Dean Foods, owner of Horizon organic milk, will not mess with Bessie

Reporter Sam Fromartz has scored a scoop over on his blog, Chews Wise: the mega-dairy operator Dean Foods has announced it will not sell milk from cloned cows.

This is pretty huge news. Dean Foods has $10.5 billion in annual sales and sells dairy products under more than 50 brand names, including Borden, Pet, Country Fresh, and Meadow Gold; it also owns Horizon Organic and WhiteWave Foods. Small niche dairies like Stonyfield Farms, Organic Valley, and Straus Family Creamery have already said they won't sell milk from cloned cows, either, but Dean Foods is what financial analysts call a "market maker." If Dean Foods ain't buying, most conventional dairies aren't going to bother selling.

However, the parts of Dean Foods' official statement that Fromartz quotes do not mention whether the company will take a position on dairy products from the progeny of cloned cows. The USDA's National Organic Program has not yet determined whether such animals will be allowed to be labeled organic. Tracking clones or cloned progeny through the food chain will most likely require the adoption of the type of National Animal Identification System (NAIS) tracking that farmers have so far resisted.

Dean Foods apparently did not comment on the safety of cloned dairy products, only that consumers and customers didn't want it. The company has experienced some bad PR over its use of massive feedlots for some Horizon dairy cows, and it's clearly decided to play it safer. How soon before it joins large cooperatives like California Dairies in saying it will stop accepting milk from cows given synthetic hormones?

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