Why Organic Valley Is Facing A Major Lawsuit

Litigation is always a driving force in the food industry (via Kent State University), but never more so than in the last decade, according to law firm, Perkins Coie (via Food Beverage Insider). Just last week, a Skittles class action lawsuit was filed over Mars Inc.'s use of the coloring ingredient/agent, titanium dioxide, in making its rainbow-colored candies pop even though Mars acknowledged (five years ago, no less) that it understood this chemical posed potential health consequences to humans when ingested. 

Not long before that, Costco was sued in a shareholder derivative lawsuit which claimed that the famous $4.99 price on Costco rotisserie chickens is made possible via the inhumane treatment of chickens. And then there's Organic Valley.

Over the last two years alone, the Wisconsin-based dairy company has been hit with (at least) three class action lawsuits. One was filed in 2020 that alleged misleading marketing tactics by the company that manufactures, distributes, labels, and sells vanilla protein shakes under the Organic Valley brand name (per Truth in Advertising). It's still pending, as is the one filed in 2021 alleging misleading marketing tactics in the marketing of Organic Valley vanilla-flavored half-and-half. Now, Organic Valley is facing another class action lawsuit, but it's got nothing to do with vanilla flavor and it stands to be significantly more major. Here's why. 

Lawsuit alleges Organic Valley treats its dairy cows inhumanely

Organic Valley now faces its third lawsuit in three years over allegations of false advertising (per The Washington Post). Previous lawsuits focused on claims the company's use of the word "vanilla" in marketing some of its products is problematic. Similar claims have been made against both McDonald's and Turkey Hill at various times since January 2021. 

This lawsuit, however, focuses on the use of eye-pleasing pastoral imagery including "green fields and happy cows" in the labeling of its milk cartons. "The exceptional quality of our food starts with love for our animals," Organic Valley boasts on its website, adding "We go all out when caring for our cows, because that makes them happier and healthier." As it turns out, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) disputes this, asserting such statements and the pastoral imagery mislead the public on both counts. PETA alleges the company's dairy farmers engage in the common dairy industry practice of separating dairy cows from their calves. This "tends to alarm the public when they learn about it" (per The Washington Post), as it's known to cause distress in both the cows and calves (per RSPCA Knowledgebase). 

PETA has recruited Amber Takahashi-Mendoza, a California resident, to act as a plaintiff of record in a class action lawsuit that was filed July 19, 2022, in a state court in Alameda County, California. The law firm of record is Schonbrun Seplow Harris Hoffman & Zeldes LLP (via PETA).