Farmers Say Mega-Dairies Milk the Organic System

Cows graze in an open field at Art Thicke's dairy farm i i

At Art Thicke’s dairy farm near La Crescent, Minn., cows spend most of the year munching on grass from green fields. Jeff Brady, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Jeff Brady, NPR
Cows graze in an open field at Art Thicke's dairy farm

At Art Thicke’s dairy farm near La Crescent, Minn., cows spend most of the year munching on grass from green fields.

Jeff Brady, NPR
Art Thicke shows this year's heifers i i

Art Thicke shows this year’s heifers, born just a few weeks earlier. He’ll feed them organic grass and hay for two years before they start producing milk. Jeff Brady, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Jeff Brady, NPR
Art Thicke shows this year's heifers

Art Thicke shows this year’s heifers, born just a few weeks earlier. He’ll feed them organic grass and hay for two years before they start producing milk.

Jeff Brady, NPR

The organic food business has grown from a health-conscious movement to a multi-billion dollar business. Americans now spend $2 billion on organic milk alone.

For milk to be labeled organic, the USDA says that cows must be raised on pesticide-free feed, without hormones. But it doesn't regulate how much time the cows must spend out in pasture.

As organic mega-dairies with thousands of cows sprout up across the country, small-dairy farmers complain that some so-called "organic" cows don't get enough meadow time. They say the huge dairy operations are taking advantage of the system at the expense of the smaller farms that built the organic movement into a lucrative industry.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.