We believe that allowing animals to carry out natural behaviors in the best possible living conditions is an essential part of organic farming because we know the best organic milk begins in the pasture.
Cows are ruminants. This means that they are designed to eat grass. The bucolic vision of cows peacefully munching verdant pastures is not the agricultural norm, but it is the norm on the family farms of the Organic Valley cooperative. (See our pasture policy.) Our cows are free to eat the nutrient-dense grasses they love, which makes their milk nutritious and great tasting.
In a way, cows are like kids—the more time outside, the better. Whenever it is seasonally appropriate, our cows are provided with access to pasture. Compelling research shows that this leads to healthier cows and healthier milk.
As leaders and pioneers in the organic industry, the farmers of Organic Valley implemented pasturing standards for its own members back in 1995. The cooperative has always advocated for national, across-the-board pasturing standards, and in February 2010, the USDA National Organic Program introduced solid standards for all certified organic farms. We will continue working to protect the requirements because we know our citizen-partners expect healthy animals and humane care.
As former head of the Livestock Committee for the National Organic Standards Board, Organic Valley's CEO, George Siemon, has worked with farmers around the country to craft a guidance document for recommended pasturing practices. We firmly believe this guideline should be considered as an integral part of any organic livestock system.
Interested in learning more about the benefits of pasture to both cows and humans? Check out "The Grass is Greener" by Melinda Hemmelgarn, registered dietician and "investigative nutritionist."