Kalona SuperNatural dairy going beyond organic

Kalona SuperNatural dairy going beyond organic

Kalona SuperNatural is among a growing number of companies in the latest beyond organic movement. The term beyond organic has different meanings for different people, from how livestock are raised to how food is treated once it leaves the farm. Almost all are focused on the idea that providing organic food goes beyond what it takes to become USDA-certified.


The ingredient list on the side of a Kalona SuperNatural cottage cheese carton reads: milk, cream, salt and cultures.

The organic dairy operation just northeast of Kalona prides itself on keeping things simple.

"We've all heard people say, 'Don't eat anything your grandmother wouldn't recognize,'" said Joanna Mouming, marketing director for the company.

That means no gums, stabilizers or unnecessary additives that are commonly found in more traditional varieties of cottage cheese and other dairy products.

Kalona SuperNatural was launched last year, but it began five years earlier as Kalona Organics, a company that distributed dairy products for Farmer's All Natural Creamery near Kalona, and yogurt for Cultural Revolution out of Wisconsin.

In 2010, it consolidated the brands under the new name.

Kalona SuperNatural is among a growing number of companies in the latest "beyond organic" movement.

"We use beyond organic to describe how it's processed," said Bill Evans, founder and owner of Kalona SuperNatural. "It's about leaving foods in as naturalized a state as possible."

The term beyond organic has different meanings for different people, from how livestock are raised to how food is treated once it leaves the farm.

Almost all are focused on the idea that providing organic food goes beyond what it takes to become USDA-certified.

The idea is catching on with consumers who, as they become more educated, are more focused on the details and less on the labels, said Jenifer Angerer, marketing manager at New Pioneer Co-op.

"Several of our local growers aren't even certified organic, because the process is lengthy and expensive, but they all follow the same practices and then some," Angerer said.

All of the farmers who provide dairy products for Kalona SuperNatural are members of the local Amish and Mennonite community and all of them use strict organic processes in their farming, including grass feeding their cattle, Evans said.

The company is strict about collaborating with small family farms that only raise 30 to 40 cows at a time. But what really sets the company apart in the organic sense, Mouming says, is the non-industrialized food.

"There are environmental reasons for organic and health reasons, but once you take that food and process it, industrialize it so it has a longer shelf life, how organic is it?" she said.

At Kalona SuperNatural, milk and cream is non-homogenized, which means cream that normally is blended into the milk using high pressure is left unbothered. It also is pasteurized at the lowest allowable temperature, which Mouming said helps maintain the natural flavor, but also shortens the shelf life.

She said that can cause challenges for the company because products have to be shipped as soon as they're produced.

Mouming said the notion of taking organic food production beyond the growing level and into processing is just starting to catch on.

Kalona SuperNatural is one of only a few companies in the nation to produce non-homogenized milk and minimally processed dairy products.

It has helped the company develop a niche audience in Eastern Iowa and across the country.

"The U.S. is more likely to have more industrialized food, but it's not a radical idea that less industrialized food has better flavor," she said.

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