Private-label, or store-brand, dairy products rated with two cows are sold by grocers or distributors who have the obvious desire of wanting to grow their presence in the organic marketplace. Unfortunately, there is an inherent limitation in private-label organic products: organic consumers tend to want to know where their food is coming from and how it is produced, and private-label products are anonymous by their nature. As a case in point, although over 80% of the name-brand organic dairy marketers responded to our survey and are rated in this report, not one of the private-label marketers was willing to tell consumers, openly, where its organic milk was purchased.
Even though none of the two cow rated–brands responded to our survey request, we were able to determine that these brands were, at the time of our research, buying organic milk from highly rated sources. We conducted our research in this area through interviews with a number of industry sources and through federally maintained records.
If these companies want to truly express a commitment to organics, and communicate this tangibly to their customer base, we would encourage them to specify on their label what dairy farmers and cooperatives they are "partnering with." This will give consumers valuable information to judge their ethical approach and simultaneously afford farmers more marketplace security, as it will make it much more difficult to change suppliers quickly if competitors try to undercut current milk pricing.
So the bottom line for private-label organic products, whether a dairy item or any other commodity, is "buyer beware." We encourage consumers to be vigilant and contact stores to confirm who is supplying their private-label milk or to just pay an extra quarter or two for name-brand milk from farmers and brands that are willing to be open with them and who share their values.