Horizon Organic Milk: Is it All Just Lies?

By Paul Michael on 15 May 2007 (Updated 8 June 2011) 189 comments

Under the advice of several colleagues and readers, I decided to pick up a copy of The Omnivore's Dilemma. Fascinating read to say the least, and one thing that cropped up was the term 'organic' and how the word has become perverted and practically raped by the agricultural industry. Not surprising when you consider it's now a $15 billion a year business. That's a lot of money…which means power…which means corruption. (See also: Deciding Which Produce to Buy Organic - The Dirty Dozen)

So, I decided to do some digging around, putting a product in my own fridge under the microscope. Horizon Organic Milk. The packaging and verbiage promise a lot, a beautiful world of cows grazing in green pastures with big smiles, happily producing only he tastiest, unsullied milk. I reproduce it here word for word, you can judge for yourself if it's entirely truthful as we continue.

HORIZON ORGANIC — A Choice You Can Feel Good About

Horizon Organic products are as good for you as they are delicious because they are produced without the use of antibiotics, added growth hormones or dangerous pesticides.

That's why choosing Horizon Organic is a wholesome and nutritious way to help reduce your exposure to added chemical. And drinking our milk is also a great way to nourish your body. It provides an excellent source of calcium and vitamin D.

When you choose Horizon Organic you also contribute to the health and well being of the planet and animals. We allow our cows to make milk according to their natural cycle and keep them in good health by giving them certified organic feed, fresh air and access to pasture. In return, our cows give us great-tasting organic milk.

Best put, all of our products proudly carry the USDA Organic seal and that says it all. Thank you for choosing Horizon Organic. We hope it's a choice that leaves you feeling good inside and out.

Now, as far as I can see there are some misleading and downright deceptive statements in that copy. Let's deal with them one at a time.

"…they are produced without the use of antibiotics, added growth hormones or dangerous pesticides."

As it turns out, antibiotics were never added to milk or were ever present in milk. According to the USDA, all milk must be tested to ensure any antibiotics used to treat milk cows are not present in the end product. So, this cannot be a claim as it fundamentally untrue anyway. In fact, the terms 'antibiotic free' and 'no-antibiotic' are false claims that the USDA is trying to crack down on.

Similarly, the same can be said of the other claims, regarding pesticides and hormones. First, hormones will always be present in milk; it's part of the biology of a cow. To call milk 'hormone-free' is like making the claim that 90% ground beef is fat-free. But growth hormones, again according to the USDA, are only ever approved for beef cattle, plus lamb and veal. So, again another inflated claim. And by the way, Vitamin D3 is added to all milk…it is also a hormone.

Finally, pesticides. The FTC has ruled that a manufacturer cannot make a "no pesticide" claim as it is untruthful, because pesticides are never added to milk or milk products. It's like claiming that the new car you buy comes without chlorine gas inside the cabin. It's just not a claim.

"We allow our cows to make milk according to their natural cycle and keep them in good health by giving them certified organic feed, fresh air and access to pasture."

The key word here is 'access.' Right now at work I have access to the executive squash courts, but I am rarely allowed to use them, if at all. I'm too busy and I'm not an exec. Well, the cows at Horizon may have access to pasture but it's a known industry fact that milk cows don't spend their days grazing on green grass. They just get to look at it, cooped up in the usual factory-farming warehouses. Occasionally, when the press drops in, the cows may be allowed out for 20 minutes to make a good showing, but this is a rarity. For Horizon Milk to remain productive and profitable, they must keep their cows hooked up to the milking machines.

Horizon cows are hard workers. The average Horizon organic cow produces almost double the amount of milk of the national average. Which makes it even more difficult for these poor cows to step outside.

Then there are the slaughter rates. They're higher than the national average because, as no antibiotics are involved, they simply ship the cow off to slaughter if it gets sick. And as the factory-farming conditions are rife with disease and infection, this happens a lot.

p>We should also address the claim of certified organic feed. In the past, Horizon has and used and supported local area farmers. But the growth of the organic industry could not let the limitations of these small farms get in the way of making a profit. Now most of the feed that Horizon buys is shipped in on massive railroad cars, processed by a giant corporate agribusiness and then given to the cows. And much of this feed is irrigated by dams that have been condemned for destroying ecosystems. So, while it may technically fit the terms of the organic feed set out by the USDA, it does not support local farmers…and that was originally a backbone of the organic industry.

"…all of our products proudly carry the USDA Organic seal and that says it all."

The USDA Organic Seal can only be given to products that are made with 95% organic ingredients. But what does 'organic' mean? The most commonly accepted definition of "organically grown" food comes from Robert Rodale, editor of Organic Gardening & Farming magazine. This from 1972…

"Food grown without pesticides; grown without artificial fertilizers; grown in soil whose humus content is increased by the additions of organic matter, grown in soil whose mineral content is increased by the application of natural mineral fertilizers; has not been treated with preservatives, hormones, antibiotics, etc."

But in 1980 a team of USDA scientists concluded there was in fact no universally accepted definition for organic farming.

"The organic movement represents a spectrum of practices, attitudes, and philosophies. On the one hand are those organic practitioners who would not use chemical fertilizers or pesticides under any circumstances. These producers hold rigidly to their purist philosophy. At the other end of the spectrum, organic farmers espouse a more flexible approach. While striving to avoid the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, these practitioners do not rule them out entirely. Instead, when absolutely necessary, some fertilizers and also herbicides are very selectively and sparingly used as a second line of defense. Nevertheless, these farmers, too, consider themselves to be organic farmers."

So, in 1997 Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman stated the following:

"What is organic? Generally, it is agriculture produced through a natural as opposed to synthetic process. The natural portion of the definition is fairly obvious, but process is an equally critical distinction. When we certify organic, we are certifying not just a product but the farming and handling practices that yield it. When you buy a certified organic tomato, for instance, you are buying the product of an organic farm. And, consumers are willing to fork over a little more for that tomato. They've shown that they will pay a premium for organic food. National standards are our way of ensuring that consumers get what they pay for."

Get it? It's just another way of saying that the production of the food differed slightly than the production of regular food. Organic is not a term meaning that the content of the food is any different, just the way in which the manufacturer arrived at the end product.

And here's the punch line, taken directly from the USDA:

"No distinctions should be made between organically and non-organically produced products in terms of quality, appearance, or safety."

Basically, even with the USDA Organic Seal, the food can really make no claims that it is more nutritious, better quality or safer to eat. In short, organic food may in fact be almost no different at all than regular food. Until you notice the price tag…often double, or even triple the price of the same product without the USDA seal.

So, continue buying Horizon Milk if the copy makes you feel like you're doing something good. But now that you know it's not quite a truthful picture, maybe you can pass by the Horizon milk aisle and stop contributing to an enormous agribusiness that feeds us more lies than good products...and charges you extra cash for the privilege.

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Guest

There are a lot of corporate shills in this thread

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Guest

This is a blog; take it for what it is worth—-a means to an open discussion. What is troubling to me is the loss of an honest dialogue due to company stakeholders completely distorting the original posting. They place multiple postings under pseudonyms. However, they are simply identified by their repeated themes, i.e. insinuating that the author is ignorant because he perceives Horizon claim they do not add hormones to their dairy products actually means they do not give hormones to the cows or the constant demand for references.

When a company gets informed of a blog remotely critical of their product or service, they send out the agents of disruption. Any time response-postings begin with—-I have used the product/service and never had problems—-it sadly becomes suspect.

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Guest

Wow lots of passion in the comments. Wonder if the author can write an update or maybe already did. If so can you post a like to an update? Oh, and sourcing is always a great way to support an argument.

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Guest

check out the documentary "The Future of Food". I found it on hulu. It was very interesting.

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Guest

heh, guess which of these commentators work for Horizon

Well you all know what needs to be done to the leaders of the industry

Guest's picture
Jake

I'd like to comment on the statement "Well, the cows at Horizon may have access to pasture but it’s a known industry fact that milk cows don’t spend their days grazing on green grass. They just get to look at it, cooped up in the usual factory-farming warehouses. Occasionally, when the press drops in, the cows may be allowed out for 20 minutes to make a good showing, but this is a rarity. For Horizon Milk to remain productive and profitable, they must keep their cows hooked up to the milking machines." This statement is irrational and biased and is obviously made by someone very unfamiliar with dairy farming. Recently my dad and brother signed an organic dairy contract and here's how it is: the cows are in the barn twice per day, for 45 minutes or less each time. After they are milked (which takes about 5 minutes, and they are certainly not "hooked up to the milking machines" all day; try learning some cow anatomy/dairy science), our cows are free to either graze on pasture, eat from feed bunks near the barn, or lay down in the freestall barn bedded with sand. In general, you will find better living conditions for dairy cows on small dairy farms than on larger dairies, and, in general, organic producers are smaller dairy farms. Don't rip on something you don't know anything about, please.

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Guest

It is nice to read some positive comments. My parents own a organic dairy farm as well and have been selling milk to Horizon for about 7 years. I do realize that Horizon has several company farms, but smaller family farms are major producers. Unlike the conventional farms in my area with hundreds-thousands of cows, my dad only has about 90 cows he milks and those cows have great living conditions and stay very healthy. Providing cows with the right nutrition and living conditions to prevent health problems is key to his success and something larger farms usually don't/can't do to the same extent. As a vet, my brother is always amazed at how few problems my dad has with his cows compared to conventional farms.

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Guest

The bottom line for me is this... Horizon Fat Free Milk tastes markedly better than any other fat free milk available to me... by a mile. It's very rich, seems thicker than other fat free milk and has a very sweet taste.

After drinking it for the first time, my question about it was whether or not it was actually fat free.

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Guest

this stuff makes no sense what so ever to me!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Guest

You make an awesome argument and under other circumstances, I'd quit buying it instantly. Especially since I don't buy into organic anyways. I really do believe that it's an excuse to charge twice as much for products grown using inferior and less safe practices. I don't agree with the use of that growth hormone, etc, but they can stop using that crap without switching over to organic.

Anyways, you'd have me with this article, but the simple fact is that they have a whole milk with plant based dha added. And my son, who just weaned off formula but is still nursing, is getting it in the place of his formula. If any other brand (Reiter's or Dairyman's, etc.) offered the dha, I'd probably be willing to switch. Same with their little blends yogurts. he eats them because of the hidden serving of veggies. If dannon started putting veggies in their kids yogurt, I'd so be there. I wish the regular food companies would bother to figure out why people are switching. Some of us aren't just buying whatever says organic on it.

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kristy

Personally, I think it is BS that this post has to exist in the first place. This is our food, or drink, and we have to go here or here to "decipher" if it is safe or not. What BS! I am sick of the lies everywhere...on everything I eat I have to decide if I believe the packaging. I am poor, I don't have a lot of money and I scrape together to get organic as much as I can because the pesticides cause cancer, are neurotoxins, cause birth defects, etc. I don't want that in my body! All of this makes me want to move to the country and grow everything myself! It's really sickening that the USDA is allowing all of these lies, but I am sure they are getting money in return somehow. Why is it that greed is the deciding factor for everything!?! I wish people would just tell the freaking truth...is that soooo hard?!!

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Baxter Holland

To the writer of this blog: I really have a hard time trusting what you write when a) your writing is full of errors and b) you don't know how to use words properly. You said that a claim was "untruthful" when actually it was just misleading. You misuse a lot of words in this post, and you seem not to be able to fully comprehend the statement on Horizon's website, such as regards the pesticide, antibiotics, and hormones. Then you didn't even provide sources for your information. How can I trust a word you say?

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Guest

I agree that it's very sad that we have to research our food and can't trust food labels or the photographs that we see in our grocery store. One would think that the government would feel the same.

For those that have posted comments criticizing the author for bringing these issues to our attention, why waste the time? I'm sure you have some corn and HFCS to eat.
For those that are concerned about our health and the health of our loved ones, I applaud you and the author.

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Guest

“…they are produced without the use of antibiotics, added growth hormones or dangerous pesticides.”

"As it turns out, antibiotics were never added to milk or were ever present in milk. According to the USDA, all milk must be tested to ensure any antibiotics used to treat milk cows are not present in the end product. So, this cannot be a claim as it fundamentally untrue anyway. In fact, the terms ‘antibiotic free’ and ‘no-antibiotic’ are false claims that the USDA is trying to crack down on."
-----------------------------------
The key word is that they are "produced without use of antibiotics." Where is Horizon making any statement about adding antibiotics in the end product? That isn't where antibiotics are added in the first place. Because mass produced cows are fed corn (not natural) nowadays instead of grass, they have unnatural amounts of bacteria in their intestines and are more susceptible to disease. Also, in mass meat producing plants, cows are made to stand knee deep in their own and other animal's feces because of forced crowded conditions. Thus, many cows need to receive antibiotic injections regularly in order to survive such cruel and unnatural conditions. The fact that Horizon states that they aren't giving their cows antibiotics (which I how I read it) suggests that they don't make their cows stand in feces and other disgusting conditions which are kept hidden from the public by the food monopoly of a few mass-producing meat companies.
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"Similarly, the same can be said of the other claims, regarding pesticides and hormones. First, hormones will always be present in milk; it’s part of the biology of a cow. To call milk ‘hormone-free’ is like making the claim that 90% ground beef is fat-free. But growth hormones, again according to the USDA, are only ever approved for beef cattle, plus lamb and veal. So, again another inflated claim. And by the way, Vitamin D3 is added to all milk…it is also a hormone. "
-----------------------------

I didn't even bother to read the rest of your article after this reckless statement:

The key word that horizon uses (that YOU quoted) is "no ADDED growth hormones". Sure, growth hormone and other chemicals are NATURALLY present, however, adding extra can cause an animal to develop improperly and thus produce less nutritious milk. For example, added growth hormones in chickens can make them incapable of even walking, as their muscles will devolop way faster than their bones can support, resulting in more desease and need for antibiotic injections, along with less nutritious meat.

Your little sentence about vitamin D being an added hormone is beside the point as it is not an added GROWTH hormone, which if you read your own quote properly, would have seen. Horizon states "no added GROWTH hormones"
Please don't post such blatantly reckless rants about something you put shallow thought into.
I am willing to accept that perhaps Horizon may not be better (even though it does taste better) however, I couldn't read anymore of your post after those paragraphs because you managed to take something you directly quoted and take individual WORDS out of context, not even reading the sentence right.

The key phrase is "no ADDED -growth- hormones".

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Guest

Your article has a lot of common sense in it as well, and I do realize organic claims are made more to make money than to be healthy, however, I do feel you took what they wrote way out of context.

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Not a Capitalista

Thanks for the information. I'll be sure to take Horizon off all my store shelves.

I don't need synthetic milk from synthetic corporate cows. People who seek wholesome, natural products know why they do it. They don't want to feed themselves, or their children Monsanto tainted foods. The USDA is just a tool of the agri-corporations, and the agricorps have been raping the land and people for decades.

Not a Capitalista

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Guest

I only buy Horizon organic milk now because I can taste something bad in regular milk. For me, the bad taste is quite strong in regular milk and I don't know how people can drink the stuff. I also drank Oberweis milk in the past and I know one of their bottles had the same taste as regular milk so one non-organic milk slipped through the quality control at Oberweis. I also got at least one spoiled milk through Oberweis (they gave me a new one). So, I would still strongly pick Oberweis (organic) over regular milk. Anyway, I strongly believe that Horizon organic milk (and Oberweis usually) is healthier because it doesn't have that taste that regular milk does. I don't know what that taste is, but I believe it is bovine growth hormone that has been injected in the cow and got in the milk. My dad didn't want to drink organic milk, I guess because he thought in some way it was not normal. But when I had him do a taste test, he thought the organic milk was the regular milk (I think because the organic milk tasted better). I think that says it all.

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Guest

Milk in stores are served in porous plastic which gives it at "taste." But Horizon is cardboard, want really great milk try glass bottles.

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Guest

Organic milk is so much less important than, organic fruit and vegies! Cows filter out many things anyway, hormones are natural. The organic movement was originated to get pesticides off of food we eat, a very different issue that dairy.

Milk is one of the safest foods in America- lighten up!!!!

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Guest

BTW I think if U really want 2 get the truth U need 2 go 2 their headquarters and get the facts, not by ur own analogy ...

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Guest

How about the fact that it just plain tastes better? I don't know why, I don't know how- but this milk just plain tastes better then the other ones I have tried.
To me it is like drinking tap water versus filtered water- filtered water tastes better. Heck bottled water tastes better than tap...even if it tap water that is distilled.
I drink Horizon Milk b/c it tastes better- the rest to me is trivial.

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Guest

Exactly what I was about to say!  Just taste it.  In my opinion, it tastes MUCH better than the cheaper milk.  It's the best milk I've ever had outside of Europe (for some reason, the milk I've had in Europe is kept warm on the shelf, and tastes incredible).  However, I do agree that most of the writing on the carton is the usual marketing BS that permeates our society.  I don't remember why I first tried this milk, maybe the others were out at the time.  If I had to feed a large family, I would probably go with the cheaper stuff, as I get used to it after awhile, but it's only for me, and a luxury, so I splurge.  I thought maybe it was because the cheaper stuff is in containers that let a lot of light in, but the cheaper one in the half-gallon cardboard container doesn't taste much better.

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Guest

Yesterday I went to target to buy milk and saw Horizon Omega-3 DHA milk.  I have been doiong research on Omega0-3 fatty acids for almost 15 years.  So I was curious to see how much omega-3 fatty acids is there/serving.  I almost shocked to see that the label says polyunsaturated fats=0g.  DHA is the extreme example of polyunsaturated fatty acid. How can they put on label omega-3 DHA when the nutrition facts sheet say it does not has any of this. Is this misleadin?

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Tranque

The package, according to your posting, does not claim that it is hormone free. If you read carefully it claims it does not have added hormones.

 Also, there is no federally regulated minimum grazing time for cows to have to label their milk organic. (Yet.) So, even if the cows only see a drop of green pastures, it's still enough to make their claim to being organic genuine. 

 When I had some of Horizon's milk in New York, it claimed that it was supplied by a variety of surrounding family farms. Whether or not this is true, I have no idea.  They could be small time factory, family owned farms. But, I like having milk that is as chemical free as possible, and the taste was wonderful.

Guest's picture
Vlad

a cow that lives in it's own manure and eats corn produces equivalently bad milk. at least organics try to change that. hence, my $$$ will only go to companies that try to change that.

while the rest of ignorant folk can continue to drink milk from Kraft and support an industry which is against nature and basic principles of life only striving to make profits. let the money talk.

Invest in companies that make food in line with your principles. your 401K and E-Trade accounts should reflect what you believe in .. not just make you $$$.

Cheers,

Vlad

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Guest

Corn fed cows that stand in the same place and eat all day get sick and need to be fed antibiotics in order to keep them alive.  Horizon's cows are not treated like this and therefore do not need the antibiotics that typically end up in our water through the excrement into the ground. 

The statements they are making are true and do not necessarily have to do with the milk as much as they have to do with the treatment of cows. 

 

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Guest

I just checked out the organic watchdog ratings from the Cornucopia Institute that Jeremy mentioned and Horizon got a 0 out of 5 cows. I'm switching to Organic valley, which got a 4.

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Guest

If it's no different, I'd still pay more for it, as it tastes much better than the generic store brand milk. Tastes fresher, and not as watery. I buy the fat-free.

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Shannon

This is why I hate bloggers. Take a journalism class if you want to write. Cite your sources and do fact checks, don't just regurgitate what's on the Internet.

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Shannon

I take back what I said, my calling you a blogger is an insult to legit bloggers.

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Rajesh

Long long ago,
For every 10 to 20 houses there was a cattle farmer, a vegetable and fruit farmer. People used to get their food fresh from these local farmers everyday.
Modern age industrilization has changed this to the way they wanted it.

Guest's picture
Marion

Does anyone know if Horizon Milk (2%) is definitively homogenized? I assume it is because it's so smooth, but it doesn't say it on the carton (only ultra-pasteurized). I've heard the XO enzyme in milk fat is very bad for people if it has been through the homogenization process.

I may have to resort to skim milk until I can find someone with a cow.

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Laura

I'm quite curious where all Paul's information is coming from. That is, a source outside the USDA statements.

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Ellen True

Wow. I googled 'Horizon Organic' to read more about the practices behind the chocolate milk I'm currently sipping, and your post was one of the first on the search list. What a shame - someone might actually be fooled by your bait and switch writing into thinking you have some valid points! You've denounced the use of the phrases "antibiotic-free", "no-pesticide" and the like, but those phrases aren't on the package! And your arguments against their claims to pasture the cows amount to some postulation, squash courts, and an utter lack of actual evidence. Before you get too happy about the USDA's statements, you should watch Food Inc. for a small picture of who is running the USDA and who's interests they really have in mind. I'm going to continue drinking my Horizon.

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Guest

You could only have written this if you have never tasted organic milk. There is a huge range of milk flavor quality from region to region and from brand to brand. In many regions Organic milk tastes dramatically better. If you aren't picking food for the taste I'm really sorry for you.

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Not a Capitalista

Just wanted to say that before posters start throwing names like "neo-nazi" at folks who want unprocessed foods, those posters should know the meanings of the names they use. I am not opposed to bovine racial integration, so I am not a nazi. I think the same name-calling poster used the term ignorant, and also said he used to work for Horizon. This might be scientific proof that Horizon arbitrarily redefines terms like "organic." But then again, I don't need funded scientific studies to show me that the Creator made cows just fine, and man's genetic and chemical "improvements" of foods are always just contaminants.

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Guest

Horizon might tinker a bit with reality here, but my main beef with them is another. Their milk is Ultra-Pasteurized, which means they bring it up to 280 degrees, destroying any beneficial enzymatic or microbial flora the milk might contain. This also means that the milk has a shelf life of six months AT ROOM TEMPERATURE. Keeping it refrigerated along the entire supply chain is extremely wasteful. The real deception in their packaging are the words "Perishable, Keep Refrigerated." This perpetuates more waste and deprives the consumer of the main advantage of Ultra-Pasteurized milk: you can keep it on the shelf. Although Horizon makes no claim on the package that they are selling fresh milk, their use of refrigeration is obviously a ploy to make the consumer believe that they are.

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Guest

I bought a carton of this milk at my local store today, and after going to bed I got up to drink some of the Horizon Organic milk. Today is Aug 19, 2001, and the expiration date is September 13. I took a sip of the milk, and it tasted like gasoline! It went partly down my throat when I spit it out, and I've been up for an hour now since I drank it, and I am now spitting into an empty cup as my mouth is watering uncontrollably, I have no idea what is in there, it didn't even taste like sour milk but like solvent. I am going to contact the company over this, I've bought this milk before but never had any problems with it until now. Being spoiled is one thing, but for it to taste like gasoline is very strange and very disturbing; it's the middle of the night here and I'm not sure what to do but stay up for a while to make sure I'm okey, and I'll just keep spitting into the cup I have besides me so that I don't further ingest whatever it was that was in that milk. Very scary experience!

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Guest

Well, think those might be a bit exaggerated. Growing up on a small farm and having dairy cows, antibiotics used would disallow drinking the mill. And growth hormones became a fad even on young horses to make them appear more enhanced for showing and racing as with show cattle. So, personally I think that your intentions are viable, you should educate yourself a little more than your writing demonstrates!

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Guest

It may all be a farce for the sake of big business, but I still say organic milk tastes better.

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Guest

well if you want organic go to your nearest farmers market where you can see the dirt in the nails and hands of the men and woman that grow there crops where a carrot is not the prettiest thing you've seen lol and will last longer than the commercial carrots now organic cereal is the only thing I have seen that is different and it does not get soggy even after five minutes the bottom may be getting there but the top is still crunchy lol.

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gene

Why does Horizon milk display a shelf life approx. two times or more longer that a comparable product?

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Guest

All of you, including the writer of this need to go to an organic dairy farm and let a "real life" farmer answer all your questions. The internet is so full of nonsense that no one knows the truth anymore. You read one thing and then someone is out to prove it wrong, and then you find out it was actually not wrong...endless cycle. Don't google for answer people, because all you'll find it confusion. Majority of organic farms are open for tours and would be happy to answer all of your questions, and show you around. Believe it or not, although greed does run America and most of the world, some companies actually DO care about their product being set apart from others. So go ask an organic farmer if it's better or not, I did, and it's SO much better.

Guest's picture
jeff

hi paul, respectively of course. you look pretty young to be a senior anything.. i just wonder if you have spied on these farms personally. you seem to know an awful lot.. what we need to remember here is that the usda makes there comments based on what our fda tells them to say. who is basically run by ex-monsanto corp. executives. we are all getting to know them now. our elders from Vietnam remember them for creating agent orange. now growth hormone, which makes cows sick , thus we introduce antibiotics. they are trying to take over all food with there gmo seed. ex. sugar beet, soy, etc. those crops will only germinate if using roundup, produced by monsanto. yes poison in the soil.. organic farmers work very hard to maintain there certification. people are sick of the fda not marking products correctly, or deceitfully, or not at all. that is why they are turning in more profits. personally , i drink raw milk. but , i would much rather buy organic milk as opposed to non organic. when you see a label on milk boasting about no rbst's in there milk. call them up, ask them if they are fed GMO CORN OR OTHER GMO FEEDS. the answer will be yes. everything i see written here is describing the tactics company's like nestle,kellogs, etc use to hide the fact that they are GMO FOODS, PERIOD. Until our country does proper testing, like all the countries(and there are a lot) that ban gmo instead of paying off colleges to lie. we are going no where but backwards.

Guest's picture
Amy

"Well, the cows at Horizon may have access to pasture but it’s a known industry fact that milk cows don’t spend their days grazing on green grass."

I love how you assume that all farms work this way. I truly do wonder if you have been to a Horizon dairy farm, let alone ANY dairy farm. I grew up just outside of Lancaster Co., Pa., a large farming community. My brother-in-law grew up on a dairy farm 5 minutes from my parent's house. I often drove by their farm at any given time of the day and saw the cows out to pasture. I know, for a fact, that they milked the cows only 2-3 times a day. Apparently, my brother-in-law's family missed out on this "known industry fact." And their farm isn't even organic.

Unfortunately, the fact that you have misled your readers in this way leads me to believe that the rest of your article may also have faulty information in it.

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Guest

Actually, traces of antibiotics can often be found in milk. If animals are fed the antibiotics on a regular basis, it will end up in their milk. This is an on going problem, and one of the reasons why there are so many resistant diseases nowadays (MRSA for one). When someone consumes the milk with the antibiotics in them, they are effectively introducing that antibiotic to the bacteria in their stomach. This is how these horribly hard to treat diseases come about. There is a lot of information on this matter.

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Guest

wow, and i just had two horizon choc milk n thought I was doing something!!! and it was good...datblasted might as well drink my Starbucks Frappuccino...dam.

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Topshelf

From today's New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/26/business/26milk.html?src=me&ref=business

Seems to rebut your premise re antibiotics.

Guest's picture
Starr

I don't agree with you assumption that organic food is no healthier than any other food. I guess with those ideals, we'd all be just as healthy eating McDonald's burgers each day rather than say, a chicken I killed on my very own farm.
The word "organic" wouldn't even be a term had the agricultural industry not grown and morphed into what it is now...a system that is dedicated to feeding massive quantities of people and doing so in a way that they can have speedy production and large profits. Before the 20th century, basically all food was what we now call organic.
Synthetic pesticides are not only something I don't want in my body or my childrens', they can damage soil and water for future farming.
For example, if a woman in her early years of adolescence is consuming milk product that had been manufactured with the use of hormone and antibiotic cows and foods that were grown using harmful chemical pesticides, all of those *invisible* contributions are factoring into her future breast health, and could even be responsible for the rapid spike in breast cancer rates amongst women in the U.S. Everything that a person puts into their body contributes to their overall health, even if we don't realize it at the time of intake.
I agree that while organic food is more expensive, I believe it's worth it.
As Americans, I believe we all could afford to eat a little less anyway.

Guest's picture
Nicholas

Paul,

Excellent write-up. Horizon seems shady. At the very least Horizon has a very loose definition of organic. After reading this expose on their use of synthetic Omega-3 oils in their milk I'm at a loss for words:

http://livingwholesome.com/index.php/2011/02/horizon-organic-flogged

Cows who are fed grass should have natural levels of Omega-3 in their milk. Horizon/Dean Foods's cows are not grass fed. Hence the fortification with artificial (read man-made) Omega-3 oils..

Guest's picture
Brad

I respectfuly disagree with three specific areas covered in this review. First topic... Horizon states their products are 'PRODUCED WITHOUT THE USE OF ANTIBIOTICS", this review claims that is not true. It's not just about testing to see whether or not they are present, but rather the effects antibiotics have on any living creature, and the side effects change how milk is produced through a cow's system, which in turn, creates a different taste, and I can definetly tell the difference. When Horizon also states they do not use growth hormones, this review says hormones are always present. WAKE UP! Growth hormones are synthetic, which means they can show up as a totally seperate item. So this author basicaly just told me we can't tell the difference between natural hormones, and synthetic growth hormones. Finaly, because the word access is used,it all of a sudden attains a different interpretation of definition by his opinion of how he uses that word. I for one have personally visited one of their farms in northern Maine, and it looks, and is exactly how it is described on their products. Don't be so quick to sell genuine, hard working americans short.

Guest's picture
a concerned consumer

Last night, I viewed the film "Earthlings"
The images of that film haunt me and have given me the push to find out if the products I thought of as safe and humane are actually that. My son has been drinking Horizon milk since he first started drinking milk. Organic milk is all he gets...and Horizon has always been my preferred brand.
I wish I knew who to believe in this blog/commentary. Too many conflicting opinions. How can I find out more information that is CERTAIN to be accurate?

Their milk certainly tastes better. My gut tells me we've made a good decision to purchase their products....but I'd really rather be sure. Please feel free to add any input! Thanks so much!

Guest's picture
Guest

Can you people please stop using buzz words like factory farming? You're giving the whole dairy industry a black eye by doing so. Conventional dairies use modern practices to produce the most milk possible with the lowest environmental impact. Check out dgalligan.com and click on the milk intensity link on the right side of the page to see how far the dairy industry has come. The big picture is that by 2050 there will be 9 billion people in this world. That's 3 billion more than today. We have to produce enough food to support more hungry mouths and it sure as hell won't be through organic practices.

Guest's picture
Guest

That's funny you mention feeding the billions more people who are to be here by 2050. If we used the land and resources used by the factory farms for growing crops to feed humans instead of animals, no one on this earth would grow hungry. That is a whole other can of works, as I am a new vegan.
Another point is that by 2050 the vast majority of people will be vegetarian, and not by choice.

Guest's picture
Guest

There is a scripture that tells of a man who was cured of blindness, and then dismissed by skeptics. His retort "I don't know about all of that, but what I do know, I was blind, now I see."

To which I say, I don't know about all of your words and science, but what I do know is since I switched from regular milk to organic, I've lost weight, my headaches have stopped, and my cholesterol has dropped.

Guest's picture
Guest

When I was a kid, milk tasted amazing -
then about the 1980s, milk started tasting like it had a slightly metallic, and very medicinal taste. I thought it was just my older taste buds, and unfortunately I raised my sons on it because kids 'need' milk. My younger son developed a structural condition that after years of research appears to likely be caused by pesticide/hormone/antibiotic residue in milk. We began drinking Horizon Organic Milk, which tasted fresh and creamy and without strange after-taste. Within months it was clear that my son's condition stopped worsening. Perhaps this article means well, but is absolutely misdirected - Horizon Milk is an excellent, untainted product. I am not an employee or paid advocate, just a mom who wants the best milk products for my children.

Guest's picture
Guest

Mr. Micheal is being deciptive. no one read the claim about antibotics extra to mean the milk instead of the cow? Really bad reporting. Also as a person who has tested milk for antibotics, I assure you that antibotics are in the milk because many farmers are incapable of reading the test results accurately. A negative reading can be because there is so much antibotic in the milk that there is no bacterial growth, not because there is not antibotic present. Farmers have a real hard time with this concept and I saw it time and time again.

Guest's picture
maria

Unless you are living on your own self sustaining Farmland and don't purchase anything in the supermarkets then this article is just hypocritical.

There are many other companies out there that do what you are stating above. Unless you have gone to the many farms of Horizon and did your own undercover research, the above article is more of a war of words, than factual statements.

Yes the USDA is very double faced this is not news.Best thing to do is support Local farms if you can. If not well then Horizon and other similar companies might be best.

http://www.horizondairy.com/why-organic/our-farms

Guest's picture
maria

Some Facts:

Horizon’s Standards of Care
Developed in collaboration with organic industry experts, our Standards of Care detail the practices we follow on our company-owned organic farms.
Our Standards of Care are informed by nine core beliefs:
• We believe in raising our own calves from certified organic mothers to ensure the organic integrity of our
herd from generation to generation.
• We believe animal care and welfare should be holistic, preventive and natural. We feel a moral obligation to care for our animals and to treat them humanely and with respect.
• We believe good nutrition starts with the soil. Building and maintaining healthy soil is the basis for animal nutrition and successful organic farming.
• We believe grazing is about managing the complex interaction between the grass, the land and the cows. Grazing processes should emulate natural herd behaviors.
• We believe pasture management should be sustainable while regenerating soil, land and water resources and, also, enhancing the growth and nutritional value of the grass.
• We believe organic dairy cattle should be outside as often as possible, year-round, to graze, exercise, socialize and interact with the land.
• We believe in sustainable farming practices that protect and enhance our natural resources for the good of our animals, our communities and our planet.
• We believe in limiting off-farm inputs on our dairy farms to better control organic quality.
• We believe in maintaining detailed annual plans for our farms and evaluating our performance against those plans.

Guest's picture
michael

you've obviously never milked a cow... it takes all of about 20 minutes to milk a cow with an electric milking machine, 2 times a day, so the cows are not strapped in the barn all day long. the part about adding hormones, and pesticides... i think you miss the point in that the foods the cows eat have none of these added.

Guest's picture
Guest

Where is your research Paul? I mean some of your claims could easily be dubious without some links backing them up. I could just as easily claim that cows on the farm levitate off the ground, eat Captain Crunch cereal and watch TV all day; without some proof I cannot truly assess your claims. Oh, and BTW, vitamin D3 is NOT a steroid, it is a secosteroid - not the same thing my friend.

Guest's picture
Guest

Hmm... I wasn't a believer in organic anything - I always bought the cheapest milk money could buy. I laughed at people who wanted to pay more. But one sip of Horizon milk made a believer out of me if only for the taste. Either Horizon ships whole milk and calls it 2% or it is actually creamier and tastier than the cheapest 2% milk. So on a taste basis, I like Horizon milk. Maybe I should do another taste test between Horizon organic and a 'quality' brand name milk.

Guest's picture
Guest

I'm not sure if this has been pointed out because I haven't read the other posts but:

This article is ridiculous.
"Similarly, the same can be said of the other claims, regarding pesticides and hormones. First, hormones will always be present in milk; it's part of the biology of a cow. [...] So, again another inflated claim. And by the way, Vitamin D3 is added to all milk…it is also a hormone."

The box doesn't say that the milk is completely free of hormones. It says that they do not ADD ADDITIONAL GROWTH HORMONES that are not naturally made in the cow. This isn't an inflated claim; you just decided to translate "no added hormones" to "no hormones whatsoever."

Guest's picture
Robert

Hello, my name is Robert. I am a dairy farmer, and actually a producer for Horizon organic. I would like to say that this is all lies and that whoever wrote this had no idea. Well I won't say that because it would be mean first off, but there seem to be points made that any person familiar with the this way of life could tell right off the author of this writing is not familiar with farming. it is human nature to lie, cheat, and be greedy. Hence why were here and not in Eden. So agreed, there are farmers out there that will cheat to make money, but not all of them do. My dairy has sixty acres of pasture that I run at most forty cows on. They are outside 365 days a year for at least 22 hours a day. The only time they are inside is to milk them or if it is to cold outside for them.
You are correct that there is no antibiotics found in the milk, but that doesnt mean that whatever antibiotics that cow is given is not being passed through the cows bloodstream which allows the clue to produce milk is not being passed to your child. For example aids lies dormant for years, but the person may still pass it on to others.
Artificial growth horomones are allowed on non organic cows.
I do agree people cheat. For those who who do it right and take pride in what they produce; that is what organic is all about.

Guest's picture
DJ

So should I buy Horizon organic milk or not?

Guest's picture

We don't have an organic dairy but when there is green grass (as opposed to snow), our Holsteins are set outside to pasture in between milkings. It is NOT TRUE that all milk cows can only look at the green grass... some of what you say here is in insightful but... you'd do well to check your own facts, too. The key is not necessarily what's organic and what is not.. it's keeping things in scale so that a farm has enough land to give the animals a fair shake at the great outdoors... the big factory farms of New Mexico, CA and Idaho are problematic when it comes to fairness in the marketplace... and dairy production and marketing should be based on regions... not the crazy price structure that has dogged the hard working dairymen for way too long... it's a crazy industry, all right.

Guest's picture
Shiana

"...As it turns out, antibiotics were never added to milk or were ever present in milk. According to the USDA, all milk must be tested to ensure any antibiotics used to treat milk cows are not present in the end product."

It wasn't added to the milk, but it was to the cow. That's the same as a breast feeding mother...the baby intakes whatever the mother has eaten, including medications.

You may have had a good idea but need to do more research.

Guest's picture
Guest

Get over yourself! "Without the Use of ADDED Hormones"! Yes, there are going to be hormones in milk, but there are added concerns when rBGH is used, for both the cow and the consumer.
I am not a blind user, I am a licensed veterinary professional who does not eat dairy that is produced with these hormones.
This entire article is perverted.
How about you actually spend time educating the consumer!

Guest's picture
Conscious Consumer

This post does an injustice to organic products and Horizon Organic. The stance Paul takes on growth hormones omits the "added" in "growth hormones". Non-organic producers can freely ADD growth hormones to cattle in order to increase milk production. This practice is not done by Horizon as stated by their label. Paul, that was a mistake, at best, on your part.
The same can be said about Paul's evaluation of the "access to pasture." Until you make a trip to the farms and report on the conditions of the cows, it would be best not to make generalizations based on your present working conditions. Please check your facts before making inflammatory statements simply to push your blog numbers.

Guest's picture
Guest

I've never read your column before and to be honest, it reads like a smear campaign. I have no opinion about Horizon milk. I buy it as often as any other organic milk. If those who are on the fence about buying organics over "regular" food read this article they may never buy organics and would very likely just keep on buying the pesiticide laden, GMO, factory farmed crap that they have always bought. I'm really not sure what you were trying to prove by writing this article but in my eyes you have only served to confuse and demoralize anyone who eats.

Guest's picture
Guest

Sounds to me like you are biased against the organic industry in general & possibly against Horizon specifically. When they say they have no "added" antibiotics or hormones, that's exactly what it means. They are letting the public know that they don't use antibiotics on their cows. Many, including myself, appreciate that info. You assume more cows are slaughtered but back this with no hard data. They do not give growth hormone to the cows, also appreciate that info. Whether or not this is a forbidden practice in general has no bearing because the last bit, namely pesticides, ie CHEMICALS is really important to those of us who understand that pesticides contain pseudo-estrogens - chemicals that mimic hormones in your body. What you seem not to recognize is that there ARE national standards & accepted natural & organic farming practices that make a huge difference to a lot of people out there, including myself. Organic farmers are highly unlikely to just raise their cows like factory farmers do & rarely give them access to pasture as you suppose. Does it make sense to raise cows in unsanitary ways that lead to necessary antibiotics or slaughter? Seriously, you need to back your clad with hard data as you seem to me dangerously close to libel here. I would not doubt if you ended up getting sued for making false claims or hinting to them in such strong terms that you could harm this companies reputation.

Guest's picture
Guest

The milk farms I'm used to in WI the cows are in the pastures all day with a milking in the early morning and again around dinnertime. They are not hooked up to a machine all day. They don't even need to be rounded up. They come into the barn at the right times by themselves. I suggest buying Grade AA milk though, never A.

Guest's picture
crystbear

Well, this is May, 2012, and I don't know if you'll get this but, I switched to organic on 2 occasions. And on both occasions, the same thing happened. I stopped craving and overeating. I wouldn't have believed it if I didn't experience it myself. So, whatever anyone says..that non-organic is the same as organic, my experience is otherwise, so I absolutely trust my experience first. Actually, I have met a few others who experienced the same..so that was good to see it was not just me! Hope this helps someone too.

Guest's picture
Guest

Has this person actually worked at Horizon Organic? How did they come about all this negative information without actually working there? All I see are a slew of ugly assumptions and witch-hunting. All I see is propaganda without proof. I agree companies should be truthful and regulated more closely (as well as the USDA), but finger-pointing and trying to stir up negativity doesn't prove anything. Anybody can create negativity with an audience that thrives on negativity.

Guest's picture
John Crawford

When it comes to taste, everyone with whom I have spoken, that have tasted Horizon Organic Milk, say it is better than the regular milk from the dairy case. I love its taste as well. My wife, and some others, say it tastes like milk, from the cow, they drank as children. My wife and I have no intention of stopping our enjoyment of Horizon's milk.

Guest's picture
dennis

the person who wrote this article, knows little about dairy farms. milk cows are never constantly hooked up to a milk machine. they are milked twice a day,.. and they like it. if they are not milked on time, they will come looking for you. i dont normaly buy into this "organic" fad, but horizon milk is just a very good milk,

Guest's picture
Guest

This blog is old, but I want to play...

I bought my first organic product today, and it was Horizon milk. I've never liked white milk, even as a baby my mother said I wouldn't drink it. I do like it in cereal though. This milk is delicious. I bought it because I want to purchase cruelty-free products and they claim to treat their animals humanely. For that I am grateful (provided it is true). As for the USDA, they are a pathetic joke. As of 2011, Obama signed an executive order that pretty much makes slaughterhouses and farms to do more "self-policing" so the FSIS can "utilize their precious resources in other areas." Doing what, I don't know. Food safety and humane slaughtering laws have become simply "suggestions." No wonder our food keeps making us sicker and sicker. I'm sick just thinking about it.

Guest's picture
Really?

Has anyone ever heard the saying, "The proof is in the pudding?" Horizon is clearly a superior product compared to other milk on the market. It tastes much better and lasts an incredibly long time. All other brands spoil within a couple weeks and that is being generous. Horizon is good for a couple months after it's exp. Whoever wrote this blog is reading into the message what they want to see. There are no lies or misleading information. Just people cramming their own warped perception between the lines.

Guest's picture
Guest

people need to snap out of their SHOPPING HABITS. The food that's mass produced is likely to be bad for us, especially for small children and yet we keep buying it out of convenience and because we don't know any better.Then we are surprised why there's so much CANCER and AUTISM and ALLERGIES... There are many local smaller farms whose milk eggs and meats are readily available, healthy and affordable and they can EVEN DELIVER if you have no time shopping. I found this site: localharvest.com which shows all the places where you can shop around you locally organic, NON-GMO foods. there are also places like certified humane that tell you about local stores with humanely raised live stock. Do your homework and keep YOUR FAMILY HEALTHY.

Guest's picture
Keith C.

what do you think about this article from the MayoClinic on Organic vs Non-Organic?

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/organic-food/NU00255

Guest's picture
Guest

This article show me see Horizon in a new light. But, to be honest, the only reason I buy organic milk is because it lasts so much longer!

Guest's picture
M. Fullam

no problem with organic heavy whipping cream - but the carton does not open into the pouring spout. Three times this has happened to me. Bummer

Guest's picture
Guest

The main reason I switched is because it is not homogenized!

Guest's picture
GuestAfina

You are way off on all of this I work in this industry and almost all of what you have written is exaggerated or flat out lies. The only true thing you stated is that milk is tested for antibiotics that is true and that hormones are already in milk. Also cows pass through what they eat if they are eating corn that had chemicals used on it the it can be passed through in the milk same thing as breastfeeding what you eat you pass to your kid. Don't forget that the USDA allows for x amount of almost anything to be in your food from bugs in your cereals or rat feces to chemicals. Also organic cows must have pasture at least 70% or better of the year not just "access" that was a flat out lie you stated. Also it is impossible for a pasture fed cow to make more milk then a conventional cow. Also it is a proven fact that grass fed cows have milk that is higher in Omega 3 fatty acids that in its self makes organic milk or conventional milk that is grass fed better for you. Also organic cows are not shipped if antibiotics are used the withdraw time is 2x as long. Also to in order to not use as many antibiotics animal husbandry has to be better then conventional farming so the animals are treated better. Also breeding has created a cow lazy cows that don't want to work ie graze, cows bred for grazing that a cow is intended to do will graze and not need to be fed a TMR of corn or grain and still make ok milk grass fed cows make about 30% less milk then the standard. I am a conventional farmer that is thinking of going organic because I love my cows and want a better life for them the premium price for that milk would allow that to happen but only if people like you don't spread lies and try to ruin a good thing. Organic farmers do not make a lot more money then conventional farmers if they ship milk wholesale to say companies like Horizon, they do however make better money if they process and market their own milk same as if a conventional would if they did the same.

Guest's picture
Heather Scribner

I agree with most of what you are saying except for the claims that the cows only go out to pasture for 20 minutes to look good for the press. There are still smaller farms where the cows are in fact out in the pasture eating grass most of the day! Please visit dairy farms and talk with the farmers! Thank you for pointing out the lies about "organic milk". Dairy farms work hard every day to keep our cows happy and healthy.

Guest's picture
LindainCO

I do think that Horizon milk and dairy products are the best
generally available, ie, Walmart, Kroger and similar big chains.
I don't trust the store brand organic products, and the other products obviously defend their right to have antibiotic (in the final product), HGH in their product and pesticides in their products.
I had hoped that Horizon let their cows be in pastures for a certain amount of time, and still want answers on that. There seems to be no proof or information about whether they are in the pasture or not.

Guest's picture
Guest

what the cow is fed or exposed to does not affect the milk ? Hello?!! So if I am breast feeding a baby I can still eat what I want and take medicine without worrying about it being passed to my baby ? come on, guys .

Guest's picture
Guest

Dairy cows are not hooked up to machines all day. If they were they wouldn't produce milk properly. Plus, milk letdown will only occur when the cow if comfortable. Cows are milked normally 2-3 times a day depending on the farm.
I disagreed with most of what was said but could make some understanding for how you felt that way. However, I am an Animal Science major looking into a concentration in Dairy and was pretty irritated on how some of this was taken. I have been to dairy farms all across the US. I have never been to a farm where the cows were not well cared for. Dairy operations cannot be handled with as much slack as some beef operations.
Dairy farmers truly want happier cows, happier cows produce more milk. It is as simple as that. Happier cows are healthier cows and farmers take care of them because that is their livelihood.

Guest's picture
Pat

All I can say is this:
I live in a rural county that had a corporate dairy farm. It was HORRIBLE - the smell, the pollution, the condition the cows lived under. All was hideous. And we are an agricultural county, so we are all used to dairy industries. The business finally shut down, much to the relief of the entire county. Many years went by, and Horizon approached the county about purchasing the farm. As you can imagine, there was not much support. Who wanted to go down that road again after the land and surrounding watershed had finally eliminated a horrific source of stench and pollution? But purchase it they did, and the turn-around was astonishing. They contracted with local farmers to grow organic feed during the phase-in because the fields were so highly polluted it took more than the 3 years to establish them as organic. They judiciously managed the disposal of manure. They rotated their milking stock on pastures with non-milking stock and pregnant cows so that even though the total cows on the dairy far exceeded the original farm, they were dispersed throughout hundreds of acres instead of concentrated only in the milking fields. Horizon has been a good neighbor from the start. Cows graze in lush green pastures instead of slogging through fields of manured mud. And YES, the cows do look happy! You bet I purchase Horizon products.