|Farm Name||Straus Family Creamery|
|Products||Full line dairy, ice cream, yogurt|
Though well-respected as one of the first organic dairies in the West, events at Straus Dairy since the initial publication of our organic dairy scorecard have been troubling. However, we are cautiously optimistic that things are changing for the better and we hope that after a site visit we will be able to upgrade the dairy in the scorecard.
The vast majority of all organic dairy farmers around the country, and the groups that represent them (in addition to The Cornucopia Institute the three regional producer groups: Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Midwest Organic Producers Association and the Western Organic Dairy Producers Alliance), and the Organic Consumers Association, among others, all came to a consensus regarding new rules at the USDA designed to require and ensure genuine, season-long grazing of ALL organic dairy cows. However, Albert Straus, Straus Dairy owner, testified publicly against the rulemaking.
Appearing on a panel at a symposium sponsored by the USDA on pasture in State College, Pennsylvania, Mr. Straus complained that he would be unable to graze his animals, even at the very low minimums proposed, because of the climate. Other dairy farmers from California on the panel challenged his contention and suggested that maybe he needed to reduce the size of his herd so it was compatible with the amount of pasture acreage he had available.
It's troubling that Straus Dairy would lobby against rulemaking that would help crack down on the giant corporate dairies that have been skirting the law.
In addition, with great fanfare, Straus Dairy announced that they were generating electricity on the farm from animal waste using a methane digester. The only problem with this technology is… it only works financially when you have lots of manure collected from cows when they are in confinement. A steady supply of manure is needed to run these systems that require hundreds of thousands of dollars in investment. You can't run them effectively when your cattle are depositing their own manure, as fertilizer, out in your pastures.
Until recently Straus Dairy milked their cows three times a day, unlike almost every other organic dairy in the country, most of whom find it challenging enough moving cows in and out of pasture twice a day. This is consistent with running a high-production dairy operation, which is very hard on the health and longevity of the cattle, but produces more milk. Recently, the dairy's owner, Albert Straus, stated publicly they had changed to two times a day milking.
Now that the USDA is implementing tougher pasturing requirements for dairy cattle, despite the lobbying campaign by factory farms and Straus, we will reevaluate their ranking in 2011 based on their compliance with the law.
The Straus family operates a processing plant and buys additional milk from four neighboring dairies. Their brand is widely distributed in California and, after some represented improvements, has a four-cow rating in our study.
They write, "Straus Family Creamery, the first Organic Dairy west of the Mississippi has been producing artisan organic dairy products for over a decade. Straus European-style organic butter is used by leading gourmet restaurants across the country. Straus small-batch super premium organic ice cream, the newest addition to the product line, is available in vanilla, chocolate, raspberry, coffee, and chocolate mint. Straus European-style yogurts are generating rave reviews.
2014 update: Until a major relaunch of the dairy scorecard, scheduled for this year, we consider Strauss' numeric score, and this narrative, to be accurate. The one exception is they are now, according to press reports, purchasing milk from seven separate dairies in the North Bay region.
|Ownership Structure||80||Family business|
|Milk Supply||95||And 2 neighbors|
|Some Information Pending Verification||80||Disturbing Inconsistencies|
|Certifier farms||80||Marin/QA I|
|Cows on pasture (pending verification)||50|
|Health and longevity of cows||100||Low Cull Rate|
|Replacement animals only from organic farms||100||Closed herds|
|Antibiotics used on young cattle||100||Never|
|Reproductive hormones used||100||Never|
|Farm support oversight||90||All dairies and visited regularly by staff|
|Outside dairy ingredients purchased||90||Purchases a small amount of organic whey protein concentrate for softserve ice cream mix.|
|TOTAL SCORE||1065|| FOUR COWS