The Tillamook County Creamery Association has vowed to “aggressively defend” against an animal rights lawsuit that claims the company deceives consumers with its marketing.

The dairy cooperative is accused in the lawsuit of unjustly enriching itself and violating Oregon trade practices law by touting small family farms with pasture-raised cows when most of its milk is sourced from the “most industrialized dairy factory farm in the country.”

About two-thirds of the creamery’s milk comes from 32,000 dairy cows raised at Threemile Canyon Farms’ facility in Boardman, Ore., “where cows are continuously confined, milked by robotic carousels, and afflicted with painful udder infections,” the lawsuit alleges.

The complaint was filed by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, a nonprofit group, on behalf of four Oregon women who bought Tillamook cheese, ice cream, yogurt, sour cream and butter because they wanted to support farmers in that region while avoiding “an industrially produced, factory-farmed product.”

While the company advertises its dairy products as being produced in Tillamook County with “small-scale traditional farming methods,” it’s heavily reliant on a distant “mega-dairy” that’s large enough to be “visible from space,” the complaint said.

The plaintiffs are seeking class action status for the lawsuit, which would allow numerous other Oregon consumers to join in the litigation. After a legally-required 30-day waiting period, they plan to amend the complaint to seek about $200 per Oregon class member in damages. Their lawsuit also requests an injunction against further “unlawful practices.”

In a written statement, the Tillamook creamery has characterized ALDF as an “anti-dairy” group that “actively advocates for people to cut all dairy products from their diets.”

The creamery said that 80 farm families in Tillamook County not only provide milk but “actually own and lead the company” and “only work with business partners that share our values and live up to our extremely high standards.”

“Our farmer-owners and suppliers all take good care of their animals not only because it is their livelihood, but because it is the right thing to do,” the statement said. The company said it’s proud of its 20-year relationship with the Columbia River Dairy — a part of Threemile Canyon Farms — due to its track record with “environmental stewardship and sustainable agriculture.” A recent animal welfare audit recently gave the dairy a 100 percent positive score, the statement said.

“The size of the farm does not dictate the quality of care,” TCCA’s statement said.

Capital Press was unable to reach Marty Myers, general manager of Threemile Canyon Farms, for comment as of press time.

I've been working at Capital Press since 2006 and I primarily cover legislative, regulatory and legal issues.

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