Earlier this month, Horizon Organic published its "Standards of Care,” a comprehensive set of guidelines that will govern how the company runs its company-owned farms while helping educate consumers and others about the complexities of organic farming.

The Horizon Organic "Standards of Care" encompass every aspect of life on a Horizon Organic dairy farm — from calf-raising to health care to pasture management. Besides complying with the USDA requirements for organic certification, these Standards of Care aspire to the next level of organic stewardship.

"Today, a growing number of consumers are interested not only in organic products but also in how they are produced," said Kelly Shea, vice president of industry relations and organic stewardship for Horizon Organic. "Our 'Standards of Care' reflect how we manage our company-owned farms. We were one of the companies that pioneered organic practices more than 15 years ago, and we continue to aspire to those founding principles. Our goal is to be part of a larger organic community that fosters the highest possible standards for animal welfare, environmental stewardship, and agricultural sustainability."

Following are some of the practices outlined in the standards:

  • Raising the company's own calves from certified organic mothers to ensure the organic integrity of herds from generation to generation.
  • Taking a holistic, preventive and natural approach to animal care and welfare, including proper nutrition, stress management and homeopathic health care remedies.
  • Ensuring that cows graze on organic grass every day during the active growing season (frost to frost) and as many days as possible during the dormant season.
  • Ensuring that cows are outside year-round to exercise, socialize and interact with the land.
  • Managing pastures in a way that encourages the growth of grass for grazing, improving biodiversity, while conserving precious soil and water resources.

Shea said the "Standards of Care" demonstrate what Horizon Organic is doing to protect the integrity of the USDA's organic seal on its company-owned farms. They also play an important role in educating the public about what organic farming means, how it's done and why it's good for consumers, communities and cows.

In developing the standards, the company collaborated with third party experts, including Dr. Hubert Karreman with Penn Dutch Cow Care, a specialist in natural and homeopathic veterinary medicine, and with Shannon Horst with Holistic Management International, an authority on sustainable pasture management. Horizon Organic said the standards are in effect now on its company-run farms in Idaho and Maryland.

"These standards reflect what we have learned over the past 15 years about organic dairy and farming and what we’ve determined we can do even better in the future," said Jule Taylor, vice president of milk supply for Horizon Organic. "We want our farms to set an example and we hope other farmers can share and learn from our experiences in way that will help the industry. We feel a responsibility to continuously improve the way we do organic."

Horizon Organic press release