The Real Reason Ben & Jerry's Removed 'Happy Cows' From Its Packaging

Perhaps, second only to Chick-fil-A, no other company utilizes cows in its advertising quite like Ben & Jerry's. Cows dot the ice cream company's containers and promotional materials, and they've said that their ice cream is the result of "happy cows." Well — that last bit isn't true anymore, because they're dropping the wording for good. 

Ben & Jerry's was founded in 1978 and has often led the way for food companies taking a progressive environmental stance. They only started using the "happy cows" phrase a couple of years ago, but it's already kicked up some dust with animal welfare activists and actually resulted in two different lawsuits (via The Today Show). Here's the lowdown on the Vermont creamery and those possibly not-so-happy cows. 

Some feel the Ben & Jerry's packaging is misleading

Pick up a pint of Ben & Jerry's and you'll notice its illustrations of cows on a grassy knoll. For 35 years, the ice cream company has touted its sourcing of milk from its Caring Dairy, a program that works with Vermont dairy farmers to cultivate sustainable and humane animal welfare practices. It's certainly a noble effort, but the issue is that perhaps not all the milk used in Ben & Jerry's products comes from the Caring Dairy program. 

This lead to two separate lawsuits filed against the company accusing them of deceptive practices that mislead consumers into believing all the ice cream's milk came from "happy cows." One of those who filed the lawsuit, environment advocate James Ehlers, argues that a lot of the farms that produce the creamery's milk use factory-style mass-production methods (via People).

This did lead the ice cream company to remove the "happy cows" wording, but Ben & Jerry's has also filed a motion to have both lawsuits dismissed and argued that it was merely a statement of opinion. "Happiness cannot be measured objectively, and Ehlers could not take a cow's deposition to ask how it feels," read a statement (via Reuters). Touché!

They're not the only dairy product that's come under fire

Consumers aren't just concerned about what's in their milk, but they also want to know where it comes from, and Ben & Jerry's isn't the first company to be hit with misleading advertising accusations. Dairy company Fairlife was slammed in 2019 after a video surfaced of animal abuse at one of its farms. Fairlife argued that milk from that particular farm only represented 5 percent of its supply and that the employees responsible had been fired (via Entrepreneur). Regardless of that defense, the firestorm didn't do much for the company's "fair life" image. 

As for the cow on the Ben & Jerry's ice cream containers, her name is Woody and she'll be hanging around. "We don't have any plans to replace her," said a company spokesperson.