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Horizon PR Machine Polishes Its Image-Or Why Cows Love Dean Foods

Ten years ago it would have taken more than a strange day in May to envision a company synonymous with organic to produce a long-winded brochure about animal well-being.

Yet in today’s world of corporate organic agribusiness and in a culture where image rules the roost, or in this case, the herd, Horizon Organic Dairy has produced just such a brochure that makes NBN wonder if these folks have nightmares about Organic Valley’s cows attacking them in their sleep.

Horizon, owned by Dean Foods, the worlds largest dairy (which also owns soy foods leader, White Wave,) might be creating a brochure to educate consumers new to organic.

On the surface this might seem true. After all, organic milk is a common entry point for new organic consumers, especially among new parents concerned for their children’s well-being.

Yet NBN believes the real aim is to keep the company’s image among hard-core organic consumers positive.  More precisely we believe that the aim is to defend itself against critics, notably led by the Cornucopia Institute, which states that the company  violates the USDA National Organic Program, through the use of herd confinement.

The Horizon brochure, includes comments about animal well being, herd health, the absence of hormones, antibiotics and pesticides concluding with a statement that claims Horizon Organic is “dedicated to expanding organic agriculture to ensure everyone is able to buy high-quality, great tasting products….”

Some defenders of Horizon as well as Aurora Dairy (the leading provider of private label organic dairy products created by Horizon’s founder Mark Retzloff) believe both companies are addressing growing organic liquid dairy shortages through increasing efficient practices. NBN, however, disagrees.

In other words, does the issue of herd confinement really have to do with addressing short supply?  Or is it about about addressing corporate concerns, like the demand for bigger and bigger profits and maximizing investments, regardless of the impact on your employees or on your herd?

As for the brochure we’ll summarize by stealing a line from someone who was a better writer than us: Thou dost protest too much!  Or as someone we know once said, “If you have to convince me, you’re probably up to something.”

For more on the Cornucopia Institute see our story from April 2006 <a href=” http://www.naturalbusinessnews.com/levineReport.php?NYSKID=156&dateS=2006-04-06″ target=”new”> see our story from April 2006 </a>.  To learn about Organic Valley’s efforts to support conventional dairies in making the transition to organic, an honest way to increase supply <a href=” http://www.naturalbusinessnews.com/levineReport.php?NYSKID=59&dateS=2006-08-18″ target=”new”> see our story here </a>.

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