Loophole Exploited by Factory Organic Dairies
[This article was previously published in the fall issue of The Cultivator, Cornucopia’s quarterly newsletter.]
by Marie Burcham, JD
Farm and Food Policy Analyst at The Cornucopia Institute
All dairy cows must give birth before they begin lactating. The role played by these calves in a dairy’s operation reflects a farm’s dedication to organic ideals.
When a dairy cow “ages out,” or suffers irreversible health problems and is removed from milk production, she is replaced to maintain the same level of production.
Ethical dairies raise the calves they birth out as replacements for declining milk cows, a “closed-herd” method, keeping the animals within the organic system. Factory dairies will often purchase conventionally raised heifers and transition them to organic production.
Under the existing regulations, dairy farmers converting to organic farming are allowed a one-time transition of their existing herd to organic production. After that one-year process, all animals brought into a herd are supposed to be managed organically before birth, for at least the last third of gestation.
However, some industrial-scale organic dairies, with the approval of their certifiers and the USDA, flout this rule by purchasing replacement heifers that were born and weaned using conventional methods. Read Full Article »