Organic Valley Sued for Alleged Misleading Labeling on its Milk Products

A suit was filed on Tuesday in Alameda County, Calif. state court by Amber Takahashi-Mendoza (both individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated) against defendant Cooperative Regions of Organic Producer Pools (doing business as Organic Valley). The class action complaint cites violations of California’s Consumers Legal Remedies Act (CLRA) and California’s Unfair Competition Law (UCL).

The defendant is described in the complaint as one of the largest sellers of organic milk products in the United States. The plaintiff explains that Organic Valley markets its milk products as being produced through humane animal practices. Despite this claim made by Organic Valley, the defendant allegedly manufactures its products through “needless cruelty to animals.”

The complaint asserts that the defendant’s products originate from cows who are stripped of their calves immediately after giving birth. The calves are then raised in isolation hutches, where they receive no vital socialization or natural sustenance. The male calves are sold for slaughter and the female calves eventually give birth to calves who are immediately taken away from them, continuing the cycle. 

The plaintiff argues that these practices are not human, and do not “comport with established highest standards or animal care,” despite Organic Valley’s labeling touting of their commitment to manufacture their products through humane animal practices.

According to research cited in the complaint, consumers are willing to pay higher prices for products that are produced without the premature separation of a calf from its mother. Plaintiff Takahashi-Mendoza explains that the defendant is aware of this and the fact that revealing the truth to consumers “would pose a risk to dairy sellers’ [like the defendant’s] outsized profits.”

By targeting their label statements to consumers who value the humane treatment of animals, the defendant is able to deceive consumers and bring in premium prices. The plaintiff contends that Organic Valley should “not be allowed to continue its cruelty and fraud.”

The complaint cites violations of the California Civil Code and the Business & Professions Code due to the defendant’s unlawful and fraudulent business practices. Plaintiff Takahashi-Mendoza is seeking class certification, a declaration that the defendant violated both the CLRA and UCL, a declaration that Organic Valley is financially responsible for notifying the class members of the suit’s pendency, an injunction preventing further misrepresentation and misconduct, compensatory and exemplary damages, disgorgement, litigation fees, and any other relief deemed just by the court.

The plaintiff is represented by Schonbrun Seplow Harris Hoffman & Zeldes LLP and the PETA Foundation.