- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 26, 2012

MONTPELIER | Cabot Creamery Cooperative is losing a little Vermont on its labels, and that has government officials worried that Vermont is losing a little publicity.

The farmer-owned cooperative, which makes cheese, butter and other dairy products, is phasing out labels with the state’s name in the logo because not all its products are wholly made in Vermont.

The old logo has the word “Vermont” stamped over a green outline of the state. The new one has a green barn and the words “Owned by our Farm Families in New York & New England.”

Some state officials are worried about the change, saying Cabot’s widespread distribution helps promote other Vermont products and tourism, and are considering changing state law to let Cabot keep the Vermont reference in its logo.

“For this Vermont boy, Cabot is Vermont and Vermont is Cabot,” Gov. Peter Shumlin said in an interview Tuesday.

The state zealously guards the reputation of its famous foods. It even has a “maple specialist” who checks on the state’s most famous product to make sure it tastes right, has the correct sugar concentration and is properly graded.

While Cabot has been synonymous with Vermont since the cooperative was founded in 1919, the state also has a tough truth-in-labeling law. Take a food product like butter.

If a company wants to use the state’s name to help sell butter, 75 percent of the cream must be from Vermont and 75 percent of the butter itself must be made in the state. If not, a company wanting to use the Vermont name on its logo has to disclose on the front of its package that it’s actually an out-of-state product.

Assistant Attorney General Elliot Burg, head of his office’s consumer protection division, said the butter issue came to his attention two years ago as he was negotiating an agreement on a separate matter: the labeling of products as not coming from cows treated with artificial growth hormone.

Cabot’s butter is made in West Springfield, Mass., with cream from across New England, said Roberta MacDonald, Cabot’s vice president for marketing.

But Vermont references were “all over the packaging,” Mr. Burg said. Besides having Vermont in its logo, Cabot was using packaging space to tout Vermont woodworkers and their products.

Cabot’s cheeses and other products continue to be made in Vermont, but the milk used in making them comes from farms across northern New England and New York.

Mr. Shumlin said he was working on a compromise proposal to be unveiled in the coming days “that might lead us to a solution that would preserve the integrity of the Vermont brand and enable Vermont companies like Cabot to spread the Vermont love.”

Richard Stammer, CEO of Agri-Mark Inc., a Northeast dairy cooperative that includes Cabot, said that even if the state changes its truth-in-labeling law, Cabot will not change its logo back.

“That’s our brand. … It’s a serious thing,” he said.

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