Clover Stornetta, which made an early entrance into organics and claims to be the first dairy in the US to become American Humane Certified, said it would work with its farmers to help them make the switch to non-GMO feed.
The broader aim, however, is to spur farmers across the country to make the switch, said president and CEO Marcus Benedetti.
"Our hope is to lead the way by creating an industry-wide movement towards more Non-GMO feed options for our dairy cows. We look forward to working closely with our dairy partners to make this goal a reality.”
Asked about the timeframe, a spokeswoman said: "Many of our dairy partners contract for their feed 12 to 18 months out. Depending upon where they are in that cycle will determine when they can switch their feed to non-GMO feed. Once they switch, the cow needs to eat that feed for at least 30 days before the milk can be certified."
As for who will cover the cost of the transition, she said: "Clover will be offering a premium to its conventional dairies to transition to cover the increased feed and transition costs. Conventional milk pricing is market based and fluctuates monthly, so we cannot be sure of the pricing next year.
"However, in general Clover will absorb some of the increased cost and it is likely consumers will absorb some of it through a minimal premium to the rest of the market."
What does non-GMO mean in the dairy case?
The move is notable in light of recent food litigation (click HERE), which highlights some of the challenges surrounding non-GMO claims and dairy ingredients.
In the yogurt category, for example, some products are marketed as 'non-GMO' becuase they do not contain any ingredients from GM crops. However, if they are made with milk from animals fed genetically engineered animal feed, these products would not, however, qualify for the Non-GMO Project Verified stamp.
By gradually transitioning to non-GMO feed, Cover is therefore adhering to the strictest definition of non-GMO, and joins Dannon, which recently pledged to transition three flagship brands - Dannon, Oikos and Danimals - to using milk from cows fed non-GMO feed within three years.
Move driven by consumer demand, claims Clover
While the scientific consensus is that GM crops are safe, the move was driven by consumer demand, said the company.
"The public is increasingly demanding food that has not been genetically engineered. The total global market for Non-GMO products is predicted to almost double between 2014 and 2019 due to a compound annual growth rate of 15% (Packaged Facts forecasts, 2015). In fact, according to Consumer Reports, 72% of Americans say that it is important to avoid GMOs when they shop, and consumers have been looking for a non-GMO conventional milk alternative.
"That’s why, over the last year, Clover focused on how it could effectively and sustainably offer a non-GMO conventional milk in response to consumer demand."
Based in Petaluma, CA, Clover Stornetta - which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year - makes a variety of organic and conventional dairy products including cheese, milk, ice cream, yogurt, cottage cheese, butter, and sour cream.