Got Milked? Dairy Industry Giants Accused of Killing Young Cows and Cheating Consumers | Civil Eats

Got Milked? Dairy Industry Giants Accused of Killing Young Cows and Cheating Consumers

Big Dairy has consistently shown its lack of regard for animal welfare and the environment. Now, according to a new class action lawsuit filed last week, it’s milking its own consumers by illegally jacking up prices – to the tune of $9.5 billion in additional profit.

On Sept. 26, leading class action law firm Hagens Berman filed a lawsuit on behalf of consumers accusing several dairy industry giants – including the National Milk Producers Federation, Dairy Farmers of America and Land O’Lakes – of a multi-billion dollar price-fixing scheme carried out through the collectively formed trade group, Cooperatives Working Together (CWT).

As outlined in the complaint, between 2003 and 2010, CWT’s so-called “dairy herd retirement” program paid primarily small dairy farmers to send entire herds to slaughter—over 500,000 young cows in all—in a concerted effort to reduce the supply of milk thereby inflating the price nationwide. The case further alleges that by buying out many of these small farmers, the program unfairly increased profits for agribusiness giants.

Compassion Over Killing uncovered this possibly illegal price-fixing scheme that was killing cows, cheating consumers, and lining the pockets of agribusiness giants and turned its research over to Hagens Berman.

In a brief statement responding to the lawsuit, CWT says its “self-help initiative” was operated within legal boundaries, though it does not deny that this was engaged in a price-fixing scheme. Indeed, CWT’s own economic analysis, posted on its website, not only boasts about the program’s effects on the industry but confirms that milk prices did in fact increase as a result of its efforts. As the lawsuit further points out, the tactics used in this alleged price-fixing scheme are likely to impact the price of milk for years to come.

Despite this self-touted success, CWT ended its euphemistically dubbed “dairy herd retirement” program in 2010—shortly after it was announced that dairy and egg producer Land O’Lakes agreed to pay $25 million to settle a class-action lawsuit filed against the United Egg Producers and its members. That case alleged that producers inflated the price of eggs through a program encouraging flock reduction that was disguised as an animal welfare initiative. Land O’Lakes is also a defendant in this new price-fixing lawsuit.

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Hagens Berman is interested in speaking to consumers who purchased milk or milk products from 2004 to the present. Consumers can contact the firm by calling 206-623-7292 or by emailing Visit for more details.

In the meantime, visit Compassion Over Killing’s website,, for more details plus updates on the case and to discover simple yet effective ways you can take a stand against the dairy industry’s unethical practices every time you sit down, simply by choosing dairy-free foods.

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Erica Meier is the executive director of Compassion Over Killing (COK), a Washington, DC-based non-profit organization working to end the abuse of farmed animals through undercover investigations, litigation, corporate outreach, and vegetarian advocacy campaigns. Online at and follow Erica on twitter at Read more >

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  1. Donna Johnson
    This is outrageous! I have bought on an average of 4 gallons of milk per week for ever! To say nothing of the amounts of land o'lakes butter I have bought. And we wonder why our economy is so bad!
  2. I recognize that the focus of the investigating group is veganism, but "voting with your dollars" by buying local, sustainably produced milk is also so important.

    The more small dairies we support means dairy farmers have *options*. They don't have to sell their milk to the big cooperatives, they don't have to rely on the price ceilings and take whatever the big conglomerates will give them. Selling their milk locally gives dairy farmers the option to farm sustainably and according to their consciences, something which they cannot choose and stay in business under the current system.
  3. Thanks so much for this story! It's amazing just how much of the industry's actions this lawsuit covers. Really shows just how ubiquitous unethical practices in the dairy industry are.
  4. Jaya Bhumitra
    thank you for bringing attention to 2 important issues -- consumer rights and animal cruelty!
  5. Chris Davis
    This does sound pretty ridiculous. Though I understand the desire to make a reasonable profit and am not vegan myself, it seems pretty horrible that these folks decided to kill these animals for no reason other than financial gain. Very glad this was brought to my attention, as I did purchase milk during this period...
  6. I suggest that anyone who "votes with their dollars" also be given the courtesy of full disclosure as to what happens to the cows and calves at these dairies - whether industrial or "small".

    I think it's terrible to have been deceived for so many years about how these beings are treated at dairies. I would have liked the information that the calves never drink their own mother's milk. I would have liked to know that the male babies are often sent to slaughter within a few short weeks or months after birth. I would have liked to know that the cow's only live a fraction of their life expectancy before they are killed too. All these things would have greatly influenced my "happy milk" buying decisions...

    I'd say anyone who supports open and honest disclosure would think this was only fair...
  7. Katie Shamp
    The consumer rights aspect to this is galling, no matter what you eat.
  8. Tim
    Thanks for the info! Not surprised that the dairy industry would do this. Lets all switch to drinking almond, rice, soy, or hemp milk! Its sooo much better for you anyway.

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