June 7, 2010
Is Cabot cheese rBGH-free or not? As it turns out, not all of it.
There is considerable confusion about Cabot, a subsidiary of the Agri-Mark co-op, based in Methuen, MA. Agri-Mark is the 31st largest processor in the country, producing the Cabot and McCadam cheese brands, in addition to butter and powder.
In January 2009, Agri-Mark representatives told various members of the media that Cabot was going to stop accepting milk from rBGH-injected cows starting August 1, 2009. A Dairy Reporter article said that the board made the decision “to protect sales of its brand against consumer concerns.” And Agri-Mark communications director Doug DiMento told Vermont Public Radio that “we’re trying to take steps to preserve markets for our farmers.”
Agri-Mark said that it was banning the use of rBGH milk at its three plants in New England, located in Vermont and Massachusetts. The plant in Chateaugay, New York, which produces McCadam cheese, still accepts milk from rBGH-injected cows. Agri-Mark had not given the impression that the McCadam brand was rBGH-free.
But it was a different story for Cabot, which is sold throughout the country. Bob Wellington, Agri-Mark senior vice president, was quoted in a January 2009 Lancaster Farming article that “Cabot sales were at risk, and we were going to lose markets if we continued to accept milk from rbST-treated cows at our Middlebury and Cabot (Vt.) cheese plants and our West Springfield (Mass.) butter and powder plant.”
There was the perception both in Vermont and nationwide that any Cabot-labeled cheese would become rBGH-free. Consumer and public health advocates sang the praises of Cabot and the company received many thank you and congratulatory messages applauding the decision.
The praise was premature. People started noticing that some varieties said “Made by” Cabot, while others said “Distributed by” Cabot. Upon further inquiry, Cabot officials confirmed that some of their varieties are not produced in Cabot plants and are not rBGH-free, even though the Cabot label on both is exactly the same.
The varieties that are not rBGH-free are:
In addition, Cabot whipped cream is not rBGH-free.
Agri-Mark and Cabot officials have made no public statements and there is nothing on their website indicating any difference. And, as of this writing, they have not responded to inquiries, both in writing and by phone, asking if they plan to make all their cheese rBGH-free or clarify their rBGH-free inconsistencies for consumers.