Aurora Organic Milk Investigation

Recent reports allege one of the country’s biggest organic-milk producers, Aurora Organic Dairy, is selling its milk under the “USDA certified organic” seal when it’s not truly organic. The Washington Post spent months investigating and found significant violations in how the farm raises its cattle for milk, including extremely sparse grazing periods. They also performed tests of the milk confirming the absence of key components that should be found in organic milk.

Small dairy farms are growing frustrated from having to compete against large operations not playing by the rules. As part of our investigation, we would like to talk with organic dairy farmers and dairy cooperatives affected – give us a call at 1.800.887.8029 and tell us your story.

What is Certified Organic Milk?

For milk to be considered organic, one of the guidelines is the organic pasture standard allowing cows to graze daily throughout the season eating a specific amount of grass during that time, rather than being in feedlots or barns. Another qualifier of organic milk is in the milk itself. Pasture fed cows produce organic milk with elevated levels of 2 types of fats: conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and alpha-linolenic acid (Omega-3 fat). Conventional milk has less Omega-3 fats in comparison. A test conducted by The Milkweed, a dairy industry publication in Wisconsin, found that Aurora Organic Dairy scored the lowest for both CLA and Omega-3 content when compared to 10 other organic milks.

The USDA implemented federal rules in 2000 to certify organic products under a common seal. Since then, the organic food industry has become too large for the USDA to inspect every producer. Instead, under the USDA organic standard, each organic dairy farm hires its own inspection agency – an obvious conflict of interest. The Washington Post investigation found that Aurora Organic Dairy possibly skewed the numbers in its annual audit. The investigation further reported that, on eight separate occasions, only 10 percent of the farm’s herd was out grazing at any given time.

This isn’t the first time Aurora Organic Dairy has been under the microscope. Ten years ago, an organic industry watchdog group, The Cornucopia Institute, filed a complaint with the USDA alleging Aurora Organic Dairy was not in compliance with organic standards. The USDA subsequently launched an investigation proposing to revoke the farm’s organic status, finding it had “failed to provide a total feed ration that include pasture” of organic rules. Four months later they reached a settlement that allowed Aurora Organic Dairy to continue its production.

How We Can Help

If you are an organic milk producer or a co-op and your business has suffered from company practices like those reported about Aurora Organic, please give us a call at 1.800.887.8029 or fill out our free case evaluation – we want to hear your story.