At a time when hormone-free milk labeling is under assault by Monsanto and its allies, Wal-Mart has taken a stand in favor of its consumers.
All Great Value-brand milk sold at Wal-Mart and Sam's Club will be free of rBST (recombinant [ie genetically engineered] bovine somatotropin, a growth hormone), the company said this week.
'As many of you know, there is a fair amount of controversy on this topic, but ... Wal-Mart’s customers are telling us that they are very concerned so we listened, and we’ve made a pretty big change,' Rand Waddoups wrote in Check Out, a blog by Wal-Mart buyers.
While there are no known health effects from drinking milk produced from cows treated with rBST, and normal milk will contain cow hormones that are nearly indistinguishable, many consumers see the hormone-free label as a window into the operations at farms. Hormones keep cows producing milk at volumes and for durations that are unnatural, and their use often goes hand-in-hand with other 'industrial' farming techniques, like keeping large herds in close proximity and whole-herd treatment with antibiotics and pesticides.
Monsanto, which manufactures the artificial growth hormone, has been going state-to-state, urging local agriculture departments to outlaw the use of labels like 'rBST-free' on milk. Wal-Mart, which has proved that it knows well what American consumers want, has voted. Wal-Mart made no statement about the Monsanto initiative in its announcement about going hormone-free.