FAQ

The Cornucopia Institute will be posting responses to questions concerning organic and sustainable farming and food issues. Please check back for updates to this page.

How do I become a member of The Cornucopia Institute?
You can make a donation via credit card on our secure server, or you can mail a check or money order to The Cornucopia Institute, P.O. Box 126, Cornucopia, Wisconsin 54827.

You can also donate via PayPal here:

Thank you very sincerely for your support of our mission!

There is no minimum donation to become a member.

For information on recognizing Cornucopia in a bequest, or for gifts of stock and other appreciated assets, please feel free to contact us.

I’m a member and would like to update my address or email address.
Please email us at cultivate@cornucopia.org. All we need is your name and updated contact information, and we will make the change. Thank you.

Do I have permission to repost, redistribute or use your graphics, photographs or written materials, such as articles or press releases?
All of the materials we create (not including news articles authored by others and posted on our site, or images belonging to others) are available for others to use. We ask for proper attribution, so please reference “The Cornucopia Institute.”

We also appreciate knowing where our materials appear, and would appreciate a quick note (please email us at cultivate@cornucopia.org) to let us know where our materials are published.

Please note that the ‘Who Owns Organic?’ material originates from Professor Phil Howard, and his permission will be needed to reuse this data. His email address is available on his website: https://www.msu.edu/~howardp/organicindustry.html.

I don’t see my favorite soy/egg/dairy brand on your organic scorecard. Could you rate them?
First, please note that our scorecards are limited to certified organic brands. If you do not see a brand, please check if they are certified organic. If the brand is organic, and not among the brands we rate, we would be happy to send them a survey and invite them to participate in our research.

Please email us the name of the brand and other contact information that might appear on their label.

What rating criteria do you use to rate brands in your scorecards?
At the end of each scorecard scorecard, we have a link to “rating criteria” which explains the criteria we use and how we tabulate each brand’s score. Follow these links to rating criteria for soy, eggs or dairy.

How do you verify information sent in from scorecard participants?
A company or farm’s score is based on their answers to a comprehensive survey we developed. Like the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, we require the owner, chief executive or another corporate officer to sign these surveys attesting to their authenticity.

We also visit a large number of farms to verify their answers to the questions, especially questions related to outdoor access for livestock. When we are not able to visit the farms in person, we ask participants to send photographs of their outdoor space and barns.

Sometimes we enlist the help of our “intelligence agents” (members around the country) to make unannounced visits, use satellite imagery and have even hired pilots for aerial photography.

Do you rate Canadian brands?
We have received an increasing number of requests to work in Canada but we don’t have the staffing or resources to do so at this time.

How often are your scorecards updated?
Our scorecards are updated continually, as new producers are added to the scorecard or existing producers change their production practices. We strongly encourage consumers to contact companies that are rated low, and share your thoughts with them. If they did not participate in the Cornucopia study, please urge them to do so (they can contact The Cornucopia Institute to obtain a survey).

Do you have an app for your scorecards?
This is coming soon.

I just received your action alert. Wouldn’t it be easier to start online petitions rather than encourage citizens to submit comments directly to elected officials or regulatory agencies?
Elected officials and bureaucrats in Washington dramatically downplay citizen participation when it comes as an online petition.

When you submit your comments through the federal government website, your thoughts become part of the public record and are posted where other citizens can also see them. It takes some extra effort, but we highly recommend submitting comments directly to government officials through www.regulations.gov to comment on federal rulemaking.

Likewise, proxy letters take more time and effort. A letter with a penned signature, especially with a hand written personal message, has a real impact.

Can I trust the organic label?
The organic label is the most stringently regulated and trustworthy label on foods in the marketplace. The majority of participants in the organic community have high integrity.

It’s a shame that the USDA’s accreditation program has yet to hit its stride and guarantee the authenticity of all organic food. In the meantime, we encourage you to consult the scorecards on The Cornucopia Institute website so you can support the true heroes in this industry.

There are few alternatives to certified organic food, and fighting for the authenticity of the organic label is worth all of our efforts.

I emailed a company that produces foods containing soy protein and is listed as using hexane-extracted soy on your shopping guide. They claim there is no hexane in their products. Could your shopping list be wrong?
When consumers email companies with concerns, it is not unusual for the customer service representatives to respond with vague statements designed to mislead customers. In the case of hexane and soy protein, some companies respond with statements such as “we do not use hexane in the direct production of soy protein.” This does not mean that the soybeans were not processed with hexane. The soybeans are processed with hexane in one of the initial processing steps, usually by a major agribusiness supplier such as ADM or Cargill (so technically, to say “we do not use hexane” is correct – in the same way that “we do not use pesticides” does not mean that no pesticides were used in the production of the ingredients that go into their products).

For more information regarding hexane, please read our report.

I emailed a company that uses carrageenan, and they claim that they use only food-grade carrageenan, which is safe.
Since 1969, researchers have found that food-grade carrageenan is linked to gastrointestinal inflammation, ulcerations and lesions. Several studies with food-grade carrageenan found it to be a promoter of colon tumors in laboratory animals.

The only studies that conclude that food-grade carrageenan is safe to consume have been funded or commissioned by carrageenan suppliers or the food industry. Studies pointing to harm have been funded by independent or government sources, including the National Institutes of Health. The statement by some food processors that “food-grade carrageenan is safe” is based on a handful of self-serving, industry-funded studies.

Please read our report for more information.

What does the USDA’s pasteurization requirement mean about the raw almonds I purchase?
California growers (nearly all U.S. almonds are grown in California) must “pasteurize” their almonds prior to selling them “raw” to markets in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. In almonds, pasteurized means they are treated with either a toxic fumigant classified as a possible carcinogen or propylene oxide, or heated with steam.

There are two exceptions to the raw almond pasteurization mandate:
1. Exports of raw almonds to foreign countries (excluding Canada and Mexico) do not have to be pasteurized.

2. Farmers can sell untreated raw almonds, in maximum lot sizes of 100 pounds, directly to consumers from their farmsteads or at a farmers market.

What is Cornucopia’s position on omnivorous diet v. vegetarian/vegan diets, raw diets or raw milk?
The Cornucopia Institute is neutral in terms of people’s dietary choices. Our consumer and farmer-members’ dietary choices range from omnivores, vegetarians who consume dairy and eggs, vegans and 100% raw.

A fair number of our farmer-members produce and market raw milk and dairy products.

We think everyone should have the choice to eat the diet that they have chosen. We also believe that people should have access to the healthiest and most nutritious food, and that the family farmers who produce it deserve to be fairly compensated. No matter what your dietary choice, purchasing authentic organic food should be of paramount importance.

While we remain neutral on the health attributes and/or risks of raw milk, we will aggressively defend the rights of dairy farmers to produce and market raw dairy products and the rights of consumers to make informed purchasing decisions in the marketplace.

Corporate agribusiness partnering with government is endangering everyone’s ability to purchase truly authentic and nutritionally superior food in the marketplace. The concentration of our food industry, and dependence on industrial-scale livestock production, endangers human health and the environment.

Where can I connect with local food producers?
Your local farmers market and member-owned food cooperatives (if there are any in your area) are two excellent resources, along with the websites eatwild.org and localharvest.org.

Where can I learn more about organic farming practices and local food systems?
Here are some excellent resources on organic growing:
The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (ATTRA)
Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE)
Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES)
Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA)
eOrganic
Rodale Institute
National Organic Program (NOP)

The University of Minnesota Extension Office offers resources to support communities in any stage of building community food systems. Resources are intended for farmers and producers, community organizations, and Extension Educators but may interest anyone in community and local foods.
Also, Michigan Good Food is a good website for information on building a sustainable food system.