One less organic product at Wal-Mart.

This morning brings news from my friend Orangeclouds115:

I received the following information directly from The Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based watchdog group I highly respect.

[Yesterday] at 7:20 p.m. EST, August 29, the USDA issued an emergency news release announcing that they had sent a Letter of Revocation to the Aurora Organic Dairy. In lieu of revoking Aurora’s organic certification, the Agency has instead entered into a consent agreement requiring the nation’s largest certified organic dairy to make substantial and wide-ranging changes to the livestock management practices at their operations in Texas and Colorado.

In other words, Aurora, which supplies private label milk to stores such as Wal-Mart, Costco, Target, Trader Joe’s, and Safeway, got caught bending and breaking the rules of USDA organic standards. If they don’t make the necessary changes they just agreed to with the USDA, their certification will be yanked.

The complaint against Aurora includes:

* Aurora was not allowing their animals access to pasture
* Aurora brought in animals from a non-certified contract heifer ranch
* Aurora converted animals from conventional to organic production when the regulations (because of their initial 80/20 conversion) prohibited that.
* And Aurora purchased organic feed for their Texas operation from a friend of the dairy manager who had sprayed his crops with herbicides during transition.

While you might say that Aurora still has time to fix itself, as long as the rules are enforced well, I wouldn’t get your hopes up. Organic products are not meant to be produced at the scale needed to supply a chain as large as Wal-Mart (let alone all those other grocers). Always Low Prices and the principles behind organic food are like oil and water.

That’s why Wal-Mart’s pathetic organic lines haven’t done well so far, and this won’t help things much.

2 Responses to “One less organic product at Wal-Mart.”

  1. Just for the record:
    “Wal-Mart Stores shares slipped after Merrill Lynch cut its rating on the world’s largest retailer to sell, citing margin erosion at its core U.S. division”.

    What does “margin erosion” mean? Does it mean that they have had to cut prices in order to keep up their sales volume, or does it mean that they’ve run out of places to squeeze suppliers and workers?

    I’m not sure why anyone would listen to M-L anyway. The stock has dropped from $52 to $43 and now they say sell. Barndoor meet horse.

    I’ll say it again, I think we are in the beginnings of a recession and those at the bottom always suffer the most. Since they have the least amount of disposable income they are also going to affect any business that depends on them more than average. Perhaps M-L is really saying the same thing, but it is “forbidden” for brokerage firms to ever hint at a sustained downturn. It spoils the theme of easy money that they depend on for clients.

  2. Sam says:

    Actually, I do think through co-ops such as Organic Valley (which Wal-Mart tried to squeeze on prices so OV said good-bye) could supply a chain as large as Wal-Mart if it wasn’t ALL about profit for Wal-Mart. In fact, without the pressure from pseudo organic dairies, such as Aurora, then Organic Valley could expand with real family farmers that really do raise cows not just truly organically but with real grazing on true pasture. That would benefit the economy too in many towns that Wal-Mart resides, but greed is just so selfish even if it spites itself.

    When the other dairy Vander Eyk that was apparently supplying Stonyfield and Brown Cow had it’s organic certification revoked last June, they (both owned by Danone) actually produced non-organic products for quite awhile. I was quite stunned. I had to take some antibiotics for an infection and was particularly looking for an organic product to reestablish the good bacteria and went first to ones I’d bought before. Wish I had taken a picture of the cups. I watched them for several weeks. I wonder how long it took them to switch to Aurora so they could start putting the product in cups that state “organic” again.

    Another reason to buy local which is what I ended up doing.

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