Some U.S. grocers pulling Fairlife after alleged animal abuse

Coca-Cola-owned milk brand is putting stricter procedures in place to ensure animal welfare is protected at supplier farms

Clayton Hauck for FairlifeClayton Hauck for Fairlife

Fairlife is on the defensive after a video released by activist group Animal Recovery Mission (ARM) shows animal abuse at one of its dairy suppliers, Fair Oaks Farms.

According to reports, an ARM investigator was hired as a calf care employee between August and November 2018 when he captured footage of some workers engaged in the alleged abuse of calves at the Fair Oaks, Ind.-based farm, which is owned by veterinarian Mike McCloskey. Fair Oaks Farms is one of 30 farms that contributes to Fairlife’s milk supply.

Since the video release, some supermarkets such as Albertsons-owned Jewel-Osco and Tony’s Fresh Market have pulled Fairlife products, the Chicago Tribune has reported.

All parties involved have also released statements on the issue.

“It is with great disappointment to find, after closely reviewing the released ARM video, that there were five individuals committing multiple instances of animal cruelty and despicable judgement,” McCloskey said in a video response. “I am disgusted by, and take full responsibility for, the actions seen in the footage, as it goes against everything that we stand for in regards to responsible cow care and comfort. The employees featured in the video exercised a complete and total disregard for the documented training that all employees go through to ensure the comfort, safety and well-being of our animals.”

All four of the employees’ positions have been terminated (three of them before ARM’s video became public, after being reported by other farm employees). A fifth individual who worked for a transportation company has been banned from the farm.

Fairlife, which is owned by Coca-Cola, said it had suspended milk deliveries from Fair Oaks Farms until “new assurances are in place.”

“Animal care is foundational to Fairlife. We have a responsibility to make sure the dairy farms that supply our milk uphold the highest and most humane standards. We failed in doing that and we’re truly sorry,” said Fairlife COO Tim Doelman in a video posted on the brand’s website. Sorry isn’t enough, he continued, and laid out specific steps Fairlife was taking to ensure animals at all supplying farms are protected.

Fairlife is increasing the number of animal welfare audits it requires for suppliers to 24 audits per year, all of which will be unannounced. And, the company is demanding supplier farms institute a zero-tolerance policy for animal abuse.

A version of this article appeared at ProgressiveGrocer.com.