Monday, May 03, 2010


Collaborative investigation begins-highlighting some store brands of milk and a troubling history

by Larry Geller

On Friday I introduced A collaborative model—The Faster Times readers work with professional journalists on a joint investigation (4/30/2010). It is well underway, according to today’s report.

I’m used to seeing only the product of investigative reporting—the dramatic revelation, the profound proof of longterm wrongdoing or political malfeasance. The stuff that sells the newspaper that funded it. Of course, there are investigations that don’t yield much of use. You can never tell until you dig in to something. Would watching those be interesting? Is the work of an investigative reporter exciting, boring or could it be grunt work (horrors).

Where there is smoke, there may be either fire—or just huli huli chicken. You never know in advance.

So I wonder how The Faster Times Generic Foods investigation will go, and in the end, how readers will react if the drama has been diluted by their ability to spy (or to participate!) in the process. This is an experiment to watch, regardless of what they turn up.

Let the turning up begin, though. From today’s update, it seems the groundwork is being laid:

…five other readers, some former employees of retail grocers, others friends of private-label producers, sent us the inside scoop on which private-label products are made by which manufacturers.

There is already a small table listing correspondence between a few store-brands and their manufacturers.  Several are store-brand milk. And this comment:

As a general rule, the products made by manufacturers that also make a name-brand product tend to be the best value. Aurora Organic Dairy, which supplies both Safeway and Wal-Mart (as well as Target) with private-label organic milk, has been in trouble off and on since 2007 for violating various aspects of the USDA’s National Organic Program.

Reporter Amy Westervelt also gives some tools for research. Check out the articles, follow or participate. No paywall.


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