Coca-Cola and other parties will pay $21 million to settle lawsuits about falsely advertising their Fairlife ultra-filtered milk came from humanely treated cows. On 27th April 2022, an Illinois federal judge preliminary approved the settlement. In 2019, an undercover investigation by Animal Recovery Mission (ARM) exposed animal abuse at Fair Oaks, a Fairlife supplier of dairy in Indiana. This led to lawsuits filed in Illinois, Indiana and Georgia accusing Coca-Cola and others of consumer fraud and deceptive marketing for claiming the premium products come from humanely treated cows.
As part of the settlement, the parties, which include Select Milk Producers, Fair Oaks Farms and Mike and Sue McCloskey (the owners of Fair Oaks and founders of Fairlife) agreed to take additional steps to implement animal welfare oversight. Coca-Cola initially owned a minority position in the Fairlife brand through a joint venture with Select Milk Producers but acquired the remaining stake in 2020.
Fair Oaks Farms Dairy Adventure is a touristic attraction that attracts more than 600,000 tourists a year, visiting a working dairy farm of 15,000 cows south of Chicago, Illinois. Fairlife said that it has not sourced milk from Fair Oaks since 2019. According to the Chicago Tribune, Fairlife’s CEO Mike Saint John said the company discontinued milk deliveries from Fair Oaks Farms, four dairy workers were fired and three were charged with animal cruelty.
Animal Recovery Mission (ARM) commented to The Guardian the following regarding the footage they took that triggered all these lawsuits and prosecutions: “Calves can be seen struggling to breathe and are observed suffering by themselves within their hutches. With temperatures reaching as high as 110F [43C] in summer, dehydration and malnutrition are also possible factors leading to calves suffering and slowly dying at Fair Oaks Farms.”