Features Program

Organic Pastures Dairy Company – A Success Story

April 1, 2020

Written by Kahargyan Nugraha

The global dairy industry is facing a crisis. Excess production of milk, coupled with trade policies and tariffs, has resulted in decreasing prices. Most importantly, the demands of consumers are changing, contributing to the “farmer-to-consumer disconnect.” This excess milk supply in the market is forcing consolidation to larger dairies, causing smaller dairies to close. A recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture revealed the loss of 2,731 (6.5%) licensed dairy farms in 2018 compared to that of 3.9% in the previous year.1  

How are consumers’ demands changing? According to a recent McKinsey report, U.S. consumers today are defining what is healthy for them, demanding organic, environmentally friendly, and plant-based food.2 Additionally, market research from the 2019 California Milk Processors Board (the creators of the Got Milk? campaign) identified the following five food trends that California consumers are favoring: plant-based, farm-to-table, ethical and eco-conscious, organic/unprocessed and gut healthy. However, most dairy farms may not be capable of responding to the changing demands of its consumers in part because they sell to processors and not directly to consumers. Receiving consumer feedback requires the infrastructure to directly communicate with consumers.

Organic Pastures Dairy Company, a farm in Fresno, California, is one farm that is meeting the new demands of consumers. In fact, the 20-year old family-owned business is thriving amidst the growing American dairy crisis. Mark McAfee, the CEO at Organic Pastures, believes that one of the keys to Organic Pastures’ success is understanding its consumers’ needs through its direct relationship with consumers.

Organic Pastures prides itself for having a direct relationship with consumers because it does not sell to processors.  Instead, it produces branded products on-farm in its own creamery from its own pastured cows. In addition to minimally processed milk, Organic Pastures sells other dairy products such as raw cheese, Kefir, cream and butter that are produced on farm. These products are then sold directly to consumers through their social network outreach program, thereby strengthening the vital farmer-to-consumer relationship. Consumers can also tour the farm which helps to seal the relationship.

At Organic Pastures, dairy cows graze in the pastures throughout the year and are fed a supplemental ration of local non-GMO alfalfa, rolled barley and almonds hulls in the colder months. The nutritional benefits of grass-grazing are translated into Organic Pastures’ glass of milk. This “grass-to-glass” concept is exactly what the consumers want, and Organic Pastures is fulfilling this demand effectively. Moreover, Organic Pastures operates 20 delivery trucks to swiftly serve 400 retail stores in California.

To combat the overuse of antibiotics in farming and the increasingly widespread epidemic of superbugs and antibiotic resistance, Organic Pastures has made it a priority to employ intensive and technical methods to avoid the use of antibiotics. Instead, the farm creates conditions that do not predispose infection such as pasturing. Additionally, cows are tested for infection and non-antibiotic treatments are used to treat non-pathogenic mammary infections such as sub-clinical and clinical mastitis. Cows are then milked in a purpose-built milking facility that emphasizes super clean conditions and secure batch-by-batch milk management after milking.

Americans are increasingly aware of how their food choices impact animal welfare and the environment. On top of their dedication to be a certified organic farm, Organic Pastures has made it their current mission to farm sustainably. In addition to using solar-powered water pumps in their creamery, an additional large solar project is planned for 2020 to offset most of the farm’s energy requirements. Organic Pastures’ grass grazing and ethical farming practices also helps with carbon sequestration, fulfilling another one of Organic Pastures’ goal –to reduce their carbon footprint by 2020. Consumers are able to enjoy the goodness of mother nature while being assured that their glass of milk is helping the cause towards a greener planet.

McAfee believes that ensuring ethical and green farming practices are beneficial in establishing a strong farmer-consumer relationship, especially when consumers are growing more passionate about how and where their food comes from. It is evident that Organic Pastures’ current and growing success is related to their evolving farming approaches. After all, listening to consumers is what Organic Pastures does best.

Click here to access Organic Pastures Dairy Company’s main website.

1. Fox, J. A Productivity Revolution Is Wiping Out (Most) Dairy Farms. Bloomberg Opinion [Online], June 5, 2019. https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2019-06-05/dairy-farms-fall-victim-to-the-productivity-revolution (accessed Dec 11, 2019).

2. Adams, C.; Maluf, I.; Ramirez, M.; de Paula, R. A winning growth formula for dairy. McKinsey & Company [Online], March 2019. https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/consumer-packaged-goods/our-insights/a-winning-growth-formula-for-dairy (accessed Dec 20, 2019).

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As part of the IMGC’s vision, we believe that leading science and innovation in lactation, milk and dairy research in order to improve human health is dependent upon our community: you. We invite scientists, clinicians and innovators from all environments (industry, non-profit, government, and academic) to feature their recent work in lactation, milk and dairy research. Each month we will feature a recent publication, a new invention or its practical application.

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