We often get asked if our cows are treated humanely, and we always answer with a resounding, “YES!” The family farmers who supply our milk work hard and care for their animals not only because their livelihoods depend on it, but also because they really love them. And who can blame them? It’s hard to resist the soft gazes and wet nuzzles from a herd of dairy cattle.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Organic Standards also designate how organic dairy herds should be cared for , and those rules are meant to support a simple principle: let cows be cows.
On an organic dairy farm, you can expect:
- Cows will have access to the outdoors every day that weather permits, even when their pasture is not growing. They will also enjoy shade, shelter, exercise areas, fresh air, and direct sunlight. Who wouldn’t love that?
- Most of the cows’ diet will come from grazing on pasture during the grazing season, which must be at least 120 days per year.
- Living space that any cow would find comfortable, including clean, dry bedding, suitable temperatures, ventilation and air circulation, opportunity for exercise and natural behavior (cows being cows), and a reduction in the risk of injury to any animal.
- Zero use of antibiotics, unless a cow’s life is in jeopardy and requires drug intervention, after which that cow would then leave the organic herd.
- Zero use of synthetic growth hormones like rBGH, which is used in some general farming practices to boost milk production.
- All of the organic dairy farmers that supply our milk also participate in the National Dairy FARM Program (Farmers Assuring Responsible Management), begun in 2009 by the National Milk Producers Federation. The program asks dairy farmers to adhere to a set of best management practices for animal care, and then conducts an external review of each farm a minimum of once every three years. Farmers can also work with FARM trained professionals to identify additional opportunities within their farming practices to ensure their herds are the happiest and healthiest they can be.
Stonyfield Organic also has a dedicated farm team who visit the supplier farms every quarter checking in with our producers, their cows, and facilities to support them and help guide the investments we make for our technical assistance program.
The dairy farmers we work with lead with their hearts and put a lot of energy into doing what’s best for their cows, instead of what makes the job easiest for them. So, the next time you pick up a container of Stonyfield Organic yogurt, imagine a happy cow munching on a field of grass, because that’s exactly how it happens.