I love it when the little guy wins big! Organic Valley traces its origins to a farmer's revolt against big agribusiness' chemical and industrial farming methods in the Coulee region led by farmer, George Siemon. He rallied farmers to the tiny town of Viroqua, Wisconsin's courthouse for a meeting.
That meeting established the co-op that has gone head-to-head against Big Dairy, the David beating Goliath at its own game with well marketed products.
Today the cooperative is more than 2,000 family farmers strong, and has branched out of dairy to work with the egg farming business.
In dairy, really no one tops them. Their Purity Farms Ghee a clarified, simmered butter that has been part of Indian cooking forever, is off-the charts good, and should substitute in your daily household work for horrible vegetable cooking sprays and the scary oils of mass-market vegetable shortenings.
Their milk, cream cheese, and other products are world-class, head-and-shoulders above the agribusiness farm product. They can produce a high quality that even outshines big organic dairies like Horizon, many of whose products I find to be very inconsistent.
Organic Valley has some of the best branding and marketing people working for them, which, for folks who are wondering why they should pony up a premium for their milk, has helped, because their packaging is very foodie-sexy, and wins over consumers. In their dairy operations, it's been a total win.
That's a dual-egged sword though. Their move into eggs may be profitable, but, unlike the dairy farmers of Organic Valley, the folks who run the poultry side are a little chicken of going whole-hog with good production methods.
I have been disappointed with the co-op that their egg launch did not work with pasture producers of eggs.
Pasture-raised walks the same walk that their stellar dairy farms do. Their website shows a lovely picture of chickens in a field, but if you read my article on eggs, what they define as "Free Range" is not pasture where the chickens are rotated on fields just like cattle. Pasture-method offers chickens almost four times the space, more variety of food.
Their egg boxes stand out, but there they engage in a lot of big-agribusiness-worthy hype.
Organic Valley eggs are "Free Range." It's a big step up from "Cage Free" in that the chickens have more room to move about, but it still doesn't allow them the kind of nutrition and living that pasture does, and the eggs, in my opinion, suffer for it.
I love the quality of their egg-white cartons, since pasture egg-whites are impossible to find, but the price is consistently so much higher than quality-equivalent brands from Trader Joe's and others, that I find it difficult to pay the premium for it.
They have Omega-3 eggs, where chickens are fed a diet high in seeds like flax to up the O3 levels of the eggs. For the majority of consumers, most of that cooks off, as O3 is very heat sensitive, and most folks seriously overcook eggs. Pasture eggs are already high in O3.
They wouldn't need to do as much "special" to the feed if they would let the chickens forage for grubs and bugs and worms, then let the fields rest.
That's not "efficient" to the minds of even more liberal-thinking poultry farmers, though, so even family farmers with good intentions can need a little time to see the light and develop better and most-humane practices because, bottom-line, they make for better eggs that are better for the bottom-line.
Their dairy is world-class. It is my fond hope that their family egg farmers will move to better methods as pasture product is becoming more prevalent on supermarket shelves. They earn my Silver purveyor award, which could easily go gold if they walk the walk in their expanded marketing of the co-op.