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Beyond Organic: Food for Thought…

February 19, 2010

After I started breastfeeding, about a year ago, I became increasingly curious about what I took in, and how it affected what went out.  This curiosity, bordering on small-scale obsession, led me to join a local CSA (more on that later!) and question just about everything I was eating.  The farm affiliated with my CSA is organic, and yet they sell Ronnybrook milk, yogurt and butter – products that, from what I could tell, are not organic.  The fact that the milk is simply the best I’ve been able to find commercially, and the yogurt is delicious, has kept me buying both. But, it hasn’t stopped me from wondering, and worrying, that maybe I should be buying a different brand that is certified organic. So, I decided to do some research.

Ronnybrook farm is located in the Hudson Valley, and according to the farm’s website, they do everything themselves: raise the cows, milk the cows and make their products. So why no ‘organic’ stamp of approval? The Ronnybrook website compares their dairy to that of other ‘organic’ dairies, and they match up or exceed in just about every way: cows have comfort stalls with individual mattresses (nice!), they have access to exercise and the pasture daily, they never use pesticides, genetically modified ingredients or hormones….but, they do use commercial fertilizers if, after careful testing of the soil, they deem it necessary. They also treat their cows with antibiotics, if required, but, the sick cows are isolated out of the herd and taken out of milking rotation.  An article published in the New York Times in 2005 mentions Ronnybrook farm and questions the importance of the ‘organic’ label.  For me, I was probably biased before starting my research (the thick layer of cream on the top of each bottle of milk is enough to bias anyone!). But, I think I will happily continue to include Ronnybrook milk in my food obsessions, and add Ronnybrook farm to the list of farms to visit.

–By Sarah

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. February 19, 2010 10:52 am

    I do love Ronnybrook and would certainly continue to support them, organic or no. I’m much more for local (within reason) than organic (trucked in from who knows and how organic is it, really?). I’d much rather support the neighbors (I live in the Hudson Valley) that I know and trust. That said, the cream on the top is a definite must-have! And babies love their yogurt drinks. (And for the record, I’m also a nursing mom.)

  2. melissa Wagner permalink
    February 19, 2010 11:55 am

    Good researching, Sarah*
    I steal the little plug of cream from the tops of all of Tali’s bottles of Ronnybrook and hide them throughout the house. I suspect that someday soon she’ll find them.
    M*

  3. Sarah permalink
    February 19, 2010 3:09 pm

    yes, my 11 month old loves the yogurt (as do i)! Have you ever visited the farm? I wonder what it’s like….I agree with you, that I’m much more concerned about buying locally when possible.

    There is a farm near me that provides raw milk – a whole new conversation – which I tried once and it was fantastic. There is something reassuring about seeing the cows in the pastures as you walk by…

  4. February 20, 2010 8:36 am

    We have a farm here in Wisconsin that is a large scale dairy: Sassy Cow Creamery. They sell both Organic and “non-organic” milk…and I’d be hard pressed to find a difference in taste. They both are delicious. Thank you for sharing your research, I’m considering a food-blogger field trip to Sassy Cow – to see firsthand if they are as I suspect, like Ronnybrook.

  5. February 22, 2010 10:10 am

    I haven’t visited Ronnybrook, but I may now do so. I found a local raw milk purveyor and haven’t purchase yet, but am planning on it. I really want to make some good cheese! The raw milk thing *is* a whole new conversation! Do you give it to your baby? Wondering…

  6. Sarah permalink
    February 22, 2010 10:49 am

    I haven’t given it to my baby yet, but i would like, at some point, to make a switch for the whole family. My mom has been drinking raw milk for years and swears by it…i’ve read quite a bit on the topic and i intellectually feel that i would prefer to be drinking raw milk. but, i confess, there is something holding me back – a little nervous, i guess.
    any good cheese recipes? i’ve made paneer in the past (the indian cheese used in a lot of their curries and dishes) and it is incredibly easy. i can share the recipe if you’re interested!

    • February 22, 2010 11:27 am

      I totally feel the same way. Some little thing is holding me back. That said, it’s good to hear someone else feeling that way! I don’t have any good cheese recipes, but a lot are floating in my head. I’d love your paneer recipe! I would really like to start making ricotta. Among many other things…

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