Horizon’s half-and-half attempt at going “beyond organic”

horizon.jpgHorizon Organic (the largest organic milk producer in the U.S.) today announced it had published a new set of guidelines governing "Standards of Care" on its company-owned farms.

Under fire from the Cornucopia Institute, a family farm watchdog group, and others for keeping cows in feedlots — and even going so far as to fake their pasturing, Horizon has had a real PR problem for quite some time, despite a few full-page ads to address the company's sullied image.

The new guidelines, which do not seem to be actually published anywhere in their entirety on Horizon's website, purportedly will ensure "that cows graze on organic grass every day during the active growing season (frost to frost) and as many days as possible during the dormant season" and that cows "are outside year-round to exercise, socialize and interact with the land," and that pastures are managed "in a way that encourages the growth of grass for grazing, improving biodiversity, while conserving precious soil and water resources."

Sounds good, right? Alas, the standards are designed for Horizon's "company-owned farms while helping educate consumers and others about the complexities of organic farming." Leaving aside for the moment the fact that its Horizon's consumer that have been educating the company about how organic is not just a label and a set of rules, but a holistic philosophy, Horizon only has two company-owned farms: one in Idaho and one in Maryland. Since the Idaho dairy was the one Cornucopia accused of building a Potemkin village around its ugly CAFO (check out the photos), it's a start, but why not extend the standards to the 580 family farms that supply 80% of its milk, and throw in some third-party verification?

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