HEB Organics (HEB Grocery Company/Central Market)

Rating
Farm/Brand HeadquartersSan Antonio, Texas
ProductsCheese, fluid milk, cream
Websitewww.heb.com
Market AreaTX, KS, OK
Total Score17

A number years ago HEB, the among the largest supermarket chains in Texas (who also owns Central Market), began purchasing milk from the Natural Prairie dairy, also in Texas. HEB owns their own dairy processing plant.

With a capacity of approximately 10,000 cows, Natural Prairie is one of the largest operations in the country. In fact, the six dairy certified organic industrial-scale dairies in Texas produce 1.5 times more milk than over 450 family-scale dairy farms in the state of Wisconsin.

Cornucopia has previously filed legal complaints with the USDA against Natural Prairie questioning the legitimacy of their meeting the legal grazing requirement in harsh arid conditions. According to documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, it appears that the USDA’s National Organic Program only asked the certifier to confirm the status of Natural Prairie’s organic certification rather than investigating the allegations.

Now, based on a nationwide research of the sourcing of private-label milk brands it appears HEB is bottling milk (presumably from Natural Prairie) for this and other store brands.

Neither this brand, nor HEB, were transparent and willing to share the origins of their “organic” milk with our researchers and, thus, with their customers. It should be noted that we assure confidentiality to all dairy brands in terms of their sharing proprietary information with us (obviously, the vast majority of namebrand organic dairies trusted that commitment from Cornucopia).

We would encourage you to consult the organic dairy scorecard and purchase milk from the highest rated brands that are available in your area.

CriteriaRatingComment
TOTAL (possible score is 1600)17
1-Cow Rating | Poor - Store brands
Farmstead dairies who live on-site (or work their own dairy daily) receive top points for this category. No transparency and/or no answer receive no points.
Ownership structure
1No answer
Farmstead dairies and well-managed cooperatives with only their own patrons get top points in this category. Fewer points go to brands that have less control over their milk supply.
Milk Supply
1No answer
Brands that do not also market any conventional products receive top points in this category. Brands that are less dedicated to organics receive fewer points.
Organic Production
1No answer
The best transparency toward Cornucopia investigators is rewarded by full points.
Disclosure of Information for Verification
1No answer
If a top-rated organic certifier certifies this brand they receive full points. Certifiers with questionable practices receive fewer points.
Organic Certification
1No answer
If this brand has other third-party labels, particularly animal-welfare labels, that will provide them extra points in this category depending on the particular label and its standards.
Other Labels/Standards
1No answer
100% Grass-fed with independent verification or independent standards to ensure compliance will receive full points in this category. Other points are attributed to how much forage composes the dairy cows’ diets.
Grass-fed
1No answer
No point value – this information is offered for buyers interested in milk from cows without soy in their diets.
Soy Free Ration?
No answer. Soy is likely used in feed.
Rating based on (a) policies of brand, (b) enforcement/oversight (c) acreage available per cow, (d) average days on pasture (e) investigative actions.
Pasture
1No answer
Where cows are milked one to two times per day they receive top points. It's standard organic protocol to milk two times a day. Dairies that milk three-to-four times a day is one indicator of factory-organics.
Times Milked
1No answer
A cull and/or death rate under 10% annually receives full points.
Cull/death Rate
1No answer
Closed herd (meaning the brand raises all their replacement cattle) receives full points. If conventional animals are purchased, the brand receives fewer points.
Replacements
1No answer
If this brand has a unique way of managing calves they receive more points. If they remove the calf shortly after birth (the standard practice) they receive 70 points.
Calves
1No answer
When the brand prohibits all antibiotic use they receive full points. No answer receives no points.
Antibiotic Use
1No answer; animals given antibiotics may be introduced back into food stream after withdrawal times.
When no hormones are used on farm(s) this brand receives full points. When the brand uses hormones therapeutically post-birth the brand receives 50 points.
Hormone Usage
1No answer; hormones may be used therapeutically
Farmstead dairies (lives on site) get full points and cooperative/corporations that set standards and have staff that visit the supplying dairies also receive top points. No direct supervision and/or personal relationship with farm(s) gets low or no points.
Farm Support
1No answer
Full control of any added ingredients (100% come from within organization) receives top points. Dairy ingredients purchased from a number of different vendors (with less direct control) receives fewer points in this category.
Procurement of Ingredients
1No answer
Several questions were asked in addition to the original survey questions that would ultimately give producers “extra credit” points. Look for details in individual brand explanations.
Extra Credit
1None

In the spirit of the 2018 giving season, a generous Cornucopia member has offered to DOUBLE ALL DONATIONS made in support of authentic and local food from true family farms. We hope you’ll take this opportunity to increase your impact with a gift to Cornucopia.

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