Aug 31 2009
Waylon Lewis of Elephant Journal took me (and numerous others) to task for our criticism of Dean Food’s recent actions regarding Silk Soymilk and Horizon Dairy products (both owned by Dean Foods) I, for one, will support Silk Soy Natural vs. Organic-for now.
Way (as he seems to like being called) makes a basic and valid point. ”Natural” does have a meaning for Whitewave, and isn’t it better to have transitional brands, in between conventional agriculture and organic, than not to have these brands?
Is offering a transitional, more affordable product, like Clean Coal vs. Dirty Coal (considering that coal isn’t going anywhere, fast, isn’t it better to clean the process as much as we can, in the meantime?)—actually a wonderful way to move the supply-and-demand process toward a green, sustainable, eco-responsible food system?
I think so. Count one for “natural” when said term does mean something, and count one against me and my idealistic, ignorant, righteous pre-judgement.
Now I have always advised that we don’t let “perfect” be the enemy of “good”. I am all for moving the supply and demand process toward a greener more responsible food system, and I understand that we can’t get there in one step. But I think Way misses several points in his analysis.
Horizon Dairy and Silk Soymilk
First, he keeps mixing up Horizon and Silk. They are both owned by Dean Foods, but Horizon is exclusively dairy (milk eggs and cheese) and Silk is entirely Soy (mostly Soy milk)
Let’s start with Horizon. Recently, Horizon introduced a line of “Natural” dairy products, including a fruit and yoghurt product for toddlers and a single serving milk container.
…because there is not a regulated definition of natural yet, we have defined natural as:
Milk from cows not treated with added growth hormones (rBST)
No artificial preservatives
No artificial flavors
No artificial sweeteners, including high fructose corn syrup
No artificial colors
No milk from cloned animals
There are several problems that I have with this.
First, since the above is Horizon’s definition of Natural, there is nothing saying that they can’t change their definition tomorrow, and not tell anyone.
Second, Horizon Dairies are Confined Animal Feed Operation (CAFO) where cows are crowded together, barely able to move
What most consumers don’t know is that at Horizon’s big dairies, such as the one in Idaho, the cows are raised in a manner that most experts don’t consider organic. According to former Horizon Idaho dairy workers, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of jeopardizing their current jobs, Horizon cows graze for only four or five hours a day and during only three months in the summer. While Horizon claims the cows get plenty of fresh air, that’s because the barns are open structures. Their cows can see the fields but mostly aren’t walking around in them. “Most of the time, the cows are inside the barn,” says one former employee, who worked on the Idaho farm for eight years
But the thing that bugs me the most, is that this is a LOWERING of Horizon standards. If Dean Foods were to introduce a new brand with their “Natural” standards, or if they were to take one of their conventional brands and introduce natural products, I would be applauding. BUT, taking the Horizon brand, which has built a reputation of being Organic and diluting the brand seems to me to be misleading at best, and outright decietful at worst.
Dean Foods is using the reputation of Horizon to introduce a higher priced product that does not deliver the Horizon promise.
SILK, even worse
But even worse than what they are doing to Horizon, is what they did to Silk. Silk Soymilk had always been certified Organic. When Dean foods bought the brand, the first thing they did was to change to Chinese grown organic soy beans.
Then, they simply removed the word Organic from the label. It was the same UPC, and the packaging was exactly the same as before, EXCEPT for the lack of an organic label. So, if you were used to Silk being an organic brand, and you just reached in to the case and grabbed a carton, you might not notice that it wasn’t organic anymore.
It is THIS type of misleading or deceptive marketing that I object to.
I also dislike the lowering of standards for organic brands. Like I said earlier. If Dean were to introduce new, transition brands, or take some of their conventional brands and move them in a greener direction, I would be applauding them.
Instead, I believe that they deserve our scorn.