Ohio Cheese Company Changes Policies After Animal Cruelty Accusations

Great Lakes Cheese, dairy industry, animal rights, animal welfare, Mercy for Animals, Leon Kaye, tail docking, supply chain
Great Lakes Cheese has promised to eliminate animal cruelty within its supply chain.

You may have not heard of Great Lakes Cheese, but this Ohio-based company has facilities stretching from Utah to New York and is a fixture in the upper Midwest. The family-owned $2 billion company, which employs 1,800 people, sells to retailers and food service companies and has been in business for almost 60 years. It is also the latest food company to enact an animal welfare program policy in light of accusations of animal cruelty, following the likes of Nestle and Smithfield.

Great Lakes Cheese does not operate any dairies, so it has an extensive supply chain. And therein lies how the company got in trouble with animal rights activists last fall. Mercy for Animals was able to sneak someone into one of the company’s suppliers (now a former supplier) in Wisconsin. Four months later, Great Lakes Co. now has an animal welfare policy that is in line with one of the United States’ major dairy trade associations.

First, the company claims it will take a no-tolerance policy toward animal cruelty. Tail docking is to be completely phased out by 2018; any such procedure done out of medical necessity must be done with pain medication. And when it comes to pain, any disbudding and dehorning must be completed before the animals reach  eight weeks of age and must also be done with pain controls. For those of us not in the dairy industry and who think those jugs of milk in the supermarket shelves just “happen,” one would expect these are common sense rules that should be followed without a doubt. But in an industry running on thin margins in a highly regulated environment, cutting corners is a way of life — too often at the expense of cows. To that end, Great Lakes Cheese will suspend any purchases of milk from an offending farm until the problem is corrected and verified by a third-party auditor.

The other animal welfare policies that Great Lakes Cheese has announced are fairly broad, so rest assured that animal rights activists will be vigilant as they pressure the company to adhere to the industry guidelines covering the care of dairy cows. Clean, dry and safe environments for cows, preventive care, and proper nutrition are among the pledges the company has made as it cleans up the supply chain.

So far animal rights organizations are responding to Great Lakes Cheese’s new policies with optimism yet caution. “While this is one of the most comprehensive animal welfare policies ever adopted by a major U.S. dairy company,” said Nathan Runkle, president of Mercy for Animals, “we encourage Great Lakes Cheese to make this policy more meaningful by engaging third-party auditors to ensure that these standards are enforced.” As is the case with any new policy, transparency and accountability will be the keys to gauging whether this company is serious about the elimination of business practices that are not only unnecessary, but cruel.

Image credit: Great Lakes Cheese

Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye is a business writer and strategic communications specialist. He has also been featured in The Guardian, Clean Technica, Sustainable Brands, Earth911, Inhabitat, Architect Magazine and Wired.com. When he has time, he shares his thoughts on his own site, GreenGoPost.com. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

Leon Kaye

Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010. He is currently Executive Editor of 3p, and is also the Director of Social Media and Engagement for 3BL Media. His previous work can also be found in The Guardian, Sustainable Brands and CleanTechnica. You can follow him on Twitter (@LeonKaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost). He's traveled worldwide and has lived in Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

13 responses

  1. The Cornucopia Institute is a good start. The Dairy Industry is actually one of the cruelest. Pork and fowl huge runners-up. Cornucopia keeps a vigilant watch on these Factory Farms, as well as Mom and Pops. For instance,Horizon Milk gets a pass for being “organic” yet their standards are barely a passing C-minus, and many other findings of theirs. Check them out.

  2. I would hope that Great Lakes Cheese follows through and doesn’t allow any animal abuse. Because these animals don’t deserve to be abused. There is no excuse to dehorn an animal and put that animal through extreme pain, when that animal could of received pain medication and done when it was young. And to use the excuse that they cut corners is sad. How would these people like it if there dentist cut corners and pulled several teeth with no medication for pain. Or better yet, removed a finger or toe with no medication for pain. People can be so cruel, when all they need to do is step up and do the right thing. Some will say that they are just animals, and I will agree. But these animals along with others…feel pain just as you and I.

  3. I’m glad Great Lakes Cheese has decided to put these policies into place. But remember it wasn’t voluntary, it was due to an expose from Mercy For Animals, a great organization. I’d keep checking them on a regular basis, because there’s a lot of window dressing going on when the spotlight is on you.

    1. The GLC where my husband works here in NY has never abused any animals,GLC does not operate any dairies in NY,they only package!

      1. Oops, my mistake. From the article: “Great Lakes Cheese does not operate any dairies, so it has an extensive supply chain. And therein lies how the company got in trouble with animal rights activists last fall. Mercy for Animals was able to sneak someone into one of the company’s suppliers (now a former supplier) in Wisconsin.” So it was one of their [former] suppliers. My apologies.

      2. it’s not GLC itself, it’s the suppliers, just like McDonald’s, they don’t raise the animals but contract with suppliers to produce the animals. it is good that GLC is demanding it’s suppliers adopt comprehensive animal welfare standards or else. many retailers are now doing this because of public awareness and demand.

  4. I am proud to say my husband works for GLC in Adams,NY and he told me about a month ago that this would happen and GLC keeps their promises and with me being in the Animal Rights Movement this pleases me!

    1. Oh please. So pseudo superior. Just because you don’t see the lives lost doesn’t mean veganism doesn’t kill animals too for food.
      How many animals are killed in the plowing, planting, growing, harvesting and storing of fruits grains and vegetables? Mice, rabbits, moles and voles, birds, even fawns too young to run to escape.
      So you are right. There IS no such thing as humane ag-business. even the business of growing plants for consumption. So stop patting yourself on the back like you have done something super special.
      Your diet STILL kills animals. Just because it’s not visible on your plate, doesn’t mean your hands aren’t bloody.

      1. So… just because SOME harm is done no matter what, you shouldn’t bother trying to reduce harm at ALL? Sounds like a self-serving justification for not changing your habits. She IS reducing suffering by avoiding animal agriculture — and remember, most plant crops in this country are grown to feed farmed animals. So not eating farmed animals reduces the very harm you describe (in addition to the extreme suffering of the slaughterhouse). Don’t be so angry, calling her “pseudo-superior”, just because you still want to eat animals, and want to feel as if you are doing as much as she is to prevent suffering. No, nobody’s perfect. But at least she’s stepping up and making as much difference as she can. And her hands ARE much less bloody than those of folks who continue to fund slaughter through their purchases.

  5. I will never understand a business model that entrenches itself in cruelty, torture and misery and refuses to change in light of the growing awareness of consumers who reject the mistreatment of animals raised for food. you would think they would be clamoring to do just the opposite as a marketing and public relations strategy.

    Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms in Virginia gives tours of his farm where you see chickens, hogs, cows, steers all pasture raised being allowed to engage in natural behaviors and who look healthy, clean and well cared for. who the heck wants to eat sickly, diseased, mutilated animals with no feathers and sores on their bodies going crazed in confinement cages. I will never understand that strategy nor will I ever buy anything they have to sell.

  6. In the end game, each of us having direct ownership and proximity of the animals whose lives we devour will be the kindest answer. That’s a rally for localists, locavores and BALLE. But we’re not getting rid of mass ag anytime soon, so let’s help the visibility of watchdog groups and encourage embedded journalists on American farms!

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