Our Dairy Standard


In alignment with our founding principles, we have recently enhanced our Dairy Standard to better ensure we are providing only the highest quality and healthiest products for you, our customers.

Our goal is to impact how the food in this nation is raised and produced by supporting and promoting pasture-based products and the farmers and ranchers who raise them.

  • It is the foundation upon which we build health and vitality.
  • It should taste good and entice our senses.
  • It should contribute to our wellbeing.
  • The way it is grown should be sustainable; supporting the health of farmers, farm workers, farm communities, farm animals and the overall environment.
  • Animals should be raised humanely and in accordance with their natural biology.
  • We believe that farmers should be provided with markets that allow them to choose pasture-based and biodynamic practices.



Natural Grocers’ Naturally Raised Dairy Standard only apply to our dairy products. We have always offered a wide selection of Certified Organic dairy products, which must comply with the USDA National Organic Program (NOP), and since they meet these standards they also meet our standard for dairy products. Some of the most important requirements established by the NOP are: all feed including pasture must be certified organic, may not come from GMO sources and must not contain animal by-products. No bovine growth hormone or antibiotics are allowed.

Additionally, provisions within the NOP also ensure that the animals are treated humanely and ethically and all organic dairy animals must graze on pasture a minimum of 120 days. Many of the organic dairies that we are proud to feature exceed this grazing standard, such as Straus Family Creamery, where the grazing season is 7 months out of the year and their animals have a diet that is predominately forages (75 to 80 percent) that includes fresh grasses, silage, and hay. The rest of the diet is made up of non-GMO grains, such as rye, triticale, flax meal (a great source of the omega-3 fat ALA), and wheat.

Natural Grocers’ Naturally Raised Dairy Standard have always led the way in the natural foods industry. We were among the first to ban dairy products from cows given bovine growth hormone (rBGH) shortly after the FDA approved it in 1993. (rBGH was the second GMO product approved for use in food by the FDA, recombinant chymosin was the first). However, because of the surreptitious growth of confinement dairies in general, and their incursion into the natural food sector specifically, we decided that it was time to tighten our Naturally Raised Dairy Standard. We are once again implementing what are probably the most rigorous — we’d like to think the best and the healthiest — standard for dairy products in the natural foods and grocery industry.

We will no longer sell dairy products that come from confinement dairies. Additionally, they must meet our other strict quality and humane treatment guidelines:

  • We will only offer our customers dairy products from animals that have grazed on pasture for a minimum of 120 days during the grazing season. (That amount of time is calculated to suit a dairy anywhere from New Hampshire to Florida, from Montana to Texas, though a grazing season could be longer in a warmer climate).
  • No animal by-products in feed.
  • No bovine growth hormone (rBST or rBGH).
  • No growth promoters, including but not limited to antibiotics, hormones, coccidostats (anti-parasitic drugs), and ionophores (non-therapeutic antibiotics that increase feed efficiency and are used to treat bloat and acidosis).
  • No sub-therapeutic or off-label use of drugs at any time, throughout the entire life-cycle of the animals – including birth, youth, pregnancy, lactating, and dry periods.
  • If antibiotics are administered, milk must be tested to be free of residues before it is allowed for human consumption.
  • No cloned animals.
  • No implanted embryos.
  • No GMO alfalfa.
  • Animal welfare farming addresses the needs of animals first, ensuring that every animal has access to clean water, fresh air, appropriate feed and a stress-free environment. Allows the opportunity to exhibit natural behaviors.
  • Tail docking is prohibited.

We are committed to bringing our customers dairy from healthier animals that have led healthier lives.

The good news is that these measures will bring our customers:

  • Dairy products that reap the health and environmental benefits of treating animals well and providing them with the diet that nature intended, including:
  • Dairy products with a superior nutrient profile (more conjugated linoleic acid [CLA], a better omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, and higher levels of vitamins A, E, K2, and the carotenes).
  • Dairy products that bring us back to an American way of life from not that long ago with cows and goats grazing on growing pasture, eating the fresh grasses they were born to eat, and contributing to the health of grassland ecosystems rather than creating antibiotic contaminated manure lagoons.

Pastured Dairies

Pasture-based dairies are dairies where the natural needs of the animals are considered at all times. They are provided with an environment and a diet that is much closer to what nature intended.

Animals on these types of dairies graze on growing pasture for a minimum of 120 days during the grazing season. Dairy animals, like cows, are ruminants, and they are healthiest and happiest outside in the sun, grazing on grass-like vegetation. This diet and lifestyle is fundamental for their overall wellbeing. Additionally, if and/or when they are fed supplemental feed, the proportion of forages to grains is designed to meet their needs first, not production. Thus, they are fed fewer grains and more forages, the exact opposite of what happens on confinement dairies. This emphasis on animal needs and natural diet means the animals are healthier, less stressed and more content. They produce high quality milk with a superior nutrient profile. Studies confirm that grass-fed milk contains more CLA, omega-3s and vitamins than milk from confinement dairies.

Additional Resources

DesertificationDairy Standard FAQFor Producers

Brand AlternativesApproved Dairy Products

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