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Land O’ Lakes

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Land O' Lakes, Inc. products are marketed and sold by Dean Foods, the leading producer of fluid milk and dairy products in the United States and the second largest dairy company in the world. Dean is second only to Nestle in terms of global dairy sales, at over 7 billion dollars in 2003. The company currently controls approximately 35% of the U.S. milk market and 70% of the U.S. organic milk market. [1]

Land 0' Lakes is one of the largest dairy co-ops in the U.S., with over 7,000 dairy farmers and 1,300 community cooperatives. It provides its members with wholesale fertilizer and crop protection products, seed, and animal feed. Its oldest and best known product, Land 0' Lakes butter, is the top selling brand in the country. The company also produces packaged milk, margarine, sour cream and cheese. The animal-feed division, Land O'Lakes Purina Feed, is a leading animal and pet food maker.

In the fiscal year ending in December of 2008, Land O' Lakes reported sales of approximately 12 billion dollars and had 9,100 employees. [2]

Animal welfare issues

Supplier charged with cruelty

In September of 2009, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) revealed footage from a five-month undercover investigation of a Pennsylvania dairy CAFO (Confined Animal Feeding Operation) which supplies milk to Land O'Lakes, the largest seller of branded butter in the U.S. The footage documented abuse and neglect of cows and calves at the facility. Cows in pain and unable to stand were electro-shocked and stabbed with a pocket knife. Sick and injured cows were left to languish in their own waste for days and even weeks, without veterinary care. In one case, workers were told to wrap an elastic band around a cow's gangrenous, infected teat to "amputate" it. The cow deteriorated for 11 days before she died.

Charges against the farm's owners were approved and filed by a local magisterial district judge. The penalty for conviction was up to 90 days in jail and $750 in fines.[3]

Undercover Investigation

PETA investigation of PA Land O' Lakes supplier. - 2009

Over the course of several months, deplorable and filthy conditions were documented. Pens were filled with deep excrement and dairy cows suffered from various chronic and untreated diseases and conditions; some so severely that they eventually collapsed in their own filth. Cows and calves were neither treated nor euthanized in a timely manner, if at all. Land O' Lakes 'inspected' the farm as recently as June 2009 and noted areas in need of cleaning, but approved the facility nonetheless. The owner and one of his sons were video taped electro-shocking cows unable to stand. One son kicked a cow and jabbed her with the blade of a pocket knife. Both the father and son were charged with animal cruelty.

Standard dairy practices also added to the suffering of the cows. In order to make milking easier, cows' tails were amputated by tightly binding them with elastic bands, causing skin and tissue to slowly die and slough off. This leaves them unable to swat away flies as well as leading to the spread of disease. Cows and calves were forced to live constantly in their own deep excrement in pens and barns, causing foot and hoof problems and fostering disease. Calves rescued from the farm had pneumonia, "manure scald," ringworm, pinkeye and parasites. Some cows suffered from respiratory distress and had nasal discharge streaming down their faces. Abscesses were common. Some would burst and ooz pus, even as cows were being milked. According to meat and dairy industry expert Dr. Temple Grandin:

"The conditions are absolutely atrocious. ...It was obvious that the place was seldom cleaned. many sick animals were not receiving veterinary treatment. ...The dairy manager totally NEGLECTED his animals. ... Many animals suffer greatly." [4]

The video and photo evidence was recorded at the Deitz family dairy farm in Shamokin, Pennsylvania. A former employee of the farm provided the video to PETA after repeated attempts to get the farm to take better care of its cows. On September 22nd, the whistle blower filed fifteen summary charges of animal neglect and abuse against the farm in Pennsylvania magistrate court. The farm is one of milk 3,000 suppliers in Land O’ Lakes dairy co-operative. [5]

Company statement, public airing & 'investigation'

According to the company's statement:

“Land O'Lakes is strongly committed to the proper care and humane treatment of animals, and we take any such allegations of animal mistreatment extremely seriously. Land O'Lakes does not own cows. Our milk supply comes from members who are independent owners and operators of dairy farms. However, we do take any allegations related to animal treatment among our suppliers very seriously and are looking aggressively into this situation.”

PETA requested that the company use a 12-point animal welfare plan it developed to ensure safe and ethical treatment of cows at the company's dairy suppliers.[6] Shortly after the public airing of abuse and neglect, company personnel "surveyed the farm" and followed up with a "thorough audit conducted by four independent veterinarians of the farm's herd and animal housing facility." According to a written assessment from the veterinarians, the cows were in "good health. ...No evidence of animal mistreatment was found.":

"The veterinarians did cite some areas for improvement, including remodeling the space where cows are housed, use of more bedding for the animals, and improving ventilation, hygiene and animal disposal practices."

The company is "working with the member to make these improvements" and will "monitor the farm and take any additional action that is deemed necessary." [7]

Examples of abuse & neglect

  • "March 27, 2009: Cow #501 incurred these pus-filled, infected leg wounds after becoming trapped in a broken wooden wall, lying helplessly for at least 24 hours. Later, when she resisted putting weight on the injured leg, the farm's owner used a high-voltage electric prod to force her to stand up.
  • March 31, 2009: This weak, emaciated cow, #879, collapsed and had to lie in a deep pool of urine and feces for more than 24 hours, without access to food or water. She was eventually shot and killed.
  • May 21, 2009: When cow #401 got caught on a bolt sticking out of one of the bars in the stall, the dairy farm's owner reportedly freed her from the bolt by cutting deeply into her leg muscles with a knife.
  • June 9, 2009: Cow #929 collapsed in the inches-deep urine and fecal matter that cover the barn's passageways. She flailed and struggled to get up while other cows walked into and over her.
  • August 13, 2009: When PETA rescued this male calf, he could not stand and was nearly unconscious. He was diagnosed by a large-animal veterinarian as suffering from dehydration, pinkeye, pneumonia, ringworm, and lice and was determined to be approximately 100 pounds underweight.
  • August 19, 2009: This calf was only semi-conscious and unable to stand when he was purchased from the farm. The examining large-animal veterinarian found him to be 100 pounds underweight and recommended reporting his neglected condition to authorities." See also individual frames in Photo Gallery: Inside a Land O'Lakes Milk Supplier. [8]

Yet, according to a "thorough audit", the cows were in "good health" and "no evidence of animal mistreatment was found."[9] The unreferenced statement did not bother to refute or address specific issues or documentation. This also raises health and safety concerns. This facility and most likely others as well, had diseased animals living and dying in their own excrement. Sick animals, some with running sores and infected, gangrenous teats, continued to be milked.

Local magistrate clears supplier

On March 18, 2010, the dairy farm was found 'not guilty on all counts' by a local magistrate. According to the company, they have been:

"actively involved in developing national guidelines over the past several years. Land O'Lakes is supportive of the FARM (Farmers Assuring Responsible Management) program, a national animal care initiative launched by the National Milk Producers Federation and Dairy Management lnc., and is working to implement FARM guidelines throughout our system. The FARM program provides consistent principles that promote the well-being of animals on the farm, and will include third-party verification to independently confirm that dairy producers are using the best practices in animal care." [10]

Animals in agriculture

It is worth noting that many agricultural veterinarians endorse practices not supported by animal welfare and the general public. For example, a review of American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) policies reveals that standards for farm animals generally echo agricultural industry recommendations. In fact, the AVMA lobbies against animal welfare legislation. See also AVMA, sections 1 & 2.

No federal law protects farm animals from cruelty. 30 U.S. states specifically exempt "customary or normal" farming practices from the legal definition of animal cruelty. [11]

See also animals raised & hunted for food on cattle.

Staff & board

Key executives

  • Peter Kappelman - Chairman
  • Ronnie Mohr - First Vice Chairman [12]
  • Chris Policinski - President & CEO
  • Steve Dunphy - Executive VP & COO, Dairy Foods Value Added
  • Jerry Kaminski - Executive VP & COO, Dairy Foods Industrial
  • Dave Hoogmoed - Executive VP & COO, Feed
  • Rod Schroeder - Executive VP & COO, Crop Protection Products
  • Mike Vande Logt - Executive VP & COO, Seed
  • Fernando Palacios - Executive VP, Operations & Supply Chain
  • Dan Knutson - Senior VP & CFO
  • Peter Janzen - Senior VP & General Counsel
  • Barry Wolfish - Senior VP, Corporate Marketing & Communications
  • Karen Grabow - Senior VP, Human Resources
  • Jim Fife - Senior VP, Member Affairs & Business Development Services
  • J.P. Ruiz-Funes - Senior VP, Corporate Strategy & Business Development
  • Alan Pierson - Western Region Liaison [13]

Agricultural Regions board

  • Harley Buys - Edgerton, MN
  • Mark Christenson - Madelia, MN
  • Jim Hager - Colby, WI
  • Jim Miller - Hardy, NE
  • Doug Reimer - Guttenbergh, IA
  • Rich Richey - Columbus, NE
  • James Deatherage - Bryan, TX
  • Myron Voth - Walton, KS
  • Ronnie Mohr - Greenfield, IN
  • Robert Marley - Seymour, IN

Advisory

  • David Andresen - Britton, SD
  • Ron Muzzall - Oak Harbor, WA
  • Howard Liszt - Wayzata, MN
  • Robert Thompson - Urbana, IL
  • Galen Vetter - Lake City, MN [14]

Dairy Regions board

  • Larry Kulp - Martinsburg, PA
  • Tom Wakefield - Bedford, PA
  • Al Wanner - Narvon, PA
  • Mark Clark - Rollingstone, MN
  • Paul Kent - Mora, MN
  • Pete Kappelman - Two Rivers, WI
  • Wayne Wedepohl - Sheboygan Falls, WI
  • James Netto - Hanford, CA
  • Ben Curti - Tulare, CA
  • Cornell Kasbergen - Tulare, CA
  • John Zonneveld - Laton, CA
  • Bob Bignami - Orlan, CA [15]

Contact

4001 Lexington Ave., North
Arden Hills, MN 55112

Phone: 651-481-2222
Fax: 651-481-2000
Toll Free: 800-328-9680

Web address: http://www.landolakes.com/

Articles & sources

Sourcewatch articles

References

External articles