GMO Inside Blog

GMO Yogurt: How does your favorite brand stack up?

GMO Inside is calling on Chobani to shift to non-GMO feed sources for its dairy cows.  Chobani processes roughly 40 million pounds of milk per week from over 78,000 dairy cows on nearly 900 farms.  All told, that’s a lot of milk!  Milk which comes from cows who are eating GMO feed 2-3 times per day.

While Chobani is the largest Greek yogurt manufacturer with roughly 50% market share, we are hoping that all yogurt makers will insist on using milk from cows fed non-GMO diets.   GMOs have never been proven safe for human consumption and there is a growing body of studies which demonstrates that great caution should be exercised when developing and consuming GMOs.  A large percentage of the GMO crops grown in the US are used as animal feed. (Read more about GMO feed here.)  By shifting away from GMO feed for their cows, Chobani has the power to shift thousands of acres of farmland to non-GMO farming techniques.

While GMO Inside believes the “Precautionary Principle” to be the best approach when it comes to developing and consuming GMOs, we know that consumers may care about a number of factors when it comes to choosing food products.  The following chart captures various consumer concerns related to Greek yogurt.  It is by no means exhaustive as far as brand or concerns go, but we hope it helps!

For more information on these brands, read below.  Better yet, you can call your favorite yogurt brand and ask the questions that matter to you.  If the company gives you an answer you are not satisfied with, let them know why!

Yogurt Brand GMO Ingredients? GM Feed for Cows rBST (synthetic growth hormone) Milk Protein Concentrate (thickening agent) Organic Options? GMO Inside’s overall rating
Chobani No Likely No No No C
Fage No Likely No No No B
Greek Gods No Likely No No No B
Yoplait Greek Likely Likely No Yes No F
Dannon Oikos Likely Likely No No No D
Stonyfield No No No No Yes A
Nancy’s No No No No Yes A
Strauss Creamery No No No No Yes A
Wallaby No No No No Yes A

Did we exclude one of your favorite brands?  Please add your comments or questions on our blog and we’ll get the scoop! Or check out Be Food Smart for an even deeper look at these Greek yogurt brands.

Fage

Fage is a close second in the Greek yogurt market, holding 14 percent of the market in 2011. The positives to Fage brand yogurt are that no milk concentrate is used (like Yoplait, see below) and they do not add extra thickeners to their plain varieties, though they are most likely added for their flavored yogurt. On their website, they highlight the healthy benefits to Fage, including statements saying it is beneficial to vegetarians, diabetics, and it is gluten free for those with gluten allergies or preferences. However, there is currently no organic option.

Greek Gods

Greek Gods was founded in Seattle, Washington in 2003 and is now owned by Hain Celestial.   They do not add milk protein concentrate, artificial coloring, or rBST, but there is no organic variety available.

Yoplait

Yoplait Greek is owned by General Mills and is the second most popular overall yogurt company in the US, the first being Chobani. Yoplait Greek promotes the health aspect of their product, advertising the high levels of calcium, vitamin D, and protein, especially for their kid’s products, as well as claiming their product can help with weight loss. However, their website does admit to using aspartame (artificial sweetener), carmine (red coloring), gelatin, and milk protein concentrate in their Yoplait Greek Parfait cups.  There are no organic options available.  In 2012, General Mills spent over $1 million to oppose GMO labeling in California.

Dannon

Oikos is Dannon’s Greek yogurt brand.  It is not certified as USDA organic and does not mention “natural” or “non-GMO” products on their website.  They also have no statement on rbST use, or a bovine growth hormone used on cattle, so it is possible that these substances are used. They use cultured grade A non-fat milk, though fruit varieties include additives such as fructose, modified corn starch, and other products.

Stonyfield

Stonyfield is an all organic yogurt company started in 1983 that is sold in natural food stores, national supermarkets and large retailers across the country. All of their products are USDA Organic certified (including Stonyfield Greek and YoBaby); therefore, they are audited throughout the production process to ensure that they do not use pesticides or herbicides, GMOs, antibiotics, or growth hormones. In regards to GMOs, they are currently in the process of being approved by the non-GMO Project, which will test their animal feed for GMO contamination. They formally state that they believe GMO products should be labeled to guarantee consumer safety and were a founding company of Just Label It, a non-profit advocating for GMO labeling. Group Danone(which also owns Dannon) is the parent company of Stonyfield, owning 85 percent of the company, yet Stonyfield maintains a unique partnership with Groupe Danone, with company co-founder Gary Hirshberg remaining Chairman and the company remaining true to it’s health and environmental mission.

Nancy’s

Nancy’s is another USDA organic certified Greek yogurt company owned by Springfield Creamery in Eugene, Oregon.  Nancy’s does not add any thickeners or pectins and strains off the whey during production. They say they use all organic fruits from the Northwest region. On their website they describe their milk sources, stating they are from local dairy farms, mostly within a 50 mile radius of their creamery in Eugene. They do not use pesticides, antibiotics, or synthetic growth hormones, and their product is USDA certified by Oregon Tilth. Their website does not directly say that they are GMO free, but their organic certification prohibits GMO use.

Wallaby’s Family

Wallaby’s yogurt company is based out of Napa Valley, California and inspired by a trip to Australia by the co-founders who were inspired by the sweet, amazing flavor of their yogurt. They use organic milk from nearby farms in Sonoma and Marin counties. They are organic certified by Quality Assurance International (QAI) and the USDA. Due to their organic certification, they are also GMO free.

Conclusion

Genetically modified organisms, introduced in 1996, now represent a major part of our food system.  (Roughly 90% in crops like corn and soy, and included in nearly 85% of processed foods).  In spite of their ubiquity, the benefits of GMOs are less apparent.  Genetically modified crops have led to increased usage of herbicides, increased chemical residues on foods, organic farm contamination, lawsuits between chemical companies and farmers because their fields were pollinated with patented seeds, and various health issues in laboratory animals and livestock, just to name a few of the problems with GMOs.

It will be impossible to eliminate GMO farming without addressing the food that is given to animals.   Because GMO crops are so often used to feed livestock, including cows, GMO Inside hopes to encourage progress throughout the dairy industry.

Chobani is the leader within the Greek yogurt industry, and with this leadership comes responsibility.  By working with its supply chain partners to switch to non-GMO or organic feed sources, Chobani can effectively reduce demand for GMO crops by a lot (40 million pounds of milk per week, remember?).  This will in turn increase demand for non-GMO crops and help to convert thousands of acres of farmland away from GMO farming techniques.

Please sign our petition to Chobani!

 

55 Awesome Comments So Far

Don't be a stranger, join the discussion by leaving your own comment
  1. Cassie
    July 25, 2013 at 9:32 pm #

    What about generic brands? I mostly buy generics anyway, not name brands.

  2. Carmela Congdon
    July 25, 2013 at 10:32 pm #

    How about Brown Cow yogurt?

    • Kelly
      January 23, 2014 at 1:31 pm #

      Brown Cow is verified non-GMO by the NON-GMO project

      • Michelle Kim
        January 23, 2014 at 2:18 pm #

        Thanks for your comment, Kelly! As of now, only Brown Cow Non-GMO Greek Yogurt is non-GMO verified by the Non-GMO Project, which can be found at Whole Foods Market. Hopefully there will be more to come! For anyone interested in finding out more, click the link: http://www.browncowfarm.com/our-yogurt/non-gmo-greek

        • Jason
          February 28, 2014 at 12:07 pm #

          Michelle,

          With regards to specific reasons why other Brown Cow varieties besides the Non-GMO exclusive to Whole Foods: Are Brown Cow dairy cows fed GMO alfalfa, or pastured on land sown with GMO alfalfa?

          Thanks,
          Jason

  3. Lia Evard
    August 3, 2013 at 7:13 pm #

    Hi there! I have a question about Chobani. In the first paragraph it says they are feeding their cows feed with GMOs but later in the chart it says their yogurt has no GMOs, could you explain to me how that works? Thanks!

    • Corinne Molz
      August 5, 2013 at 11:30 am #

      Of course! Chobani does feed their livestock GMO feed, meaning that there are most likely GMO ingredients in their dairy product. However, Chobani does not add any other GMO products, such as GMO fruit, high fructose corn syrup, or any other ingredient besides the milk that has GMO ingredients. I hope this helps, let us know if you have any other questions!

      • Melissa
        January 23, 2014 at 4:44 pm #

        Whole Foods announced that they will actually pull Chobani yogurts from their shelves because they DO use GMO products and when asked if they would stop, Chobani went in a different direction and continues to still use GMO products.

  4. Janet
    August 13, 2013 at 9:55 pm #

    what about Costco’ Kirkland brand?

    • Corinne Molz
      August 14, 2013 at 3:16 pm #

      Hi Janet!

      Unfortunately, since there is no GMO labeling in the US, there is no way to know if a product such as Costco’s Kirkland Greek yogurt brand has GMO ingredients or not without being certified USDA Organic. However, if a product is certified USDA organic, it is guaranteed that GMOs were not used in the making of the product. I hope this answers your question, thank you for your comment!

      • Jason
        February 28, 2014 at 12:11 pm #

        I don’t believe that is entirely true. A product that is not organic certified can still be Non-GMO certified. Though you are correct that there is no label requirement that a product declare that GMO ingredients ARE used. Consumers that are concerned about GMOs can look for the Non-GMO project cerification on products which are not necessarily organic certified.

  5. Jim
    August 26, 2013 at 12:40 am #

    What about Dannon’s Fit and Lite Greek Yogurt?

    • Corinne Molz
      August 28, 2013 at 1:26 pm #

      Hey Jim! As with all products now without a USDA Organic label, there is no way of knowing if there are GM products in Dannon’s Fit and Lite Greek Yogurt. However, since GM animal feed is so prominent in the dairy industry, it is very likely that it contains GM products. To be safe, it is best to look for yogurts with the USDA Organic label since using non GM products is one of the requirements for certification. Thanks for your comment!

  6. gretchen
    September 8, 2013 at 9:43 am #

    wish you would encourage Cabot to go GMO free

  7. Nicole
    September 11, 2013 at 8:59 am #

    Do you have any information about Alta Dena?

    • Shireen Karimi
      September 23, 2013 at 5:09 pm #

      Alta Dena is owned by Dean Foods. They are not organic or verified by the Non-GMO Project. Therefore, their milk most likely comes from cows fed GMOs.

  8. Susan
    September 14, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

    GMO Inside is calling on Chobani to shift to non-GMO feed sources for its dairy cows .. neato.

    Tell me, please…with all due respect, are THE ANAL GLANDS OF BEAVERS considered a GMO????????? My neck is killing me from shaking my head so much.

    Help!!

    Thank You.

    • Jason
      February 28, 2014 at 1:08 pm #

      I would assume that the anal glands of beavers would be non-GMO, unless the specific beaver they came from was genetically modified. Why would it not be non-GMO, and why wouldn’t it also not be natural? People are getting way to concerned about the beaver gland thing. So little of that is used in industry (couple hundred pounds), compared to MILLIONS OF POUNDS of artificial flavoring, and millions of pounds of natural vanilla. I’d be more worried about the artificial flavoring, or GMO vanilla being labelled “natural” than I would the beaver gland secretions. Don’t let it distract you from the real problems. What’s more natural? Beaver gland secretion from a non-GMO beaver, or vanilla extract from GMO vanilla beans? It’s kinda a moot point anyway, the beaver stuff is so rare you’ll probably never encounter it anyway.

  9. Sandra
    September 15, 2013 at 7:53 pm #

    If I can’t find plain Stonyfield, I buy White Mountain Bulgarian yogurt, which says “no artificial hormones” on label. Any info on this brand?

  10. Sam
    September 22, 2013 at 5:43 pm #

    What is the difference in cost between Dannon Oikos yogurt and Stonyfields? I would like to switch, but if the pricing is drastic that may not be possible.

  11. Jesse
    September 26, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

    What about the flavor ingredients in the flavored yogurts such as strawberry, etc etc.. The FDA doesn’t require them to list what is in them and they just put ‘Natural Flavors’, but they are no safer than artificial flavoring. I read just in strawberry flavoring alone that it has over 25 ingredients, but because it is under a certain percent used they get away with it.

    • Jason
      February 28, 2014 at 1:02 pm #

      Exactly how or why are natural flavors not any better/safer than artificial flavors?

  12. Carla
    September 28, 2013 at 9:01 pm #

    How about Muller Greek Corner yogurt?

    • Shireen Karimi
      October 1, 2013 at 11:52 am #

      On the Muller yogurt Facebook page, in response to someone asking them (great), they said “The majority of the milk used for our products comes from dairy farms in upstate New York. A significant portion of the corn and soy, including feed, in the U.S. is genetically modified. We do not require or exclude these ingredients in our products.” It’s good they are honest and upfront. Huge thank you to the farmers they are using. We love farmers! They have such a hard and necessary job. We just need to help create more non-GMO feed.

      • Brad
        January 9, 2014 at 6:00 pm #

        They also add milk powder concentrate to soak up the acid whey. Good plan.

  13. Kristine
    November 16, 2013 at 7:24 pm #

    Not being a troll, just a little grossed out. What can I do to change the industry???? My shopping dollars only count for so much and I can only afford so much. I try to make responsible decisions, and I’m not, in any way an “activist”, I just want good, clean food. I guess that means becoming an “activist” ? What can us ‘regular’ people do to promote honest labeling and encourage industry NOT to use synthetic things that we know nothing about??? btw, I’m switching to Stonyfield as of today. Thanks so much for your site :)

  14. Anne
    November 22, 2013 at 12:51 pm #

    My absolute favorite is the fruit at the bottom -used to be produced by Breyers ( and Dannon eons ago) and Bryers has evidently sold it to the local grocery store name Southern Home. Any info on this??

    • Anne
      January 15, 2014 at 4:04 am #

      It’s been almost 2 months since I posed (and posted) my ??. I really wd like to see aresponse from the GMO inside pple. thanx

      • Michelle Kim
        January 15, 2014 at 10:12 am #

        Thanks for your question, Anne, and sorry for the wait. Due to the volume of comments we receive, we are not always able to address questions right away, but thank you for the reminder and keeping us on our toes! Based on the information we could find, Breyers Yogurt used to be owned by Healthy Food Holdings, an affiliate of a private equity firm called Catterton Partners. Breyers Yogurt has since been discontinued. Catterton still produces YoCrunch Yogurt, which was formerly co-branded as Breyers, but is now a brand owned by the Danone family of products. If you are looking for a non-GMO fruit-on-the-bottom option, Stonyfield is a great one!

        • Anne
          January 15, 2014 at 12:03 pm #

          thanks for reply. Is Danone any connection to Dannon? Unfortunately I cannot get Stonyfield fruit on the bottom in this area. I have been missing terribly their yogurt smoothies – esp raspberry which is the best in the world! since my local health food store’s distributors stopped carrying them. I have been back n forth with Stoneyfield over this issue. So I have to resort to kefir which is ok bu nothing like Stoneyfield’s smoothies. and in the meantime I will continue to enjoy the “Southern Home” fruit on the bottom carried by Bi-lo grocery. Thanks also for the valuable info on who owns whom!

  15. Melody
    December 18, 2013 at 6:22 pm #

    Can you tell me if Trader Joes Organic Greek Yogurt is GMO free? I was so happy to finally see an organic greek yogurt but now wondering. Thanks.

    • Michelle Kim
      January 23, 2014 at 3:07 pm #

      Thanks for your question, Melody! Trader Joe’s Organic Greek Yogurt is USDA- and Quality Assurance International-certified, so it does not contain genetically modified ingredients. Enjoy!

  16. Lisa
    December 27, 2013 at 7:58 pm #

    I am curious how Whole Foods is dropping Chobani b/c it feeds the cows GMO feed but Fage is not being singled out. Is this to come?

    I personally contacted Chobani after reading the announcement and look forward to an Chobani changing this practice.

    thank you for keeping us informed.

  17. Brad
    January 9, 2014 at 5:57 pm #

    Don’t be selfish. Why should we pay more to produce less product with non-GMO products? That just means ultimately someone who can’t afford to pay as much as I can will need to go hungry. Don’t you see the value of technology? Why not pay less to grow more on less land and everybody gets to eat versus just those that can afford non-GMO varieties?

    Think it through people. More for less…

    • Lisa Haynie
      January 20, 2014 at 11:55 am #

      Well Brad, I understand your point IF there were no differences in food product either way, BUT the problem lies with the safety of food containing GMOs. If we all eat it in its abundance as you suggest, we are all going to suffer the health consequences, socio-economic statuses aside.

      I’ve thought about the labeling problem at hand, and I believe the answer to companies who don’t want you to know what’s in their food is to simply not purchase it if it’s not properly labeled. If the campaign gets big enough (media driven, of course), and the general public becomes aware of the dangers of GMOs, we won’t buy the stuff anyway, labeled or unlabeled.

  18. jan irwin
    January 9, 2014 at 10:21 pm #

    I am interested to see how Brown Cow yogurt stacks up, that IS OUR FAVORITE BRAND. Thank you

  19. Kim
    January 19, 2014 at 4:07 pm #

    In your chart Stonyfield doesnt use GMO’s for feed. however on their website they admit to using plants that are insect resistent. From what I’ve read those are GM crops. They also said the organic industry is using that technology along with other methods to control pests.

    • Michelle Kim
      January 23, 2014 at 3:03 pm #

      Thanks for your comment, Kim! Stonyfield is a USDA-certified organic line of products, so in accordance with USDA-organic policies, their products do not contain genetically modified ingredients. It is possible to use hybridization and cross breeding with certain plant varieties to develop crops that are more resistant to pests than others, but this is a traditional farming method used for hundreds of years, and not the same as genetic engineering. Please feel free to read more about organic pest control methods by clicking the link: http://www.stonyfield.com/blog/all-pesticides-arent-equal/

  20. CLIFF
    January 25, 2014 at 1:29 pm #

    I can’t imagine why our FDA allows anal glands from rodents (like beavers) to be labeled “natural flavors/coloring.” I do NOT want to eat anal glands from any animal. Are all certified non-GMO yogurts free from anal glands and crushed beetles?

    • Jason
      February 28, 2014 at 12:57 pm #

      Why would animal anal gland secretions or crushed beetles not be considered natural? What’s un-natural about them? If you research the beaver gland secretions that are sometimes (extremely, extremely rarely) used as a vanilla flavoring/perfume scent, you’d find that it is some tiny fraction of a percent of the natural flavoring used, only a few very specific products use that, and because those gland secretions are in such limited supply, it is highly unlikely anything you’ve ever consumed has them in it. Something like 200 pounds of the glandular secretions are produced each year, where many, many millions of pounds of ARTIFICIAL vanilla flavorings and many, many millions of pounds of natural vanilla are used by industry annually. I’d be much more worried about all the artificial vanilla (a very large percentage of the flavoring used by industry), than the lottery high odds of an errant molecule of beaver butt gland secretion ending up in a product you consume. Unless you are a strict vegan, why would that even matter? I’m pretty sure the majority of that 200 pounds is used in perfumes. I looked up the numbers once and did the calculations, literally something like 99.9999% of all vanilla flavoring is either artificial, or natural vanilla from vanilla plants. The average American consumes something like a millionth of a teaspoon of the beaver gland stuff, you’re talking like a spec the size of a dust particle. All the controversy about the beaver glands only serves to distract you from the millions of pounds (a pound or more per person) of lab created chemical vanilla flavoring that people are ingesting without a second thought. I’m sure the artificial vanilla flavoring manufacturers love all the negative publicity their competition (natural vanilla producers) are getting over a dust size spec of something that comes from an animal.

  21. Maggie
    February 2, 2014 at 4:12 pm #

    What about muellers

  22. RoxieR
    February 3, 2014 at 7:22 pm #

    what about SoDelicious products? are they non GMO?

    • Michelle Kim
      February 10, 2014 at 9:55 am #

      Thanks for the question, Roxie! SoDelicious products are all Non-GMO Project Verified – you can see the beautiful banner they’ve added to the website here: http://sodeliciousdairyfree.com/

  23. Jennifer
    February 8, 2014 at 7:49 pm #

    What about Icelandic skyr from Siggy’s, it’s sort of like Greek because it’s thick and high in protein, is it gmo free?

    • Michelle Kim
      February 10, 2014 at 9:52 am #

      Thanks for the question, Jennifer! Siggi’s is not certified organic or non-GMO verified, but the company uses only grass-fed milk and does not support the use of growth hormone in dairy cows. Read more here: http://siggisdairy.com/v2/faq/

  24. Alexa Sanchez
    February 13, 2014 at 11:39 pm #

    How about trader joes Greek yogurt?

  25. Ceasar
    February 24, 2014 at 1:27 pm #

    i was wondering if LA Yogurt (johanna foods, inc) is non-GMO?

  26. Kathryn
    March 3, 2014 at 4:41 pm #

    Thanks for the great information! How about Voskos? The label says “GMO Free”, but do you know if that includes the cow feed? And, would modified corn starch run the risk of being GMO?

    • Michelle Kim
      March 18, 2014 at 10:05 am #

      Voskos Yogurt is not Non-GMO Project Verified, but it does say GMO-free on their website.

      • Kathryn
        March 23, 2014 at 9:36 pm #

        Thank you, Michelle! :-)

  27. Kathryn
    March 3, 2014 at 4:45 pm #

    One more question: how about Noosa? (Sorry; I should’ve included this in the previous post!) :-)

    • Michelle Kim
      March 18, 2014 at 10:01 am #

      Hey Kathryn! Thanks for your comment! Noosa is not Non-GMO Project Verified. From their site, it’s not clear if their yogurt contains GMOs or not.

      • Kathryn
        March 23, 2014 at 9:35 pm #

        Thank you so much, Michelle!

  28. Eva
    March 28, 2014 at 1:56 am #

    Hi, thanks for your information. I am just wondering if silk soy milk has GMO. They are not orangic but they do label as “non GMO project verified”.

    • Michelle Kim
      March 30, 2014 at 10:57 pm #

      Hey Eva! Thanks for your comment. Yes, Silk soy milk is non-GMO. You’re safe with anything that is Non-GMO Project Verified :)

Leave a Comment

Remember to play nicely folks, nobody likes a troll.