On April 29, 2014, Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage® announced that its nearly 90 stores will no longer sell dairy products that come from confinement dairies and will sell only products from pasture-based dairies. In a confinement dairy, the emphasis is on production. The animals do not graze on growing pasture and live their unnaturally shortened lives enclosed in a barn or dirt yard.
By only selling pasture-based dairy products, Natural Grocers hopes to start more conversations about how our food is raised and how that can impact hidden costs. In general, they are committed to nutrition education, higher standards and more affordable prices.
“Consumers have told us they aren’t sure about what they’re buying or where it came from. And they do care, because there are a lot of documented unintended consequences associated with confinement dairies,” said Heather Isely, who helped shape the policy as Executive Vice President for Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage.
“At the same time, there’s increasing evidence that ‘old school’ dairy practiced in new ways – meaning animals raised in a managed-pasture system – has nutritional benefits, benefits for the land, benefits for the farmers and the animals themselves.”
The process of researching and replacing confinement dairy products with comparable pasture-based dairy has taken Natural Grocers executives to view dairies nationwide and extensively research others, from Strauss Family Farms in California to Maple Hill Creamery in New York, from Dreaming Cow in Georgia to Windsor Dairy in Colorado, and the many farmers across the country who sell their milk to the Organic Valley Dairy Cooperative. Farmers repeatedly emphasized that they are more profitable in a pasture system, which research supports, and that any added costs will shrink as demand grows.
Natural Grocers wrote its standards to be as straightforward as possible:
- Dairy animals must be grazed for a minimum of 120 days
- No animal byproducts in feed
- No hormones, including Bovine Growth Hormone
- No non-therapeutic drugs
- No cloned animals
- Animals are allowed to exhibit their natural behaviors
- Humane Treatment
- Nutrition needs met
- Shelter provided as needed
- No GMO alfalfa in feed
Natural Grocers has created a page with resources, videos, and answers to Frequently Asked Questions on its new dairy policies at: www.naturalgrocers.com/products/dairy-resource-page
Do you already consume pasture-based dairy? Would you be interested in learning more about raw milk?
The terms “real milk,” “farm fresh milk,” and “raw milk” are all used to refer to milk that has not been heated in the pasteurization process. But the terms encompass much more! Both farmers and consumers generally use these terms to refer to milk that has not been pasteurized AND:
- has intact cream particles. In other words, it hasn’t been homogenized, and the cream rises to the top. You can see how much (or how little) cream is in your milk!
- is from cows and goats raised on pasture, whether they are 100% grass-fed or supplemented with grain.
- is from family farmers, not factory farms.
Visit the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance website section on raw milk to learn more.