NEATLY TENDED ACRES of farmland and green pastures extend for hundreds of miles in each direction. And
then, seemingly out of nowhere, six milk
silos and a 12-story white building
appear, surrounded by grazing Holsteins.
You’ve arrived at Aurora Organic Dairy’s
bottling plant and original farm in
Marc Peperzak and Mark Retzloff,
both longtime entrepreneurs in the
organic food industry, established Aurora
Organic Dairy (AOD) in 2003.
“It’s a better way of making agricultural products, something we think is
helpful and healthful for land and people
and animals. And it’s also a rapidly
growing, innovative, value-added product market to be in,” says Scott McGinty,
president of AOD.
Most of AOD’s milk comes from its
own dairy cows in Colorado and Texas,
and it packages and ships milk from its
own plant. This vertical integration gives
AOD complete control over the quality
of its products.
To raise certified organic cows, no
hormones or antibiotics can ever be
used. The cows must be fed 100 percent
organic feed, and they must always have
access to the outdoors. During grazing
season, at least 30 percent of their diet
must come from pasture. The land on
which they’re raised must also be certified organic, meaning it cannot be
treated with synthetic pesticides and
herbicides, or contain GMO grasses, and
it must adhere to the three-year transition rule (see “The 3-year transition
rule,” page 39).
AOD goes beyond organic requirements and is certified by a third-party
for their extensive animal welfare program, which ensures the health and
humane treatment of all cows. The company has seen massive growth in the last
decade. “We’ve gone from 2,000 cows to
almost 25,000 cows in 10 years, and
expanded the [bottling] plant along the
way to match that volume,” says McGinty.
Obtaining enough organic cows is
key to keeping up with demand. To be
In our digital editions
Click here to watch a clip
about Aurora Organic Dairy.
(See page 14 for details.)
Stories by Hana Medina
WALK INTO JUST about any food retailer and, more
often than not, you’ll be faced with a choice: whether
to buy organic or conventionally grown food. But
what does it all mean?
Simply put, certified organic foods have been
farmed without synthetic pesticides, herbicides and
fertilizers, and do not use genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Advocates for organic food equate fewer
chemicals with better health and safety, while conventional farming advocates argue that food safety is
at risk without synthetic controls, and that conventional farming is necessary to sustain food supply.
Regardless of which camp you fall into, there’s no
denying that the organics category, once considered a
niche market, has gone mainstream. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which oversees organic
certification, reports that the majority of consumers
make organic food purchases at least occasionally,
and that the organic foods industry has seen double-digit growth each year since 1990. Americans were
expected to spend an estimated $35 billion in 2014.
Costco’s sales are no exception. “Organic is a
trend in our country, and our members are asking for
it. We’re trying to get as much [organic food] as we
can that fits our specifications,” says Jeff Lyons, senior
vice president of fresh foods at Costco. He adds that,
often, Costco’s strict specifications reduce the amount
of organic foods it can offer: “We won’t sell organic if it
compromises the grade of our produce.”
The Connection chatted with four Costco suppliers from several food categories to find out what
growing organic entails for them and how they’re
meeting increasing demand. Some of these suppliers
raise only organic foods, while others grow both
organic and conventional. At the end of the day, you
are the one who decides what goes in your cart.
Emily Prisco, director of farm
resources at Aurora Organic Dairy,
cares for an organic calf.
Headquarters: Boulder, Colorado
Products at Costco:
Kirkland Signature™ Organic Milk,
Kirkland Signature Organic Butter
Keeping pace with
a booming market