Monday, October 8, 2007

The Post that Grew and Grew and Grew!


Image Courtesy of allposters.com


Hello everyone and welcome to the week!

We had a really full and enjoyable weekend. I had my first golf lesson! Sports are really not my thing, but Paul had been going and playing with his mom regularly and with my mom sometimes too and I thought, well, if they can do it, I should at least try and get some more time in with my honey! So, on Saturday morning I was out at the driving range learning how to stand and swing (and actually make contact with the ball) and everything else that goes along with just learning how to drive (a golf ball, that is). My mental conversation went something like this: "Inside of foot, lined up with the ball... thumb and forefinger crease pointing toward my opposite shoulder... lean on the balls of your feet... club about a hands length from your stomach... weight is in your left leg (I am a lefty)... keep your eye on the ball... start your swing, keepyourarmstraigtanddon'tliftupyourfootandflickyourwristrightattheend!!!"

Okay. Did I hit it? More times than not, I think and so I will continue with my driving lessons and then decide if we will actually invest in a whole set of clubs. But it was fun. :) And my legs and butt and back were seriously sore the next day!

An added surprise bonus out of all of this is that Paul offered to take dancing lessons with me, since I like to dance and I was willing to try "his" sport. :) We'll check out some videos or DVD's at the library first, so he won't be completely green when we actually take a lesson.

After the lesson, a shower, and lunch, we went and bought our plants for the boulevard. Oh, they are SOOOOO pretty! I can't wait until we actually will be able to get them in!

I did some grocery shopping, but forgot my coupons. But I did want to share them here with you, because I think they are a great deal for organic dairy products. You should know that all organic dairy is not created equal. Organic Valley is a terrific company that is a co-op of many small farms around the nation. Horizon, on the other hand, despite its happy cow picture on the front of its products, participates in factory farming, which basically means viewing the cow as a product instead of an animal, and equals a very unhappy life for the cow. Store-brand "organic" milks, including those sold at Target, have been under fire as well.

NewsTarget.com did an in-depth story on this that I've taken excerpts of here and which I think you will find very interesting.

"Horizon conveniently took advantage of the fact that Federal Organic Standards say the cows must have access to pasture, and they said, "Oh well, I guess theoretical access to pasture is good enough. We are going to chain up our cows and milk them three times a day, and they will never get out pasturing unless there is a news organization coming to the farm that day. We will still call it organic." They have been doing this for four years, and there have been complaints from the Organic Consumers Association and organic farmers all over the country.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has completely ignored these complaints for four years. However, now this controversy has reached such a state with the mass media covering it and retail stores across the country starting to drop Horizon and Aurora Organic, that the USDA is finally making noises that they will clear up this situation and promulgate federal regulations that actually require the animals to be pastured. "

*****

"Mike: Now, these are pretty serious accusations of Horizon Milk or Dean Foods' behavior. How are you able to support this? Do you have an insider taking pictures, or how did you become aware of this behavior on their part?

Ronnie: It was called to our attention by a watchdog organization called The Cornucopia Institute, which actually visited some of these factory-style dairy farms that Horizon and Aurora call organic. They witnessed firsthand things like a farm where there are 4,000 animals, but only a few hundred acres of pasture. You cannot possibly pasture animals on that little pasture, especially when they are in semi-arid parts of Idaho, Colorado and West Texas.

Then beyond that, workers on these farms started coming forth as whistleblowers. There was a story in the Chicago Tribune about one of these whistleblowers who pointed out that these cows are not put out to pasture. The only time they are put out to pasture is when there is a media organization or an important person coming out.

Yes, it is firsthand information. It is a look at the terrain that these factory-style dairy feedlots are set on. Look at the size of their pasture, and then the fact that there was a national survey of organic dairy farms that came out March 22 -- which the unethical dairies did not respond to or they got really low ranks --whereas, the ethical producers were happy to be transparent about their practices."

*****

"Ronnie: Yes, half of Horizon Organic's milk today comes from these factory dairy feedlots. One hundred percent of Aurora Organic's milk comes from these factory dairy feedlots. It is cheaper to not buy organic calves that have been raised from birth on an organic farm, but to buy conventional calves that have been raised as cheaply as possible on a conventional farm. The routine practice today on a conventional farm is feeding the animals blood plasma as a milk replacer. You feed them genetically engineered grains, slaughterhouse waste, and chicken manure. That is industry standard. Why? You can make more money doing it that way.

Mike: Okay, so for those reading this, take a closer look at that bowl of cereal next time. If you are pouring cow's milk in there, you might want to buy genuine organic and not the cheap stuff.

Ronnie: Yes, and Mike here is another point that you might think about: for those people who do not drink dairy milk, but who buy organic soy milk, the leading organic soy milk brand in the United States is Silk. Many consumers have no idea that Silk -- just like Horizon Organic Milk -- was bought out by this giant conglomerate, Dean Foods.

Silk used to buy their organic soybeans from U.S. and Canadian organic soybean farmers, and they paid them a decent price -- $16 to $21 a bushel -- for these organic soybeans. Well, now that Dean Foods has bought out Silk, they are starting to import cheap, so-called organic soybeans from China, where the workers are treated like slaves and organic standards are dubious. Or, they are importing soybeans from Brazil where there is a huge uproar over the fact that people are whacking down the Amazon -- the lungs of the planet -- in order to plant export crops, specifically soybeans, to export.

Even if we think this does not affect us, because we do not eat meat or we do not eat dairy, we have to see the effect of these big corporations like Dean Foods coming into organic. Wal-Mart wants to sell you stuff that is cheaper than their competitors, and the only way they can do that is to outsource it from overseas -- places like China and Brazil -- where worker rights and environmental standards are routinely violated, or else lower standards in the United States and allow industrial-style production to call itself organic.

Mike: Now, this is obviously a very important story for consumers to follow. How can they continue to get updates from you on this story?

Ronnie: Every day on our news site, www.OrganicConsumers.org you will find updates. We have a whole section of our website called "Safeguard Organic Standards," where you can take action. Right at the top of our home page is an opportunity for you to send a message to what we are calling the "Shameless Seven." These are the large corporations trying to defraud consumers and put ethical organic farmers out of business by labeling factory farm production -- and slave labor production, in the case of China -- as organic."

(* The link in the above paragraph does not appear to be current. The latest one I searched out on their website appears to be here, dated August 2007.)

Holy smoke! The Silk connection is news to me. I buy both Organic Valley Soy and Silk, but I won't be buying Silk anymore.

Finally, one more reason to consider purchasing organic dairy for your family is the amount of hormones in them. I don't have all the links for this information - I'll leave that research to you if you are interested - it's all over the internet. But I can tell you two anecdotal stories:

One concerns a friend of mine whose youngest son at the time, at just over a year of age, was found to have a cancerous tumor on his kidney. He survived the operation and the treatment and as of today, is doing well. The medical staff at Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, FL told her, however, to immediately refrain from giving her son conventional dairy, because it contains the bgH (bovine growth hormone) which has shown to increase the speed in which tumors grow and to give her son only organic dairy.

The other story affected my family directly. I have always sought out organic foods for my family, but sometimes price just plain won out when times were tight. When my older daughter started developing at eight and a half years old, that all changed. I was shocked to learn, when I checked out some books for us to read together on "her changing body" that in today's American children, the average age of puberty is between 8 and 12 years old and it is only considered early puberty if a child begins developing at six!!! I was already shocked and heartbroken - and not ready at all - to be discussing these changes with my little girl, but the information in that book sealed the deal for me and money or no money, we only buy organic dairy now or we just don't buy it.

For the record, there hasn't been much progress - thankfully - in the development area in two years now. My younger daughter just turned eight and I'm waiting to see what will happen with her. I do feel compelled to share this information with other parents, because organics are so much more than taste, economics, animal welfare and being gentle on the environment. Sometimes folks won't make changes unless there is a serious enough reason to change. My children's health is that for me. I hope you'll consider it too.
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