Bon Appétit Resurrects ND Dairy to Produce rBGH-free Milk

Bon Appétit’s sustainable “Farm to Fork” program re-opens Great Plains Dairy to produce Deja Moo dairy products.
By Dale Monson

After closing its doors more than two years ago, the former Schultz Creamery in Bismarck, North Dakota, re-opened last summer and began producing Deja Moo milk for Bon Appétit Management, a leading food service management company. Bon Appétit revived the newly named Great Plains Dairy to produce milk from cows not treated with genetically engineered bovine growth hormone, rBGH.

Jim Odney, president of Great Plains Dairy, says, “Without Bon Appétit, we could never have re-opened our plant.”

Bon Appétit’s Farm to Fork program
Bon Appétit, based in Palo Alto, California, offers café and catering services to specialty venues, universities, and corporations. The company established an innovative “Farm to Fork” program that is committed to supporting sustainable farming practices and farmers that steer away from pesticides, antibiotics, and hormones.

This agrees with Odney who says his company’s research suggests that growing numbers of people don’t want milk produced by cows that have been treated with rBGH, which forces cows to produce more milk.

According to Bon Appétit Management Co. regional Vice President, David Toay, “Great Plains and the Deja Moo brand represent that same commitment by only selling milk from cows not treated with growth hormones.”

“This is our niche,” says Odney. “The companies we supply our growth hormone-free milk to are made up of very bright and well-educated employees, and the colleges have very progressive and knowledgeable students who are demanding it and are demanding it of their food management companies.”

Deja Moo struck a chord
Odney says that Deja Moo is also preferred by consumers who want milk that doesn’t have the taste processed out of it. Great Plains’ partner and general manager, Glen Bosch says, “We have heard from many consumers who have told us they want fresher tasting milk made from cows not treated with growth hormones.”

The strategy appears to be working. “Deja Moo has really struck a chord amongst our customers,” says Bon Appétit’s Donald Holmblad, executive chef at Best Buy Corporate Headquarters in Richfield, Minnesota. “Many of them have commented that they have never tasted such good milk, especially the chocolate milk. Our customers have really connected with the Deja Moo brand.”

Sourcing milk from family farmers
Great Plains sources its milk from about 20 family farm producers in Central and South Central North Dakota, all of whom “think that injecting growth hormones is no way to treat a cow,” says Odney. All of the producers sign a pledge stating they will supply only rBGH-free milk for the dairy.

Odney also says that many institutions want a full-service, rBGH-free milk supplier like Great Plains. He says large suppliers in the dairy industry will only process one-gallon containers and, perhaps, one run of rBGH-free milk per week. “It’s hard for the regular diary industry to sort out the non-hormone milk from the regular supply, and because of the inefficiency of that, they choose not to do it,” said Odney.

Even Wal-Mart buys rBGH-free milk
While the contract with Bon Appétit has allowed Odney to revive his business, Great Plains still needs retail sales to remain viable. Odney recently signed a deal with Wal-Mart to distribute the rBGH-free Deja Moo brand. “We weren’t looking to supply the big companies like Wal-Mart—we were looking to be the local good guys—but the economic realities necessitated going with them, and the experience in dealing with them has been very good,” he says.

Wal-Mart will market Deja Moo in Bismarck with rBGH-free labels prominently displayed on the milk containers. If sales are good in Bismarck, Wal-Mart says it will market the milk regionally.

©Copyright 2006 The Organic & Non-GMO Report