Aurora Organic Exceeds Grazing Requirements
In early May a Washington Post article highlighted what the author of the article believed to be violations of USDA organic regulations by Aurora Organic Dairy. The most significant issues cited in the article were the perceived lack of grazing by the around 15,000 cows that are part of the Aurora operation, and the nutritional makeup of the milk which the author says was closer to conventional milk than organic.
While a source from Aurora was quoted in the article, a full letter from Aurora in response to the article is provided below. In addition, Aurora shares this University of California-Davis study on what defines organic milk.
At Aurora Organic Dairy, we care a great deal about organic agriculture, about the more than 650 dedicated men and women who call Aurora home, and about consumers who have come to trust the many benefits of organic.
Contrary to a recent article in The Washington Post, Aurora Organic Dairy’s cows not only graze on pasture, but we meet and exceed the grazing requirements for organic certification of our milk. We maintain meticulous daily records, which are audited annually and prove the nutrition our cows receive from pasture and other certified organic feed sources.
At our Colorado High Plains farm alone, our pastures annually produce more than 40 million pounds of feed on more than 4,000 acres. We invest significant resources in land and irrigation. Our soil and crop scientists, and other experts, study our pastures and develop annual plans that ensure the sustainability of the land, and the nutrition and health of our cows.
Many facts we provided to The Washington Post were omitted from the story:
- The grazing requirements of the National Organic Program (NOP) are clear and enable national organic production across many different regions. Producers must achieve at least 30% dry matter intake from grazing for 120 days or more. We exceed these requirements of the organic pasture rule.
- Organic Certifying Agents are independent, third-party auditors, accredited by the USDA. To use the USDA organic label on our products, we must satisfy their expectations to certify production in accordance with the rules of the NOP.
- The level of Essential Fatty Acids in milk is not a requirement of organic certification, nor does it prove a dairy farmer’s grazing practices. Such a test is affected by numerous factors, including the type of pasture grasses, climate, other feed inputs and animal genetics.
- We do not damage our soils or subject our animals to harm from poor nutrition by grazing them when the pastures have been fully grazed. This is also a requirement of the organic rules.
- All organic dairies do not resemble each other and are not managed the same. They vary in scale, climates and pastures. Regardless, to be organic they must meet the regulations and be properly certified.
Regrettably, the reporter declined our invitation to visit our farms. Had he taken this opportunity, he would have seen the more than 4,000 acres of pastures our herds graze. He would have understood how our cows are moved to and from pasture during the grazing season, and the abundant nutrition our herds receive from pasture would have been obvious.
At Aurora Organic Dairy, we produce milk under valid organic certifications, which means we provide our cows with feed that is produced without the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers. We produce our milk without the use of GMOs, antibiotics or synthetic growth hormones. We are committed to our values, which include being a 100% organic company and having the highest standards of animal welfare.
Marc Peperzak, Founder & CEO
Aurora Organic Dairy