Fairlife milk

Courtesy photo

Fair Oaks Farms is the flagship farm for Fairlife, a national brand of higher protein, higher calcium and lower fat milk that’s produced at a network of dairy farms and distributed by Coca-Cola.

JASPER/NEWTON COUNTY — Several major grocers and retailers have announced that they are pulling Fair Oaks Farms products from its stores following a recently released video, done by an organization that infiltrated the company for months, that shows blatant animal abuse. The Jasper County Economic Development Office has since put out a statement defending the integrity of Fair Oaks Farms founder, Dr. Mike McClosky, while acknowledging the animal abuse which did take place. 

Statements from FOF

McClosky put out a lengthy statement on June 4, just after Animal Recovery Mission (ARM) put out videos and a written report on its undercover work inside Fair Oaks Farms.

"It is with a heavy heart that I prepare this statement today," McClosky wrote. "As a veterinarian whose life and work is dedicated to the care, comfort and safety of all animals, this has affected me deeply. I am disappointed for not being aware of this kind of awful treatment occurring and I take full responsibility for what has happened. I also take full responsibility to correct and ensure that every employee understands, embraces and practices the core values on which our organization stands."

McClosky's full statement can be found on Fair Oaks Farms' official Facebook page. ARM's full report and video footage, as well as an initial article on the subject, can be found at rensselaerrepublican.com

On June 5, Fair Oaks Farms put out another statement on its Facebook page, addressing the responses it has received.

"At Fair Oaks Farms it is our commitment to be honest and transparent with you, the public," the facility stated. "Many of you have reached out to express your disappointment, heartbreak and anger regarding the videos released yesterday, and we want you to know that we share those same feelings and take full responsibility."

The facility went on to say that it is "currently putting actions in place to ensure that this never happens again."

"We’ve tried diligently to respond to you, but were unable to get to every person’s comments," it stated. "As a result, we will be posting a message from our founders as soon as possible. Please know that we hear you and appreciate the outreach."

As of the evening of June 5, no further statement has yet been released.

Store reactions

Strack & Van Til, Jewel-Osco and Family Express announced June 5 that they will no longer carry products from Fair Oaks Farms.

"With recent events involving Fair Oaks Farms, Strack & Van Til will be removing all Fair Oaks and related products until further notice," said Strack's CEO, Jeff Strack via a statement. "We apologize to our customers for any inconvenience."

Jewel-Osco, one of the region's biggest grocers, also pulled the products from its shelves and released a statement June 5.

"At Jewel-Osco we strive to maintain high animal welfare standards across all areas of business, and work in partnership with our vendors to ensure those standards are upheld," said the company in the news release. 

Family Express said it has suspended pending orders of Fairlife products based on the public response of the graphic video.

"The exposé of animal abuse in the Fair Oaks Farm network is chilling. A factor in our decision was the public response by Fair Oaks, asserting the notion that this was an isolated incident," the company said in a release. "This is hardly the response you would expect from an organization that gets it. The minimizing of the graphic animal cruelty offers little assurance of change in a culture that is likely in need of fundamental retooling."

Family Express stated they will replace Fairlife products with milk products from Organic Valley, which has 143 family farms in Indiana.

Fair Oaks Farms is the flagship farm for Fairlife, a national brand of higher protein, higher calcium and lower fat milk that's produced at a network of dairy farms and distributed by Coca-Cola.

While Strack & Van Til, Jewel-Osco, and Family Express have distanced themselves from Fair Oaks Farms, Coca-Cola is not. Coca-Cola released a statement June 5 that it plans to stick with Fair Oaks Farms and Fairlife.

"Coca-Cola takes animal welfare seriously and expects suppliers to operate with the highest degree of integrity and comply with all laws, including animal welfare laws," stated the release. "We have been in contact with Fairlife about this situation and have full confidence in their management team to urgently address this issue with Fair Oaks Farms, which is a third-party supplier to Fairlife. They recognize the seriousness of this situation as their founding principles are grounded in a strong commitment to sustainability, transparency and the highest standards of animal welfare.

"Fair Oaks Farms notified Fairlife that they immediately isolated dairy supply from the dairy identified in the video to suspend all sourcing from that location... We fully support and respect the proactive approach that Fairlife and Fair Oaks Farms have taken and we continue to stay in contact with them to lend any support they need."

JCEDO statement

The Jasper County Economic Development Office put out its own statement on June 5, mentioning the statement put out earlier by Fair Oaks Farms Founder, Dr. Mike McClosky on the farm's official Facebook page.

"The footage is shocking, concerning, and simply not what JCEDO, as an organization, understands Fair Oaks to represent as a member of our community," the JCEDO office stated. "Just as Dr. McCloskey details in his statement, JCEDO does not condone the behavior depicted in the video."

The JCEDO went on to call Fair Oaks Farms and McCloskey "critical pieces of our community, as well as the agriculture industry."

"Becoming an industry leader in sustainable agriculture, animal care and farm transparency, Fair Oaks has created renewed interest and excitement in both agriculture and our community," the office stated. "Additionally, the positive economic impact Fair Oaks and their partner farms have had in Jasper County and our surrounding communities supports hundreds of local families and farms. It is with the help of organizations like Fair Oaks that Jasper County has become a leading agricultural community in the State of Indiana."

Executive Director Stephen Eastridge said he and his coworkers at the JCEDO "appreciate and value what Fair Oaks represents to Jasper County's residents, businesses and visitors."

"We know Fair Oaks to be an outstanding community partner, as well as a world-class farming operation," Eastridge said. "It is because of this that we look forward to a growing partnership, moving both Fair Oaks and Jasper County forward together in the future."

Newton County Economic Development Executive Director Tim Myers did not immediately respond to requests for a comment.