A few of you guys asked some really great questions in the comment section of my Stonyfield Barnstorming Tour Recap post. I wasn’t 100% sure how to respond, so I asked my friends at Stonyfield to help me out. They sent me a detailed email with their answers, so I wanted to share them on CNC since other people might be interested to read them as well.
Do you think they “cleaned up” the place before the blogger/journalists arrived?
Anytime we entertain visitors, we all clean up a bit. (In fact, we’re pretty sure the farmers themselves took special care to look their best during our visit!) However, during our trip we passed multiple farms who sell their milk to Stonyfield that were not expecting our visit and anyone can check in on many of our farms day-to-day to see what is taking place at our farm cam site: http://www.stonyfield.com/healthy-planet/organic-farming/farm-cam and on Jonathan Gates’ Bovine Bugle Blog: http://stonyfield.typepad.com/
I always buy organic milk and dairy products but I read a while ago that dairy cows are impregnated all the time so that they can continue to produce milk. Also if they have a male calf than he is usually just sent to the slaughter house for veal as a male dairy calf is clearly useless. Did they touch base on any of this information while you were there? I am curious as to how it works at real dairy farms and not just conventional ones. I am vegetarian but havent made the switch to vegan simply because I love dairy, but after reading about that it made me sad.
We purchase our organic milk from Organic Valley/CROPP, a farmer-owned cooperative of over 1,300 dairy farmers. Humane animal treatment is a cornerstone of organic and CROPP farmers work to minimize cows’ stress in all areas – including breeding. Dairy farmers strive to have their cows calve (or have a calf) once a year. If a cow does not get pregnant, her milk production drops to such a level that it is not economically viable to keep her. The last 60 days of the pregnancy are a rest period for the cow in preparation for the birth of the calf. During that time she is not milked. The gestation period for a cow is the same as that for people–9 months. So if a cow gets pregnant on her first attempt at breeding she will milk on average for about 305 days out of the year with 60 days of rest.
And, all diary farmers would rather have a heifer calf than a bull calf so that they can grow their herd or sell it for a decent sum. No dairy farmer is pleased to have a cow birth a bull. As long as people buy veal, there will be bull calves sent to veal operations – organic and non-organic (although organic standards prohibit the inhumane practices of conventional veal production). Most bull calves are sold for slaughter as the farmers cannot afford to keep them as pets. More and more however, Organic Valley farmers are raising the males as steers for the organic meat market or selling them to other organic farmers that specialize in beef. As the market for organic beef grows, this will allow more farmers to keep the bull calves to raise for beef. We believe that family farmers in the U.S. and around the world hold the key to implementing sustainable agriculture is defines as that which is ecologically sound, economically viable, socially just, and humane.
For more information visit Organic Valley’s website here: http://www.organicvalley.coop/why-organic/humane-treatment/
My only question I have for Stonyfield, and this is actually a question, not a criticism, but why did they choose Wal Mart as one of their vendors? While I understand that bringing organic produce to the masses is important, is there also the thought that not participating in stores that are a little lacking in business ethics would be another stance organic vendors can take?? Wal Mart is known for bullying small farmers into lower prices so that products can fit into the “low price” model. But the reason corporate farms are cheap is because they skimp on environmental issues to fit in with this model. Small farmers are unable to do so, hence higher prices… that’s my only beef with Stonyfield. and I am open to the idea that I’m completely misinformed as well. There is so much information out there, it’s hard to know what’s real and not.
Distributing our products to WalMart is just one more way that we can bring the benefits of organic food to mainstream shoppers. If organic is going to provide future generations with a healthier, safer way of life, organic must become mainstream. More people shop at WalMart than voted in the last U.S. election – twice as many, in fact. Increasing the awareness and appreciation of organics and family farming with this large audience is critical to the future growth of organics and the health of the planet. We believe that this is central to our mission. We believe that all of agriculture must change to organic practices in order to (a) rid the world of unnecessary, persistent and toxic agricultural chemicals, (b) reduce the carbon footprint of modern agricultural practices so as to minimize food production’s contribution to climate change and (c) provide a fair and sustainable livelihood for family farmers around the world. In order to fulfill this objective, we believe that we need to alter the food choices anywhere that food is bought and sold. Since WalMart is one of the world’s largest grocers, we do not feel that we, or future generations, can afford the luxury of ignoring the profound influence that they can have on agriculture and the food industry.
(Know too, that we respect that everyone chooses to shop in different locations and we work hard to offer our products in as many stores as possible – from WalMart to Whole Foods to grocery stores and small independent shops.)