Producers’ dairy farm located in Fresno, California, is like trying to showcase their sustainability, but are reaching short of the middle isle refrigerator rack. I appreciate that they have many tabs on their website to showcase who they are, their story, and what their products are made of, however, the information they provide is very surface level and doesn’t give any details into the actual processes they use. Growing up drinking Producers’ milk, I appreciate that they are trying to showcase some of their sustainability practices such as receiving a California grant to invest in a methane digester, as well as feeding their cows with California sweet green grass, however I am itching to learn more about the details behind these practices as well as the living conditions of the cows so unfortunately cannot give a higher score until I, as someone looking out for consumers, am given more information. I am assuming that most other Organic dairy products have similar operations and mild transparency level to that of Producers’, so Iwould take caution with your purchasing decision, and if possible, support a truly locally produced, grass fed cow dairy producer instead.
Traditionally, whole milk is simply milk- and that’s it. However, Producers’ adds Vitamin D to theirs which they do not explain why. What makes this milk organic, according to the USDA, is that the cows need to be fed on 100% organic feed. With this said, this can range from grass to grain. Producers’ cows, and cows from their partner farms in Fresno, California, are fed with sweet green grasses that grow on the Northern California coastal climate. This sounds picturesque, but there is more than meets the eye. I am curious if the cows are 100% fed on grass (as grass may not be abundant and in full supply during the winter), or if they’re also fed with grains or other feeds. As I mentioned in my Straus review, the food the cows eat greatly manipulates the nutritional content of the milk and as a consumer, I would like to know what the cows are being fed. Nonetheless, the cows are antibiotic and rBST (artificial growth hormone) free. Although I greatly support the cows being fed locally grown California sweet green grass, because of their lack of transparency, I would like more information before giving a higher score.
Producers’ values locally sourced, naturally sourced, and delivered fresh products. What does this mean? Well, from their view, “delivered fresh”, means that the milk from cows travels only an average of 26 miles to get to the processing plant. This is great, however, I think that delivered fresh should also include miles from plant to consumer. Although this is hard to do on a large scale, I wish that Producers had acknowledged how far their consumer base reaches.
Their products start with cows- which are located on many partner farms located in Central Valley of California. The cows are fed 100% organic feed however, there is little information on the conditions they live in except that they sleep in “free stall beds.” Are they allowed to roam around free in meadows, walk around in an outdoor enclosed area, or living standing in cages in a barn? The lack of information worries me and hints at practices that are less humane- although the company has received an “excellent” Animal Welfare certification by Validus. For those who have never heard of Validus, this certification system gives strict guidelines on the ways and conditions animals are raised for dairy production. I appreciate it because it addresses worker training on managing animals, zero tolerance on willful abuse and neglect, and ensures the animals have access to feed 20 hours per day and medical attention. However, it does not prohibit the company from implementing harmful equipment and also has low standards. For example, restraining devices are allowed to be used such as halters, hip clamps, headlocks and chutes, as long as employees are trained to use them. This does not eliminate the usage of harmful devices- simply mandates training to “properly” use them. I appreciate this however, there is a lot of room for human error which can result in many cows being harmfully treated. Another example is that in animal welfare, I would think that the ability to move and walk, along with access to the outdoors, would be of priority to increase animal health and emotional wellness. Validus does not mention any of this except that the animals need access to food 20 hours a day.
The company also mentions that they have received a grant from the California Department of Food and Agriculture to install dairy digesters (converts methane from cows to a “negative-carbon” transportation fuel where 1 cow can produce 100 gallons of fuel per year), yet there is little information on the implementation of this and their emissions reductions plan (as of May 2020, they are not on the Dairy Cares digester map).
Because of the lack of transparency on how the cows are raised, how milk is retrieved from cows, and how they’re processed, I cannot give a higher rating until more information is available.
Producers dairy company is led by the Shehadey family in Fremont, California who source milk from farms an average of 26 miles away from their processing plant. Their motto is to not just produce dairy, but to Nourish Lives. Their website showcases a nice timeline about the evolution of the company including ownership changes, packaging evolution (glass to paper to plastic carton), and press presence. They highlight quotes from an array of their workers on working with Producers, however, leave out more details about the actual worker and their role. There is one instance that Producers gives concrete details on serving their workers: in 2018 Producers bid on a new plant in Fairfield, California and was the only company willing to keep all of the current team members of the plant. I appreciate their willingness to prevent people from getting laid off, however want to mention that the company boasts about locally serving others. However, they do not disclose where they sell their products and by opening another processing plant, said they are able to reach Northern California and beyond. It is great that they are expanding their customer reach, but the transportation miles and where the company is sourcing their milk from concerns me- because as efficiency and quantity increase, animal welfare and environmental practices often decline.
Producer Dairy Promises
Validus Animal Welfare Review Audit Standards
Green America Labels
Producer Story Timeline
Producer Organic Vitamin D Milk
Guidelines for Organic Certification of Dairy Livestock
Producers 2018 Expansion
California Dairy Digester Plan
Dairy Digester Co-Benefit Infographic
Dairy Cares Digester Map