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ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Wegmans Food Markets, Inc. here introduced its own brand of organic milk late last month, making it one of the first retailers in the United States to offer shoppers pasteurized fresh organic milk under its own label.
Wegmans organic milk comes in half- or whole-gallon sizes, as well as in homogenized, 2 percent, 1 percent, and fat-free varieties.
"We think customers will be very pleased with the taste and quality," said Ken Cassara, v.p., dairy and frozen foods, in a statement. "Some people can detect a taste difference between pasteurized and ultra-pasteurized milk. For example, Horizon Brand organic milk is ultra-pasteurized; our organic milk is pasteurized. Both processes make milk safe to drink, but some people find that pasteurized milk has a flavor they prefer -- a creamier taste. Interestingly, in a blind taste test we did with senior executives, every person preferred the pasteurized Wegmans brand to the ultra-pasteurized choice."
Wegmans' organic milk meets all of the standards of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, including that no antibiotics be used on the cows and that their feed be grown organically, the chain said.
Both Wegmans' organic milk and conventional milk is supplied through Upstate Farms, a cooperative of about 300 dairy farms in New York, as well as a Wegmans supplier for more than 35 years. To meet Wegmans' request for organic milk, however, the co-op had to go beyond its network.
"It takes at least three years for a dairy farm to become certified organic, and while several farms in the Upstate co-op are now in that process, there weren't any farms within their network to meet our needs right now," explained Cassara. "Upstate contracted with eight certified farms outside their network to supply us with organic milk."
The raw milk is transported by tanker truck to Upstate Farms, where it is pasteurized, processed in different varieties such as homogenized or fat-free, and packaged to sell.
"We are pleased to give customers more choice than before -- an organic milk at a competitive price, and a pasteurized fresh, vs. ultra-pasteurized, product," noted Cassara.
Wegmans operates 70 stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, and Maryland.