Knowing our sources has always been important to Heinen’s. Les Gyerman, Heinen’s Dairy Category Manager, recently visited the farm of Tucker and Becky Gretebeck in Wisconsin to learn more about Organic Valley 100% grass-fed milk – straight from the farmers themselves.
“Grass-fed milk is something unique and different,” says Gyerman. “I’m always looking for these types of products to bring in for our customers, and of course Heinen’s cares a lot about the sourcing story of products. Being able to actually meet the farmers supplying this milk was great.”
Visiting the Gretebeck’s farm gave him a first-hand account of the process and allowed him to talk with the family and see the facilities. “We walked the fields and took a tour of the farm. It’s a very clean facility, and Organic Valley puts a lot of specifications on their farmers. I’m confident we’re getting a high-quality product for our customers,” says Gyerman. The Gretebeck’s manage 300 acres and milk 35-45 cows a day.
Grassmilk is still relatively new to the Organic Valley product list, having only begun production in 2013. But just what is grassmilk? The cows that produce grassmilk only eat fresh grasses and dried forages like hay. They are never given supplemental grains or soybeans, hormones or antibiotics.
Grass-fed milk is minimally pasteurized and not homogenized, and still has the cream at the top. Make sure to shake it before you pour! Grassmilk tastes different than conventional milk and contains a bigger dose of Omega-3 than conventional milk.
To be suppliers for Organic Valley, the land on which the animals graze must be certified organic, and must have no run-off from other areas that could contaminate the land.
Only one cow is allowed for every 3 acres to ensure there is enough grass and that the animals have room to roam. On the Gretebeck’s farm, the cows are milked early in the morning then sent back out to pasture and are milked again at night.
Organic Valley also assigns a staff veterinarian to their farmers to act as a consultant on animal health and nutrition. The veterinarian visits and inspects the farm often. “I was really impressed that Organic Valley has staff vets assigned to their farmers,” says Gyerman. “That shows me they really care about animal welfare, and that in turn makes a better product.”
To learn more about Organic Valley, watch the video below: