Beyond Organic: Food for Thought…
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.