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The San Francisco Chronicle reports that “sales of organic milk are climbing in California and the nation as the organic industry steps up its marketing of farming that eschews antibiotics, synthetic hormones and genetic engineering” and that “it doesn't matter to growing numbers of people that organic milk costs more than milk produced by conventional dairies. And that price gap has narrowed in recent months as milk prices soared.”

And while organic milk production represents just a sliver of the overall dairy market, there is a strong belief that – especially in view of some of the food safety issues that have emerged in recent months – “consumers want to see cows grazing in a natural habitat, not confined with mounds of feed, getting injected with a synthetic growth hormone for greater milk production.”

The story also focuses on the “big vs. small” debate that seems to inevitably erupt with any discussion of organics. The chronicle writes:

“Some suspect that a few organic-certified producers are cutting corners, said Mark Kastel of the Cornucopia Institute in Wisconsin, an organic watchdog group. The success of the organic approach is ‘threatened by powerful economic interests that covet their share of the organic pie and who are willing to twist, manipulate and even ignore federal organic regulations in their rush to cash in,’ Kastel said.

“But there has been only one sanction of a major dairy. In May, the certification of the Vander Eyk Dairy, a 10,000-cow operation in Tulare County, was suspended. The dairy was found to be violating some provisions of federal organic regulations and it failed to correct them, USDA spokesman Billy Cox said.”
KC's View:
It isn’t surprising that organic milk sales are rising, especially as they become closer in price to mainstream milk products. But I’d really like to see the frame of reference changed when it comes to big dairies. It simply doesn’t make sense that they would, in essence, kill the golden cow by short-cutting organic regulations. It would hurt them, it would hurt the industry, and it would destroy consumer faith in a high-price product.

Whenever I read these stories and protestations, I always think it sounds more like it is about protecting small farmers than consumers. Which isn’t exactly a bad thing, but the way it is positioned is somewhat disingenuous.