Chicago-based Fairlife, LLC has been hit with a proposed class action filed by two consumers who say the company has fraudulently advertised and profited from the claim that its milk products are derived from cows that are treated with the highest degrees of care. In truth, cows at Fairlife’s flagship Fair Oaks Farm in Indiana are routinely abused and mistreated, the 21-page complaint alleges.
“As a result, Fairlife has unfairly profited from its customers on the expectation that it treats its cows not just humanely, but in ease and comfort,” the case states.
The lawsuit says that in early June, non-profit Animal Recovery Mission posted an expose online thatdetailed instances of animal cruelty[warning: there are images of animals on the other side of that link that some may consider to be graphic]at the defendant’s farm. The Florida-based animal rights group, via the work of an operative who went undercover as an employee at Fair Oaks Farms, said to have observed Fairlife employees “throwing, slapping, and kicking calves” and captured video of the conduct, the complaint says. According to the lawsuit, Animal Recovery Mission “further witnessed young calves being starved to death, beaten with steel bars, and burned with branding irons,” as well as grown cows too old to produce milk that were “shot and left to die,” which the lawsuit says sometimes took several hours.
Fairlife claims across its products and website that cows at Fair Oaks Farm are treated with “the utmost care” and with “extraordinary care and comfort,” the suit continues, marketing that the plaintiffs attest is a core part of Fairlife’s identity. Consumers rely on Fairlife’s representations of how it treats its animals, and are willing to pay a premium price “for goods and foodstuffs that are grown in humane, sustainable ways,” the complaint reads.
“Fairlife’s products, as demonstrated, are sold at as much as a 100% markup over its competitors,” according to the lawsuit. “A measurable part of that cost reflects the expectation that Fairlife’s products will come from humanely-treated cows.”
In the days after Animal Recovery Mission’s expose made headlines, Fair Oaks Farms has admitted that the incidents detailed in the report did actually occur, the lawsuit says, with Fair Oaks’ owner taking full responsibility for the reported conduct. An individual who worked at Fair Oaks Farms and was alleged to have abused animals at the facilitywas arrested on June 12, according to a report from theNorthwest Indiana Times, and two others also alleged to have abused animals are being sought by police. According to a statement on its website, Fairlife has discontinued use of milk produced at Fair Oaks Farms, and has reportedly begun auditing its 30 supply farms.