Note: Ecto FAIL. This post was supposed to go up at 8 am tomorrow, which Ecto apparently thinks is 4 pm today. So, you are getting it a day early! Don’t miss the post I published 60 seconds before this one decided to go up: Sick Day.
Before I accept any products for sampling or giveaways, I make sure that they are from companies that I stand behind. You all know that I have my own thoughts for how we eat ethically in our home, and I will not give product away on my blog that don’t meet my standards.
So when Cabot Creamery Cooperative contacted me about doing an informational post + giveaway, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to find out more about their farming practices! Their cheese is definitely Savvy Eats approved.
Answering my questions was Cabot food & nutrition consultant, Regan Jones, who is also the former Assistant Food Editor at Cooking Light magazine. More about the giveaway after the interview!
Savvy Eats: I love that Cabot is a co-operative and owned by the farmers, each of which is highlighted on your site. How many farms are members of the co-op, and how were they selected?
Regan Jones: Cabot Creamery Cooperative has been in continuous operation in Vermont since 1919 and is owned by 1200 dairy farm families located throughout New England and upstate New York. The cooperative was founded in 1919 when 94 farmers banded together – at the cost of $5 per cow plus a cord of wood (to fuel the boiler at the village creamery). In 1992, Cabot’s farmer owners merged with Agr-Mark, a southern New England co-op dating back to 1918. Today, the cooperative boasts 1200 farm family owners, four processing plants and a growing line of dairy products with it’s “World’s BestCheddar” leading the way.
SE: What is the average size of the dairy farms involved in the co-operative?
RJ: The average size of Cabot’s farm family owned farms is 100 cows per farm.
SE: Cabot is very open about the co-op’s belief that quality cheese comes from healthy, happy cattle. What steps does Cabot take to ensure that the cows are well cared for on all the farms?
RJ: Cabot and our parent cooperative, Agri-Mark, go to great lengths to ensure the safety, health, and happiness of our cattle. This not only benefits the animals that provide our livelihood, it results in a better quality product for the community at large. Almost all of our Board of Directors are active dairy farmers and members of the Cabot family. They all rely on each other to provide high quality, safe milk that is in turn converted to various world class cheeses and other dairy products, and they know you can only achieve top notch results if your cattle are healthy and happy.
What exactly do we do? Cabot has twenty field representatives who visit our farms every day. They test milk for bacteria count; they look at safety procedures on the farms; and they visually inspect the herds. They check feed and cattle diet, and they make sure there is no mistreatment of any animals. Not ever. We also work proactively to ensure a cruelty-free environment for our cattle, and our farmers enroll in a national cattle welfare certification program to ensure the humane treatment of our animals.
Our twenty field representatives are experts in such areas as herd health, milk safety, proper care and nutrition of cattle, and more.
They visit our farms and review procedures with our farm families on a daily basis. They ensure that Cabot gets the highest quality milk that cows can deliver, and they know you can only achieve these results when the cattle are safe, well cared for, receive regular veterinarian attention, and are on a reliable schedule. They work with our farms, who are experts themselves, to make sure our herds are healthy and happy.
Fourteen of our fifteen members on our Board of Directors are full-time dairy farmers and members of the Cabot cooperative. They know what it takes to run a dairy farm, and they know the importance of humane treatment for our cattle. To emphasize the matter even more, the Board recently directed that our farmers enroll in program called FARM, Farmers Assuring Responsible Management, and that our farm families become formally certified in the techniques required to ensure the welfare and best health for our herds. Cabot has written formal rules of conduct, promulgated by the National Milk Producers Federation in Washington, D.C., that are posted on every Cabot farm.
These rules address the proper and humane treatment of our animals, and we keep them on constant display to emphasize the matter.
SE. Are the dairy cows fed a diet of grain or grass?
RJ: Cabot’s dairy farmers make sure their cattle get top notch feed that typically consists of a mix of grains and grass, and ensure each head receives high-quality veterinary attention and lives as stress free a life as possible to prolong their time in the milking herd.
SE: Cabot Creamery pursues “context-based sustainability.” Can you explain to my Savvy Readers what this approach means?
RJ: Our goal is to continue the nearly century-old tradition of collaboration among our farm families and our employees to offer “World’s Best” quality dairy products. A key component of this is to ensure the sustainability of our cooperative, from cow-to-creamery-to-customer. To do this, we must assiduously measure and manage our economic, environmental and social impacts. We advocate a method of sustainability measurement called “context-based sustainability” – an approach which compares actual impacts on vital resources to standards of performance based on the sufficiency of those resources. Take water use as an example: one can’t judge whether an organization is using water sustainably just by knowing how many gallons they use. One needs to understand how that volume compares to the availability of water in the areas where the organization operates. Without context, two organizations with identical water use might look similar, but if one is located in the desert and one is located where water resources are abundant, a true indication of their sustainability may be very different. We are developing measures that use this lens to help us assess the sustainability of our impacts.
Cabot is being kind enough to give away a gift pack of 6 blocks of Cabot Cheddar to ONE Savvy Reader. To enter, read the interview and/or visit Cabot’s site, and tell me the most interesting or informative thing you learned about Cabot!
For an extra entry, tell me what you’d make with the cheddar if you won. Some roasted veggies, perhaps?
I’ll choose a winner on Monday. Good luck!
All pictures courtesy of Cabot.