sure, they aren’t injected with antibiotics and bovine growth hormones, but neither are they allowed to graze in open pasturelands like the happy cow on the Horizon carton. (Actually, I guess that cow is flying across the world, she’s so happy.)

Horizon cows are fed a diet of starchy grains (rather than grass, which is what a cow’s stomach is designed to digest). This carbo-loading leads to much greater milk production, but weakens the cow’s health, primarily its digestive system.

Even more disturbing to me though, is the corporate nature of Horizon, a company which comes across as some earthy crunchy local farm. That feel-good image couldn’t be further from the truth.

Horizon is owned by White Wave. And White Wave, in turn, is a division of the dairy giant Dean Foods. Dean Foods also owns Borden, Pet, Country Fresh, and a host of other dairy lines. The company is the country’s leading milk producer, and its revenue last year was in the ballpark of nearly $11 billion.

Of course, Horizon is the only organic milk my local supermarket carries, and I’ve been forking out huge amounts of cash for it for years, thinking I’ve been a good little consumer, supporting some anonymous, honest, farm family out in the middle of Iowa.

So I’ve been thinking I got to find some place that sells Stonyfield Farms organic milk. They’ve been in the yogurt business for years and they’re branching out to plain old organic milk.

These folks aren’t some part of some huge corporate conglomeration. This is me thinking, and this is me thinking wrong again.

Despite Stonyfield’s pastoral story of starting out “in 1983 with 7 cows”, the company is now 85% owned by the ginormous European corporation Groupe Danone (who sells Dannon yogurt in this country).

Welcome to Planet Starbucks. Welcome to the Archer-Daniel-Midlands National Historic Pasture. Welcome to the Dean Foods Corporate Milkman’s Baby.