• Responses to Your Stonyfield Questions

    June 23, 2011

    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.

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    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.)

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    { 32 comments… read them below or add one }

    Jessica @ Sushi and Sit-Ups June 23, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    This is awesome that they answered so directly. As a PR professional, I appreciate the transparency!

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    Tina June 23, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    @Jessica @ Sushi and Sit-Ups: I totally agree. Stonyfield is a pretty amazing company.

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    Ash @ Good Taste Healthy Me June 23, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    I found this extremely interesting. I liked the honesty in their responses even though some people will certainly have issues with it.

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    Stefanie @TheNewHealthy June 23, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    What truly interesting (and direct) answers. I can definitely respect a company that doesn’t beat around the bush even with difficult questions.

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    Amanda@RunningOnCoffee June 23, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    That’s awesome that they responded directly to the questions you received, even if I don’t regularly buy Stonyfield products (I buy Wegmans-brand milk, and I have tried Stonyfield Greek yogurt, but prefer the taste of other brands. I do think they have a good regular yogurt in chocolate/coffee/mocha flavors though!)

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    Jenn L @ Peas and Crayons June 23, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    oh wow I didn’t know that about the baby cows! There is actually a LOT I don’t know about dairy farming actually — I don’t drink milk but I certainly do eat cheese and want to learn more now! =) thanks so much for answering these questions <3 I'm off to research my butt off!

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    Mary June 23, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    Stonyfield certainly responded quickly! Thanks for reaching out to them, Tina!

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    Cait's Plate June 23, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    This was awesome – thanks so much to you (and Stonyfield!) for being so open and honest. Just makes me love & support them as a company even more!

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    Cait's Plate June 23, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    Oops – meant “you for sharing,” STONYFIELD for being so open and honest!

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    Katie at Faith N' Funfetti June 23, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    Love this! I love that Stonyfield not only answered the questions, but answered in detail. Very cool of them! :-)

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    Angela June 23, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    These are great answers! I love the Stonyfield brand anyway, but even more so now. I just wish they had wider-spread availability in Canada!

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    Wendi @ A Southern Yogi June 23, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    I appreciate their response and it does make sense. I also appreciate the comment that came from someone (I cannot remember her name) where she said that sometimes people don’t have access to a Whole Foods or specialty grocery store and wal mart may be the only option. So I have been proven wrong!!! There are always multiple sides to an opinion and I always like hearing them because I want to me open minded, not judgmental. i appreciate you taking the time to do this.

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    Slater June 23, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    I also appreciate the response and the interesting and respectful debate with Wendi.

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    LauraJayne June 23, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    These answers are great – thanks!

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    Kate (What Kate is Cooking) June 23, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    Stonyfield seems like a great company!

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    Annette @ EnjoyYourHealthyLife June 23, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    Interesting!! Thanks for posting :)

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    Catherine@happinessafterheartache June 23, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    This is great, thanks for sharing their answers and for getting in touch with them. Certain products will always be in demand; no matter how controversial they are. But I think that’s good – everyone’s different and everyone likes different things. It’s great that Stonyfield supports so many consumers.

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    Khushboo June 23, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    I love the honesty behind the answers, especially question 1. Also with regards to the Wal Mart question, I totally agree that despite the store’s ethics, it’s an efficient way to provide more shoppers with organic products!

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    E June 23, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    That’s great that they responded (and so quickly!), even on the tough questions :)

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    Teresa June 23, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    I’m a farm reporter, and I just interviewed a dairy farmer who is using a technology that almost guarantees that a cow will give birth to a female calf (or heifer). I would describe it more in detail, but your spam filter may block my post if I did :) But in essence, it means that the cows aren’t producing any bull calves that just go to slaughter.

    Farmers are using new technology to make sure that they are more efficient while still caring for the animals and the environment. One of my concerns about the organic trend is that we may be taking away this technology from farmers. And there are a lot of hungry people in the world who depend on farmers to feed us. We need both organic and conventional farms now more than ever. Thanks for the discussion.

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    Jenny @ Fitness Health and Food June 23, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    Tina,

    Thanks so much for sharing re the stonyfield trip!

    I actually wanted to comment on your GI issues but wasn’t sure you would notice my comment in the previous post. I highly recommend getting tested for food allergies. You can get a panel done full panel done for $100 to $200. I know that that isn’t chump change by any stretch but you might spend more with traditional doctors trying to figure out what is going on and have those tests go nowhere.

    My mom and I both struggled with GI issues at different times in our lives and my symptoms were exactly like yours. All of our problems were caused or exacerbated by food sensitivities. It may seem odd that a food you have loved and eaten without reaction for so long may now cause trouble but the body can build up immunities to seemingly healthy products.

    The obvious possible culprits are soy, wheat, dairy, eggs, nuts but truly it could be anything.

    I wish all the best and hope you feel better soon just wanted to offer my experience!

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    chelsey @ clean eating chelsey June 23, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    @Jenny @ Fitness Health and Food: I agree! While it might seem weird that this all “came out of nowhere”, that’s how all of my food intolerances began – I felt like I could eat the food one day and the next day: BAM! No more.

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    staceyhealthylife June 23, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    Great Q+A I learned some new things.

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    Erin @ Naturally Addicted June 23, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    This is great feedback! Thanks I learned a lot and I think it is so important for companies to really be honest and open with their consumers. Thanks Tina!

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    Lena June 23, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    Hi Tina,

    This is not meant to sound mean or overly critical, but I feel that your blog has really changed a lot in the last year, and not for the better :(. I LOVE your blog, but lately it feels like it concerns 3 things: advertising/promotional pieces, dogs, and random events that you get invited to participate in. I miss the old Carrots N Cake! I would just love to see more about you and your daily life, instead of things about random companies that I am not so interested in.

    Just my opinion, take it or leave it. Again, not meant to be mean, just honest.

    Lena

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    Tina June 23, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    @Lena: I’m actually not sure what “old” CNC you are talking about. I don’t think my blog has changed all that much. I actually think my blog has gotten better lately! I’m sorry you don’t like it.

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    Teresa June 23, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    Just read your Twitter comment about “haters.” Hope that didn’t refer to my earlier comment. I read your blog everyday, so I’m obviously a fan.

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    Tina June 23, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    @Teresa: No way! Your comment was great! I like discussion on my blog! :)

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    Robyn @ Blueberries and Oats June 23, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    Thanks for sharing these questions and answers! I found them to be extremely informative and brought up a lot of good discussion.

    I, for one, love when you can give us greater insight into companies like Stonyfield’s. =) Thanks!

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    @HilaryFleming @healthgirltv June 23, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    Tina! So cool you included/answered my Q. Thanks!

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    Sarah June 23, 2011 at 9:57 pm

    Wow, they responded so quickly! Love stonyfield.

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    Hannah June 24, 2011 at 2:26 am

    Love your answer about how we all clean up before visitors! You’re right, that doesn’t make it necessarily devious.

    Reply

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