Inside a South Carolina factory, in industrial vats that stand five stories high, batches of algae are carefully tended, kept warm and fed corn syrup. There the algae, known as schizochytrium, multiply quickly. The payoff, which comes after processing, is a substance that resembles corn oil. It tastes faintly fishy.
Marketed as a nutritional enhancement, the oil is added to millions of cartons of organic milk from Horizon, one of the largest organic brands in the U.S. Rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, the oil allows Horizon to advertise health benefits and charge a higher price. “DHA Omega-3 supports brain health,” according to the Horizon cartons sold in supermarkets around the U.S.
What the Horizon milk carton doesn’t advertise is that some of its contents were brewed in closed stainless steel vats of schizochytrium. This omission avoids any ick reaction from shoppers, but consumer advocates say it also dodges a key question: Is milk supplemented with an oil brewed in a factory really “organic”?