We remember when we found out that our favorite chocolate chip cookies weren’t made by elves in a hollow tree. Had we not been 8 at the time we might have hired a lawyer and taken the folks at Keebler to court for falsely suggesting it was elven magic that made the cookies and other snacks so good. Such a case would have been thrown out of court.
But that lawsuit would have had more merit than one filed last week against the Tillamook Creamery Association by the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
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 claims that 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.”
Tillamook is a farmer-owned cooperative. The sale of cheese, butter and ice cream on a national scale benefits those farmers.
Unlike Keebler, which specifically claimed its products were made in a hollow tree by elves, Tillamook has never claimed that all its products are made in Tillamook or all the milk is sourced from its members.
That Tillamook sources milk from Threemile Canyon Farms and other large dairies outside Tillamook County has never been a secret. It has been reported widely for nearly 20 years, not only in the Capital Press but in other statewide media such as Oregon Public Broadcasting and the Oregonian/Oregonlive.com.
We’re not sure what “traditional farming methods” consumers imagine are utilized by co-op members who have appeared in Tillamook advertising. With the exception of scale, many of their methods are similar to those employed at Threemile Canyon.
Milking carousels — robotic or otherwise — are common on the dairies of farmer-owners in Tillamook County. No commercial-scale dairy milks by hand.
“Painful udder infections” occur on small family farms too, even on organic dairies. Beef cows get them, too. Dairy producers take great care to prevent the infections and to treat them once they appear.
In 2012 PETA sued the California Milk Advisory Board claiming its popular “happy cow” promotion was false advertising. A judge threw that case out, ruling PETA couldn’t back up its claims.
An Oregon judge should do the same with this case.
(In the interest of full disclosure and to avoid litigation, we admit to leading readers on a bit. We thought Chips Ahoy were a lot better than the Keebler cookies, but the Nabisco advertising campaign didn’t fit our narrative.)