Milk truck driving down two lane highway toward a farmPhoto courtesy of AdobeStock

The news that Danone is terminating 89 milk contracts with its Horizon brand farmers in the Northeast underscores a food system that prioritizes efficiency over resilience.

Danone claims that this move will help the company meet its goal of becoming carbon positive by 2025. This is a farce. Danone sources milk from industrialized operations that produce high concentrations of manure and are likely reliant on feed shipped across the globe. This move will also conveniently cut costs for the French yogurt seller, known as Dannon in the US.

The mass termination of contracts in the Northeast will profoundly impact the regional economy. Farmers are a fulcrum of these communities, helping sustain local veterinarians, feed suppliers, and shops.

The farms themselves, often operated by multiple generations of families, are irreplaceable.

Danone (along with the rest of the large processors in the dairy industry) has been terminating contracts piecemeal for years —they pulled out of Humboldt County in California in 2018, shortly after Danone acquired Horizon in their merger with WhiteWave/Dean Foods.

As corporations have consolidated their infrastructure, agricultural areas have lost many small processing plants. We all pay the price: While industry looks for ways to shave costs, the food system has become far less resilient.

Danone relies heavily on factory farmed milk in both their conventional and organic lines, and they have often sold milk from the notorious Aurora Organic Dairy. Their organic dairy brand, Horizon, has scored poorly on Cornucopia’s Organic Dairy Scorecard for years.

Consumers are a critical piece of the food system. What can you do?

  • Watch for more information as Cornucopia collaborates with several other nonprofits, co-ops, and individuals in the Northeast and nationally to help mobilize a mass response.
  • Hone your investigative skills by learning about milk plant codes, and using your research to inform our work. Cornucopia recommends buying local authentic organic milk whenever possible — the milk plant code tells you where your milk was processed (here is the current list of codes). Let us know if you see the code 08-29 on your Horizon milk—that means it came from Aurora Dairy’s processing plant in Colorado. We are particularly interested in reports of Horizon milk sold in the Northeast with that milk plant code.

Thanks to the tireless work of ecologically based farmers, high-quality, grass-based organic products still exist in the marketplace. When we buy their products, we invest in their work and our communities.

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