Sourcing Value #3: We make sure to know where each ingredient comes from and are transparent about this to the public.
Don’t worry, we’ll get back to #2. Just to keep you on your toes, we’re going to skip around a bit in this series.
Transparency, particularly in the food industry, is often sacrificed in modern business practices – be it to disguise unsavory business practices or simply because global supply chains can be convoluted and confusing. At Stonyfield, we believe that everyone has a right to know where their food comes from. In fact we believe our farmers are one of our greatest assets. That’s why we go to great lengths to offer people a personal connection to where their food comes from. You might never meet our farmers, but we’d like you to feel like you know them!
Transparency means accountability. We know that you care about what’s in your food beyond what’s on the label. You want to know you are getting the most nutritious products and avoiding toxic pesticides, synthetic growth hormones, or GMOs. You may also want to know whether you are buying products that support family farmers, farm workers, and local economies. And you may want to make sure you give your business to farms that raise their animals in a humane way and care for the environment. That’s why our commitment to transparency is such an important component of our sourcing values. We have worked hard to make sure that we can offer you the peace of mind that comes with knowing where your food comes from and how it was raised.
We source over 300 million lbs. of organic ingredients annually—milk, fruit, sweeteners, grains, spices, etc. Our ingredient sourcing supports over 180,000 acres of organic production each year. All of our milk comes from the Organic Valley/ CROPP Cooperative (OV). Why did we pick OV? OV is a cooperative, which means it is run by the farmer-members. CROPP The OV cooperative has approximately 1300 organic dairy farmers across the U.S. including about 170 in New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. They are all family farmers with an average herd size of 60 cows. We aim to source all of our milk as close to home (New Hampshire) as possible but if the farmers in the Northeast don’t have enough, there are talented OV farmers throughout the country who can fill in the supply. To meet an OV farmer near you, check out OV’s “Who is your farmer?” Farmer Finder or get to know Guy Choiniere, Gloria Varney, and Lyle and Kitty Edwards through our YoTubes.
Transparency means we share our challenges along with our successes. While we source all of our milk from the United States, most of it from New England, we’ve had to expand our horizons for other ingredients. Some products —like organic cocoa, banana and vanilla—do not grow in the US, so we import them. Only a small amount of organic sugar is grown in the US, so we import that too. We look at sourcing internationally only when the quantities we need aren’t available or if certain ingredients are actually grown geographically closer to us than other US suppliers (think Quebec-grown organic blueberries). We source 95% of our ingredients domestically.
One important benefit to sourcing from a broad base of farmers across varied geography is security. Weather is always a big factor in farming, and it makes working with a diverse base of farmers important. Imagine if there were a freeze in California where we buy organic strawberries, and that was our single source. We would not be able to make strawberry yogurt for a year. No one wants that! Of course, everything we source, whether it’s from our own backyard or from Costa Rica, meets the USDA Organic Standards and is certified by an accredited third-party organic certifier.
You can’t have transparency without traceability. Being able to trace ingredients back to the farm is an important part of being certified organic. And, it’s not just farmers that need to be certified. Packers, processors, and kitchens must all meet specific standards to be certified organic. And, in order for Stonyfield to maintain our certification, we need to know not just where our ingredients come from but how they were produced. Luckily, getting to know farmers and their farms is one of the things we like best in this field. We think you’ll feel the same way. So come visit our website to meet the farmers!