May 14 2009

Finish your glass of oppression, Billy; it cost $1.98

Texas Longhorn cow

What a cow in a pasture looks like. Texas longhorn, Cottonmouth County, TX, 2008.

Stingray — you remember Stingray, my sidekick? — remarked the other day that Horizon organic dairy products aren’t really organic, but that Organic Valley products are.

“What!” I said. “Misleading labeling practices? Here in America? What’s next? Will President Obama fail to sufficiently disguise his elitist proclivities by putting Dijon mustard on his photo-op hamburger?”

Stingray’s findings were more or less substantiated by the Morsel Institute’s Half-Assed Research Dept. We encountered factoids like these: you know that phrase “produced without added growth hormones”? Guess what! It’s a red herring! Not even non-organic milk producers add growth hormones to milk (they add’em to cows). And antibiotics? Of course they don’t use’em. They just ship sick animals off to slaughter.

One account has it that as recently as 2007, Horizon Organic, which is owned by Ft. Worth dairyglomerate Dean Foods, was confining their dairy cows, feeding them slaughterhouse offal and chicken shit, weaning the calves on animal blood, and trucking the non-milk-producing animals from drylots to distant pastures for media photo ops. They trucked feed in, too, instead of using local organic hay producers, thus substantially enbiggening their carbon footprint. In other words, quoth the Organic Consumers Association, at least half the happy Horizon cows were, and possibly still are, languishing in prison factories, and Horizon is up for a Ditwuss Award.

Dean Foods, it turns out, have been pushing to lower standards for organic labeling. They also produce Silk organic soy milk. With, apparently, dubiously “organic” soybeans grown by indentured serfs in China.

There was a boycott, of course. It appears not to have eliminated factory farming, however. Or serfdom.

Efforts by the Half-Assed Research Dept to determine, independently of the Dean Foods website, the current status of Horizon dairy cattle and Silk’s Chinese serfs have been unsuccessful. But one point is clear. “Organic” doesn’t mean what we think it means. Especially if farmers are feeding dead animal blood to cute little calves.

It seems like a good idea — in light of this little reminder that the megatheocorporatocracy is nothing but a stinkbag of lies, LIES, LIES — to just knock it off already with the dairy products and commercially-manufactured processed crap, whether it says “organic” on the label or not. These things are unquestionably the product of someone’s oppression, and they’re fucking not very good for you, either.


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  1. slythwolf

    I’ll keep that in mind when I make actual money and can go off food stamps.

  2. B. Dagger Lee

    Is that a tilt-shift photo? Or a photo-shopped one approximating tilt-shift?

  3. Bird

    Dammit, now I have to switch my soy milk. Thanks for the heads-up.

  4. Pinko Punko

    Our lawyers will be in touch regarding your misappropriation of our trademarked Half-Assed™ approach. We suggest you appropriate some other fractional ass, perhaps two or three fifths? Thank you for your consideration.

  5. Pinko Punko

    TF, you inspired this, partially.

    Two malevolent evils in one. frisée and sink lettuce. The lettuce that lives in the work sink because someone thinks it is OK to wash out their lunch tupperware in the bathroom sink.

  6. Twisty

    “Is that a tilt-shift photo? Or a photo-shopped one approximating tilt-shift?”

    It is a Lensbaby 2.0 photo. I recommend the Lensbaby without reservation. In terms of sheer eccentricity, it is a much cheaper and far superior alternative to the tilt-shift.

  7. minervaK

    So very glad to be a vegan here in the free-market megacorporatocracy. Though I’m sure countless bunnies are beheaded in the harvesting of my ‘organic’ vegetables. Sigh. Can’t win for losing.

  8. AM

    Plus Horizon ultra-pasteurizes its milk, so that it lasts for months on your grocery shelf and no longer requires an expiration label, and a goodly amount of the vitamins, etc, are no longer present. It’s been turned into dreck.

    This endless shelf life is why the major dreck sellers, the Walmarts, etc, carry it and brag, wow, we’re going organic! and shoppers, mostly unaware of the finer (i.e., unpublicized) points of organic food feel, wow, Walmart loves me!

  9. slashy

    Indentured serfs grow the soy, too, that makes your soymilk & tofu, and they clear rainforests for soy as well as beef, and monoculture farming of veggies in far-off lands to be shipped to wealthy types to enjoy out of season is not especially fabulous either. This is not to say that veganism & vegetarianism are not fine & ethical paths, or that only people with the privilege/wealth/time to buy food from their friendly neighbourhood good-guy organic farmer are eating ‘right’. It’s to say that the entire gigantic global food system stinks, and being able to cut out animal products, while a start, does not a pure & innocent food consumption make. And hunting rabidly through the internet for the right corporation, the one who tells the least lies, to buy your proper+correct organic products from, seems to me the stuff of nightmares.

    Plant a veggie garden, if you’ve got the room, the sun, the time. It’s the only way to eat outside the system (well, OK, apart from dumpstering/scavenging, which I also practise & advocate). It’s unlikely to completely feed you, but that’s not really the point: the point is that tending & eating something outside the fucked-up global food industry helps you see the system in a way that is normally entirely hidden. Doubt there’s anything better a human could do for (a) eating better and (b) coming to some understanding of what food actually IS, and where it comes from, and what goes into it, and what it means.

  10. Erica

    To add to slashy’s point, this is another plus for CSAs, especially for those of us who are without ground for growing. I can (and have) go to the farm where some of my veggies are grown and see the conditions. Not everyone has a CSA or two near them, but for those of us that do, it is a great option.

    I’m not fully vegan, but I avoid milk and soymilk because of the problems listed by Twisty and previous posters. I get almond milk a few times a year when I’m inclined to baking, and I’m sure that has many problems as well.

  11. Karen

    You can make your own almond milk, you know. Just pulverize a few almonds in a food processor (or coffee grinder), and water until it is the right consistency, then add desired sweetener.

    Now the only problem is where the almonds come from.

  12. Tammy (a huge Twisty-wisdom fan)

    What I want to know is, what happens if a person of the female persuasion drinks it? Imagine the possibilities! Did Pepsi build an anti-estrogen shield to ensure no mere “woman” could suck up the macho-juice of a man’s cola and become, gasp, stronger, slimmer and more manish, thus able to beat men in with their own historically “superior” qualities? Good gravy, what would the world come to?

  13. Tammy

    Oops, that was meant for the Ditwuss Award post.

  14. wiggles

    Slashy – pound-for-pound, the amount of soybeans used to feed livestock dwarfs the amount of soybeans used to feed humans, so you use like 1/1000th the rainforest acres and serf labor hours to just consume the soy yourself rather than have it processed through a cow first.
    Almond and rice milk are also good. I’m sure as soon as either of those catch on a little more RJR-Nabisco-Con-Agra-Kraft-Nestle-General-Mills-Yum!-Brands Co. will start slashing and burning endangered animal habitats to grow rice paddies and almond trees.

    Twisty – you’ve inspired me to kick my cheese habit.

  15. Cimorene

    According to my local newspaper, the people in Western New York who were members of one of the two CSAs that service the area spent half as much money on vegetables last season than they would have spent at the grocery store–and that’s comparing grocery store conventional veggies against CSA organic veggies.
    Also our farmer’s market is much cheaper than the grocery store; tastier too.

    I would like to go vegetarian, but I am currently more focused on eating local stuff. It’s nearly impossible to eat locally produced food and stay a vegetarian when you live in the great white north. Easy in the summer and early fall, but not so much mid-February.

    Gardening, though, is one of the best things I ever did for my belly, my mouth, and my depression. I’ma go buy some tomatoes now, methinks.

  16. Ron Sullivan

    Being an as-yet-unreformed consumer of dairy products, I go for Clover’s organic line, with forays into Straus sometimes. Stingray might be familiar with both from her time out here. I’d heard bad things about Horizon, and the name “Organic Valley: just annoys me. I figure that on balance, Clover’s local and besides I’m acting in support of awful puns. I worship at the altar of Clo the Cow.

  17. larkspur

    I was in the local market today, Ron, and I wanted to buy organic half-and-half (yes, yes, I am that self-indulgent), and looked at the Horizon wee carton, with its useful screw-top pour spout. The “best by” date was way the hell off in June somewhere. The Clover wee carton was dated May 30, and has the usual cardboard pinchy-opening, which means less plastic, but I move around to various house-sitting jobs, and sometimes the other kind spills. Blah blah blah.

    So I bought the Clover, both to decline the extra plastic, and because that far-future June date just wasn’t credible. You hear that, Horizon? Not credible. Go, Clover, go Clover, be good, be actually organic, Clover, don’t break my damn heart.

  18. Ron Sullivan

    “Organic Valley obviously annoys me so much I put colons where my rabbit-ears should be. Never mind. The Clover billboards that regularly test my freeway skills are online, at least through 2007. Many of these show up on their trucks and store posters too.


    Straus is harder to find but larkspur and I can retreat there if Clo breaks our hearts.

  19. Smaller

    Thanks for the info about Silk soymilk.

    But where can one go to find out whether or not the other options for dairy-free foods are equally fucked-up? With the certainty that every manufacturer *is* somehow evil, how can one eat with a free conscience?

  20. truffula

    It’s not so hard to make your own soymilk or almond milk, or what ever you desire, it just takes time and some basic kitchen accessories. I make cream for all sorts of uses by grinding up cashews with water.

    Putting fruits and veggies by in the summer helps extend the local produce into winter if one has the time, inclination, and a few kitchen accessories. I enjoy time spent this way, it can be meditative (when the children are not helping). It can be pricey though too unless you have an abundant source, like a CSA, garden, or friend who farms organically. It’s not such a bad idea to make friends with farmers. I imagine myself pitching a tent and pitching in on the back 40 when the economy collapses completely.

  21. ma'am

    Here I get whole milk with cream on top and butter inside the lid from a local farm that doesn’t use hormones, etc, and that has gone through the process of placing the farm into a conservation easement. Written up in NYT last week.


  22. fsteele

    For that matter, ‘free range’ eggs may not be what we’d hope, either.

    Still, buying the label sends the message — that there’s a market niche waiting for some farmer who will really let his hens range free, and let us know about it.

  23. Lindsey

    Do you get oat milk in your part of the world? It sounds like it should be grown locally (if like me you live in a temperate zone) though that doesn’t mean it is. If you have the time and inclination there are recipes online for making your own too.

  24. beethovenqueen

    Me love this blog (see? followin’ the commenter rules!) but don’t know what soy milk to buy now…*sigh* guess I will look into making my own.

    AND if anyone has links to truly good, non-genetically manipulated seed and food sources, pls post – I’d appreciate them!

    And please, Twisty, do write a book blaming the patriarchy!! Blaming blog entries are just not enough!

  25. beethovenqueen

    PS – I sure do love hitting the BLAME button a lot more that SUBMIT!

  26. Alderson Warm-Fork

    On ‘organic’ and ‘free-range’ farming, my test is usually this: I will buy and consume the product if I trust the organisation involved enough to be happy with giving it control over every single aspect of my life, deciding where I am every hour, what I eat, who I associate with, what I spend my time doing, relying on them to give me a decent standard of living, while knowing that its motivation is entirely profit-driven. Maybe I’m just an untrusting person but my test never quite seems to be passed.

  27. speedbudget

    What is a CSA?

    We get our eggs from a local lady how has her own hens. They run around in the barnyard and are well taken care of.

    Sadly, the only choice for organic milk is the Organic Valley. I ran and checked when I read this article.

  28. Human Bean

    Meh. I was using my food stamps to augment our household food budget so as to do my small part to divert tax dollars to support the organic industry. With the extra money this became possible. Also, avoiding high fructose corn syrup. Now I sigh deeply because all along I suspected that it was a big pile of tortured cow dung and I didn’t heed my own sensibilities.

  29. larkspur

    Anyone check out the NYT article today (Friday)? ConAgra and its counterparts are shifting the burden of safety onto consumers. The article highlights the updated instructions on cooking the frozen Pot Pies (now with Salmonella and/or E. Coli!), specifying that the pie must be cooked until the internal temperature of the wee little pie is 165 F. when tested with a thermometer in several different places in the wee pie’s center. There is even a little illustration. What fun! “Your Honor, the complainant failed to take even the most cursory care during the preparation of this food product, although the warnings are very very clear, if also very tiny. Consumers must take some responsibility for their own health, otherwise the next stop is The Nanny State!”

    Ugh. I live where, with some effort, I can find safer alternatives to Hungry-Person Frozen Entrees. And I don’t have a family to feed. Urban folks, poor folks, multiple job-working folks are just going to be more and more at risk. If we little people start dying off in big numbers, who the hell do they think is gonna fix their espresso drinks, or stock the shelves of their stores, or weed-whack their whackable weeds? Also, will they expect us to bury our own bodies?

  30. dr. fantastic

    Although I’m risking Twisty’s ire, knowing her voluntary extinction ideology, I’d like to share the vegan song I created with my children:

    You are my sunshine, but not my meatball, not my chicken or my cheese.

    Not my cheese please, not my cheese please, please you’re not my cheese.

  31. Cathy

    Thanks for the warning, Twisty. Whenever something catches on, you know some capitalists are going to lie and cut corners to get rich. I have some doubts about whether soy is actually good for you – it’s hard to know which propaganda to believe.

    I have room and sun for gardening, but no soil. It’s just sand and rocks, and very little rain. Composting helps a little, but not enough.

    Larkspur, those on top could care less if the little people drop dead. They are confident that those in the middle will do the dirty work, and plus they’ll have more room.

  32. Apostate

    Speedbudget, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Do a google search for “CSA YOUR CITY” and you will probably find local farms that sell shares to the local community. Once you buy a share for a season, you get that season’s produce (usually once a week) and your money helps to support the farm through the season.

    It’s a great concept and you eat not only locally, but in season, and usually organic (truly organic). It’s also cheaper than going to the store and better for the environment.

  33. larkspur

    Cathy, you are right, of course, but those people always always always fail to appreciate the Invisible Work, denoted in italics in the next two paragraphs.

    For example, from my last straight job, in a law office: a lawyer might ask me to make 15 copies of a settlement conference statement, with a couple of exhibits needing exhibit tags. Fine. I can do that. We had a really excellent copy machine, plus I had made sure we never ran out of paper, and also regularly checked our stock of exhibit tags, and reordered when necessary, not to mention keeping toner cartridges in stock, and learning long ago how to change toner cartridges, and how to un-jam the copy machine.

    So the lawyer needs these copies this afternoon. I set aside some other projects and get to work. I am frequently interrupted by having to answer the phone, see who just walked into the office (UPS guy),, and do other “it’ll just take a second” tasks assigned by other attorneys.

    The copy job goes along okay, meaning there is no more than the usual set of problems, like the copier mis-feeding one sheet and screwing up the collation, or one of the exhibits looking weird, so I have to check to see if it’s the correct one, blah blah blah. It’s getting toward the end of the afternoon, and I have other people asking me about stuff, and I tell them I’m working on this deadline, and I get the statements all together, including the two extra copies for the court that the attorney forgot about, and Yay! it’s done. I go look for the attorney, but OMG, the attorney has left the office a little early, and didn’t tell me, and then I discover that the statements weren’t really needed today, but the day after tomorrow. And now my supervising attorney is upset because I was supposed to have had all of those medical records reviewed and summarized. But I had to do those settlement conference statements! Yeah? So? How long does it take to make a bunch of copies, anyway?

    Then I kill them all. Not really. But because they never ever photocopy the statements and assemble exhibits, they don’t know and don’t care, and don’t have any respect for that work, the kind that requires precision and attention, but not a J.D. degree. The few times they actually try to copy stuff themselves sends them running from the copy room in tears, because the machine keeps breaking.

    Okay, so let them go ahead and work me to death! They’ll see it isn’t so damn easy when I’m gone and they have to do it themselves. Oh wait. I’m dead. And I guess maybe they will start hiring out-of-work investment bankers, or people who can no longer afford to be retired.

    Oh, I’m sorry. Honest. There hasn’t been one single reference to milk. But the privileged will someday miss the little people who keep the thing lurching along. And it won’t matter. They will get someone else to grind our bones to make their bread.

    Mmmm, milk.

  34. keshmeshi

    Damn it. I love Silk. But I’ve figured this about Horizon from the very beginning. Their products are too cheap and too ubiquitous to be on the up and up.

  35. speedbudget

    Cathy, if you are handy, you could try raised-bed gardening. That’s where you essentially build large window boxes to grow your veggies in. I think they’re a neat idea because you don’t have to bed over and break your dang back working in the garden. Plus, less weeds.

    Thank you for the info on CSAs. I will look into that.

  36. Kristina

    If you have the money, Soyajoy sells a soy milk maker (www.soymilkmaker.com) for about $100, and you can also buy a tofu kit to make your own tofu. I had one, and as long as I kept it clean, it worked pretty well, but I got lazy and sold it. Looks like I might have to get another one. The info is disappointing, but once Wal-mart started selling soymilk, I should have known. Sigh.

    As for where to buy soybeans – did you know one of the largest crops in the Midwest is soybeans? You can have locally grown beans, and save the Midwest from economic death, all at the same time! It’s a win-win!

  37. crabgrass

    dear friends,

    this might be of interest: http://www.cornucopia.org/dairysurvey/index.html. it’s a listing of all organic dairy brands, rated by their actual practices. (one poster mentioned Clover organic, and it’s rated highly on this list. go Clo!)

  38. vinoveritas

    Your privilege is showing.

  39. Notorious Ph.D.

    Goddammit, Twisty — I thought I was being as nonoppressive as possible, and now you tell me that *Silk*, fercripesakes, makes me a collaborator?

    I don’t even know what to do anymore.

  40. Jezebella

    Much of the Mississippi Delta is now given over to soybeans instead of cotton, but the conditions of workers in the Delta are probably not much better than those of industrial serfs in China. Cf. Molly Ivins on the catfish farms of the region if you want the gory details. Anyhoo, yes, there are plenty of Amurrican soybean farmers a soymilk company could support if it wished to.

  41. M the Pedagogue

    When I worked at Starbucks, Silk was the brand of soymilk we used.

    That should tell you all you need to know.

  1. FYI, your “organic milk” isn’t actually organic « The Gender Blender Blog

    […] just read Twisty’s post at I Blame the Patriarchy about how Horizon Organic and its sister company Aurora Organic, both owned by Dean Foods, […]

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