Horizon vs. Organic Valley Milk

Horizon Milk vs Organic Valley (Photo - Staff).

Horizon Milk vs Organic Valley (Photo – Staff).

A national survey by the Cornucopia Institute revealed some interesting facts about two leading organic milk products, Horizon organic milk and Organic Valley.

The rating is in Cow Star Ratings where 5 cows means ‘outstanding’ and 0 means ‘Ethically Deficient’.

Horizon Organic MilkHORIZON Organic Milk

  • Owned by Dean Foods (a multi-billion dollar company that owns brands like Meadow Gold, Land O’Lakes, and Silk, amongst others.)
  • Uses no artificial growth hormones, no antibiotics¹ and no pesticides.
  • USDA Organic certified.
  • Cornucopia Institute Score: 0/5; Ethically Deficient²
  • Dairy cows get up to 4 months of pasture time each year.
  • Average herd size on family farms within Horizon’s system: 90
  • Average herd size on other farms within Horizon’s system: 229-560
  • Horizon runs 11 corporate farms with cow herds of 1,000-2,000
  • Number of family farms: 507; Number of other farms: 91

Note: Horizon enhances their milk with DHA Omega-3, which is important for brain and retina health, especially in children. Their DHA Omega-3 is strictly plant-based, not fish-based, which makes their milk completely vegetarian and a sustainable source of DHA.

Organoc ValleyORGANIC VALLEY Milk

  • Farmer-owned co-op.
  • Uses no artificial growth hormones, no antibiotics¹ and no pesticides.
  • USDA Organic certified and adherent to CROPP (see note below), a program of strict, humane animal handling laws.
  • Does not use Oxytocin (even though it is allowed by the National Organic Program)
  • Cornucopia Institute Score: 4/5; Excellent²
  • Dairy cows get up to 7 months of pasture time each year.
  • Average number of cows per acre: 3
  • Average herd size: 76
  • Percentage of family farms in Organic Valley system: 100%

Note: Organic Valley belongs to CROPP³, a program which embraces stricter standards of animal care than the National Organic Program.

Horizon Vs. Organic Valley


Horizon’s Overall Rating: Ethically Deficient

Horizon‘s larger scale dairies include cows which have been non-organic for the first year of their lives according to Cornucopia Institute. They do not give their cows adequate pasture time, and are not concerned with the health and longevity of their animals. They also declined multiple invitations to submit their information for the study. According to Wikipedia, the Cornucopia institute filed a legal action against Dean Foods, the owner of Horizon, based on their use of the term “organic”.

Valley’s Overall Rating: Excellent

Organic Valley‘s cows are exceptionally in good health with ample time allowed on pasture, among many other factors. Organic Valley received a slightly lower score based on the fact that some of the cows they purchase are also not completely organic from birth.

Ironically, most major stores and health stores’ organic milk brand got a ‘1 out of 5’ rating* including Trader Joe’s, Safeway (O – Organics), Kroger (Simple Truth), Albertson’s (Wild Harvest) to name a few. Fresh and Easy organic milk got a 2 Cow rating**.

* 1 Cow Rating: Even though none of the one cow–rated brands responded to the survey request, we were able to determine that these brands were, at the time of our research, buying some or all of their organic milk from factory-farm sources. ** 2 Cow Rating: Even though none of the two cow rated–brands responded to the survey request, we were able to determine that these brands were, at the time of our research, buying organic milk from highly rated sources. – We conducted our research in these areas through interviews with a number of industry sources and through federally maintained records.

¹ Both Horizon and Organic Valley use holistic or homeopathic remedies on their cattle unless the cows are not improving quickly. If their symptoms cannot be relieved by these natural methods, in order to decrease the cows’ suffering, antibiotics will be used to restore health quickly. However, once an animal has received antibiotics they are taken out of the organic herd and used as a conventional dairy animal.

 – Despite this extreme reaction to the use of any antibiotics in the cattle, the main reason behind the “no antibiotics” movement is that most dairy farmers give all their cattle regular doses of antibiotics, “just in case”. This is believed to be causing a huge amount of antibiotics-resistant bacteria in the animals and eventually/consequently in humans.

² The Cornucopia Institute, a non-profit organization “seeking economic justice for the family-scale farming community,” has published a number of reports to help consumers see the business behind the food, and the actual quality of what they are buying. Horizon and Organic Valley are both included in their constantly updated “Organic Dairy Report and Scorecard”.

³ Some of CROPP stricter standards include:

  • consideration of cattle’s social nature and making sure they are comfortable throughout their integration into new herds, breeding, day-to-day events, treatment of illness, etc.
  • giving the cows housing which is comfortable, spacious and which conforms to natural light cycles
  • providing the cows with fresh air, shade, and access to outdoors unless extreme weather would endanger the animals
  • special care in breeding to promote healthy herds.
  • strict rules about transporting cattle to provide for their health, comfort, and safety
  • limited or no use of electric shock devices in training
  • limited or no dehorning, and use of pain killers when dehorning is necessary
  • constant veterinary care and regular inspections to maintain all standards

  Organic Eggs

You may want to check:
Do “Organic Valley” eggs stack up?.


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16 comments to “Horizon vs. Organic Valley Milk”
  1. You might better update your evaluation and study, as Organic Valley only adheres to their “Standards” on a very selective basis. There are producers with dramatic animal welfare issues that they are doing nothing about. A quick look into their producers without being directed to the Organic Valley “poster kids” per se will reveal that your understanding of their standards is very overrated. I should know I have been an Organic Valley producer in the past and have farmed Organically for over 20 years.

    • Thank you Steve. This article is from 2015. It is a good idea though to suggest a follow up. We will refer it to the Editorial team for consideration.

  2. I buy Organic Valley over Horizon simply because I think it tastes better (my family does too). Maybe happy cows do deliver better milk? 🙂

  3. Thank you for doing this evaluation, even though I’ve been using, boasting and bragging on ORGANIC VALLEY for over 5 years now. What I find strange is that it’s not readily available in stores like it should be. I had to do a search and find to get one of three stores that carried it in my area. I have to drink a great deal of milk since my hip replacement so I buy it by the case. One store manager told me that I couldn’t purchase a case..that it was against the law. Smh I was shocked I had never heard of that before that the only way I’ve always purchased it in the 5 years that I’ve been consuming it. I’m thinking she was confusing organic with raw milk. Anyway thank you for doing this.
    Very sincerely,
    Lee M.

  4. It is a shame that not all retail outlets offer Organic Valley milk. I’ m sure the dairy farmers would have all free range cows. However it is the middle men between the farmer and the consumer that are greedy, add NO value and only look at the numbers and could care less for the cows or the consumer. One could only hope the cows themselves would find a way to screw these as ass holes and put them out of business!

  5. Thank you for doing up the research on these companies. I used to purchase Horizon due to it being little less expensive than Organic Valley, but glad I made the switch a few months back.

  6. Your assessment is pretty much corroborated by the folks at the Cornucopia website. Organic Valley looks like a very good dairy choice.

  7. Thank you for this article, I am slowly, but surely switching many of my dairy products to organic and just as I was considering Horizon, because it is widely known and coupons are readily available, I am glad I came across this information !

  8. Thank you so much for the information. I was already leaning more toward Organic Valley and this article helped greatly. Yeah for Organic Valley. : )

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