Danone’s Horizon Organic suspends use of milk from Texas farm at center of PETA report

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Dive Brief:

  • Danone’s Horizon Organic brand said it has “suspended all sourcing of milk” from Texas milk supplier Lone Star Organic Dairy after PETA released a whistleblower’s report appearing to show animal suffering and deaths at the operation.
  • PETA said it shared the findings with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, urging it to open an investigation into Lone Star Organic Dairy and revoke its organic qualification for any violations that it confirms.
  • Horizon Organic is the second major dairy brand in the last few months to be hit by an animal abuse allegation. In September, Coca-Cola’s Fairlife brand was accused by Animal Recovery Mission of continuing to source milk from two Indiana dairy farms where cows were being mistreated.

Dive Insight:

While allegations of animal abuse at a farm supplying a major dairy brand are serious, Horizon Organic is moving quickly to distance itself from the operation in question.

In an email to Food Dive, Tyler Holm, Horizon Organic’s general manager, said they are “deeply disturbed to see the videos and photos shared by PETA” and that the “care and welfare of cows is a critical part of our company and brand values.”

“We take these allegations seriously. We expect all of our suppliers to always uphold our high standards of animal welfare and quality,” Holm said. “We are conducting a full investigation and are committed to moving quickly to take the appropriate actions.“

Danone did not say what percentage of milk Lone Star Organic Dairy contributes to the Horizon Organic brand.

PETA included a lengthy list of observations released through video and photographs at the farm in Wills Point, Texas, about an hour east of Dallas. It alleged blind and sickly calves, bedding that had nails that injured and crippled the animals, a cow floating in feces and grounds littered with rotting corpses.

“PETA urges consumers to remember that suffering runs rampant wherever animals are used en masse, look beyond meaningless marketing terms like ‘organic,’” said Daniel Paden, a PETA vice president.

Lone Star Organic Dairy claims to be the largest organic diary in North Texas. It was purchased by private equity firm Rise Run Capital in November 2022. According to Rise Run, the farm operates without pesticides, fertilizers, or antibiotics, and cows graze freely when weather permits.

The PETA allegations are unlikely to have a meaningful impact on Horizon Organic.

The farms at the center of the Fairlife report in September were previously exposed for similar acts of animal cruelty by ARM in 2019. Coca-Cola’s Fairlife brand, which surpassed $1 billion in annual retail sales in 2022, did not appear to have its sales hampered by the allegations four years ago.

In May of this year, Coca-Cola, citing Nielsen data, said Fairlife had grown nearly 30% year to date and currently a quarter of all U.S. households purchased a Fairlife product. Coca-Cola and other parties agreed to pay $21 million to settle lawsuits in 2022 for falsely advertising their Fairlife ultra-filtered milk came from humanely treated cows.

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