GMO Inside is calling on Chobani to shift to non-GMO feed sources for its dairy cows. Chobani processes roughly 40 million pounds of milk per week from over 78,000 dairy cows on nearly 900 farms. All told, that’s a lot of milk! Milk which comes from cows who are eating GMO feed 2-3 times per day.
While Chobani is the largest Greek yogurt manufacturer with roughly 50% market share, we are hoping that all yogurt makers will insist on using milk from cows fed non-GMO diets. GMOs have never been proven safe for human consumption and there is a growing body of studies which demonstrates that great caution should be exercised when developing and consuming GMOs. A large percentage of the GMO crops grown in the US are used as animal feed. (Read more about GMO feed here.) By shifting away from GMO feed for their cows, Chobani has the power to shift thousands of acres of farmland to non-GMO farming techniques.
While GMO Inside believes the “Precautionary Principle” to be the best approach when it comes to developing and consuming GMOs, we know that consumers may care about a number of factors when it comes to choosing food products. The following chart captures various consumer concerns related to Greek yogurt. It is by no means exhaustive as far as brand or concerns go, but we hope it helps!
For more information on these brands, read below. Better yet, you can call your favorite yogurt brand and ask the questions that matter to you. If the company gives you an answer you are not satisfied with, let them know why!
|Yogurt Brand||GMO Ingredients?||GM Feed for Cows||rBST (synthetic growth hormone)||Milk Protein Concentrate (thickening agent)||Organic Options?||GMO Inside’s overall rating|
Did we exclude one of your favorite brands? Please add your comments or questions on our blog and we'll get the scoop! Or check out Be Food Smart for an even deeper look at these Greek yogurt brands.
Fage is a close second in the Greek yogurt market, holding 14 percent of the market in 2011. The positives to Fage brand yogurt are that no milk concentrate is used (like Yoplait, see below) and they do not add extra thickeners to their plain varieties, though they are most likely added for their flavored yogurt. On their website, they highlight the healthy benefits to Fage, including statements saying it is beneficial to vegetarians, diabetics, and it is gluten free for those with gluten allergies or preferences. However, there is currently no organic option.
Greek Gods was founded in Seattle, Washington in 2003 and is now owned by Hain Celestial. They do not add milk protein concentrate, artificial coloring, or rBST, but there is no organic variety available.
Yoplait Greek is owned by General Mills and is the second most popular overall yogurt company in the US, the first being Chobani. Yoplait Greek promotes the health aspect of their product, advertising the high levels of calcium, vitamin D, and protein, especially for their kid’s products, as well as claiming their product can help with weight loss. However, their website does admit to using aspartame (artificial sweetener), carmine (red coloring), gelatin, and milk protein concentrate in their Yoplait Greek Parfait cups. There are no organic options available. In 2012, General Mills spent over $1 million to oppose GMO labeling in California.
Oikos is Dannon’s Greek yogurt brand. It is not certified as USDA organic and does not mention “natural” or “non-GMO” products on their website. They also have no statement on rbST use, or a bovine growth hormone used on cattle, so it is possible that these substances are used. They use cultured grade A non-fat milk, though fruit varieties include additives such as fructose, modified corn starch, and other products.
Stonyfield is an all organic yogurt company started in 1983 that is sold in natural food stores, national supermarkets and large retailers across the country. All of their products are USDA Organic certified (including Stonyfield Greek and YoBaby); therefore, they are audited throughout the production process to ensure that they do not use pesticides or herbicides, GMOs, antibiotics, or growth hormones. In regards to GMOs, they are currently in the process of being approved by the non-GMO Project, which will test their animal feed for GMO contamination. They formally state that they believe GMO products should be labeled to guarantee consumer safety and were a founding company of Just Label It, a non-profit advocating for GMO labeling. Group Danone(which also owns Dannon) is the parent company of Stonyfield, owning 85 percent of the company, yet Stonyfield maintains a unique partnership with Groupe Danone, with company co-founder Gary Hirshberg remaining Chairman and the company remaining true to it's health and environmental mission.
Nancy’s is another USDA organic certified Greek yogurt company owned by Springfield Creamery in Eugene, Oregon. Nancy’s does not add any thickeners or pectins and strains off the whey during production. They say they use all organic fruits from the Northwest region. On their website they describe their milk sources, stating they are from local dairy farms, mostly within a 50 mile radius of their creamery in Eugene. They do not use pesticides, antibiotics, or synthetic growth hormones, and their product is USDA certified by Oregon Tilth. Their website does not directly say that they are GMO free, but their organic certification prohibits GMO use.
Wallaby’s yogurt company is based out of Napa Valley, California and inspired by a trip to Australia by the co-founders who were inspired by the sweet, amazing flavor of their yogurt. They use organic milk from nearby farms in Sonoma and Marin counties. They are organic certified by Quality Assurance International (QAI) and the USDA. Due to their organic certification, they are also GMO free.
Genetically modified organisms, introduced in 1996, now represent a major part of our food system. (Roughly 90% in crops like corn and soy, and included in nearly 85% of processed foods). In spite of their ubiquity, the benefits of GMOs are less apparent. Genetically modified crops have led to increased usage of herbicides, increased chemical residues on foods, organic farm contamination, lawsuits between chemical companies and farmers because their fields were pollinated with patented seeds, and various health issues in laboratory animals and livestock, just to name a few of the problems with GMOs.
It will be impossible to eliminate GMO farming without addressing the food that is given to animals. Because GMO crops are so often used to feed livestock, including cows, GMO Inside hopes to encourage progress throughout the dairy industry.
Chobani is the leader within the Greek yogurt industry, and with this leadership comes responsibility. By working with its supply chain partners to switch to non-GMO or organic feed sources, Chobani can effectively reduce demand for GMO crops by a lot (40 million pounds of milk per week, remember?). This will in turn increase demand for non-GMO crops and help to convert thousands of acres of farmland away from GMO farming techniques.