Last night I went to the store and bought a half-gallon of fairlife chocolate milk. Then I went home, poured a glass and drank it. And I felt good about it.
Recently a video was released showing some pretty despicable treatment of calves by employees at Fair Oaks Farms. Fair Oaks Farms has a connection to fairlife. The owners of Fair Oaks, Mike and Sue McCloskey, started Select Milk cooperative, which partnered with Coca Cola to create and market fairlife. The product has been one of the most successful fluid milk innovations in the history of the dairy industry.
The activist group that produced the video is calling for a boycott of fairlife as a way to protest the acts shown in the video and in some way punish Fair Oaks for allowing those acts to happen.
On the contrary, I poured that glass of milk and drank it because I support Fair Oaks. I did it because of what I know, not because of what I don’t know.
I know the practices shown on the video were conducted by people who have no regard for animal care. I also know that within the employee pool at Fair Oaks, they were the exception and not the rule. I sense this because three of the four employees were fired even before the video was released because other employees adhered to the “see it, say it” rule and reported them for other animal abuse violations.
By the way, the undercover activist who shot the video obviously did not adhere to that rule.
I am also able to put context around the footage shown in the video and, therefore, assume that what happened was an isolated incident. That undercover employee collected a vast amount of video over their several months of employment. From that vast amount of video they were able to find a few minutes of abuse. Let’s see the rest of the footage that shows animals being cared for the right way.
I also bought fairlife because I know that when bad things like this happen, boycotting a product is a way of turning your back on those actions. You’re angry about what you saw, and therefore you’re going to punish the company responsible. As you walk away, you’ve done nothing to effect change, in fact you just exacerbated the problem rather than being a part of the solution.
People who boycott brands act the same as the cooperatives and retail brands that cut off the milk supply from dairies that have been part of undercover videos. I know why they do it – to appease consumer outcry. But it tells me that those brands have no real vested interest in dairy farmers or the animals on dairy farms. If they did, they would help work with those dairies to make sure changes are made so those heinous actions never happen again. Instead backs are turned and, for all they know, those actions continue unabated.
Wouldn’t it be great if the folks at fairlife came out and said that they stand beside Fair Oaks Farms? That they know that the incidents were isolated and done by rogue employees and not a reflection of what happens every day on the farm? Wouldn’t it be great if they vowed to work with Fair Oaks to make sure this didn’t happen again? Wouldn’t it be great if they were a voice of reason and not a voice of reaction? Maybe someday a brand will have enough gumption to take that stand.
Until then, I’ll do my part to support the dairy producers who make the milk that goes into great products like fairlife. And I’ll do it with a clear conscious, knowing that I’m supporting a solution, not growing the problem.
What do you think of the Fair Oaks situation? Are you boycotting fairlife? Let me know at email@example.com
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Also, I discussed the Fair Oaks video and response on Overhe(a)rd, the Farm Journal Livestock podcast, here: