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We pay more for organic products, but do we get more?

Za produkty organiczne płacimy więcej, ale czy dostajemy więcej?
  • Öko-Test commissioned a laboratory test of 20 different organic natural yogurts in terms of composition and animal welfare.
  • Two products are recommended with the highest ratings, and at least six others receive a "good" rating.
  • There are differences when it comes to breeding. Some organic farms even make it illegal to keep animals tethered.

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Anyone who buys organic products expects higher quality as well as better animal welfare. However, standards for organic products are not always met. A test of 20 organic natural yogurts shows that only two of them received a "very good" rating in this respect.

Harmful substances in natural yogurt

Öko-Test ordered 20 organic natural yogurts to be tested in a laboratory in Germany. Products from brands such as Aldi, Lidl, Kaufland, Edeka, Norma, Penny, Dennree, Alnatura were tested, as well as products from production cooperatives, dairy plants and the Internet.

The yogurts were tested for mineral oil ingredients, disinfectant residues, and after the specified shelf life – for harmful molds and germs that may lead to premature deterioration of the product.

The study also included a sensory test, during which experts assessed the appearance, smell, taste and consistency of the samples at the end of their shelf life.

The leading position with a "very good" rating was secured by two products from discount stores: Netto and Kaufland. In addition to the two winners, six other yogurts made a positive impression. They were rated "satisfactory". Eleven products were rated “sufficient” and one was rated “sufficient.” This means that all tested natural yogurts passed the test.

For anyone worried about germs or ingredients in mineral oil, there's good news: All 20 yogurts rated "very good" in the "ingredients" category. But there were also some criticisms.

Buying Organic Natural Yogurt: Tips

Milk from cows that eat fresh grass or hay contains more omega-3 fatty acids. Consumers who value the high content of these compounds should choose products with the milk from hay certificate – recommends Öko-Test.

It is worth paying attention to the sugar content not only in the case of lactose intolerance: the lowest is 3.7 grams and the highest is 6.9 grams of sugar per 100 grams of yogurt. Most of the sugar in yogurt is lactose.

There is also a question: do cows from organic farms actually live better? We are right to ask ourselves this question when we pay much more for organic dairy products.

Tethering animals on farms

By ecological standards, dairy cows generally live in better conditions than their conventionally raised counterparts. This is ensured by the requirements of the EU Ecological Regulation and pro-animal organizations. However, not every organic dairy farm is a suitable example of animal welfare.

About 10 percent dairy cows in Germany are tied seasonally or all year round. Animal rights activists and Öko-Test criticize this practice, which is why Greenpeace recently filed a complaint against the dairies.

In the organic sector, tethered barns are unacceptable. Small farms with fewer than 50 animals that do not have enough space to convert the premises into a more animal-friendly free-stall barn can, however, keep cows in so-called connected buildings.

For the eleven brands included in the test, this was the case with at least some milk suppliers. Animals may be tied by the neck provided that they can run on the pasture during the growing season and in the open space at least twice a week during the remaining period.

Organic cows cannot always graze

The changes in the law aim to put an end to keeping animals tethered year-round. They must at least be kept in sheds where they can move freely between the feeding area, the milking area and the lying area. Even then, many animals on conventional farms can only dream of having a pasture. It is more profitable to feed them with concentrates in the barn all year round.

According to the ruling of the Higher Regional Court in Nuremberg, cows must graze on pasture for six hours for at least 120 days a year in order to use the term "pasture milk". In the opinion of the testers, this is the minimum allowable grazing period.

According to the criteria of ecological associations, grazing must be possible at least during the growing season. But even here, this condition is not always met in organic barns: if the farm is located in the middle of the city and there are no pastures available, it is enough to allow the animal to exercise in the yard. In the Öko-Test study, for just under half of the products, dairies stated that all cows that produced the processed milk in the yogurt batch were allowed to graze.

There is no milk and natural yogurt without calves

By nature, a cow only gives milk when she gives birth to a calf once a year. In order to sell the valuable product as quickly as possible, mother and baby are often separated after a few days. This approach is becoming increasingly criticized.

Although more and more organic farms are now based on the joint breeding of calves and cows, their overall number is still small – according to Naturland, they constitute only 10%.

For the 15 natural yogurts included in the test, the dairies ensured that at least part of the milk supplied came from cows reared with calves. However, this does not necessarily mean that they were allowed to stay with their own mother.

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