Fair Cape Responded…

The following letter is the response I received from Fair Cape – they requested that I upload it:
8 March 2011
Thank you for your interest in Fair Cape and specifically Fair Cape Free Range.

With regards to the letter and blog currently circulating in respect of Fair Cape Free Range, there are a number inaccuracies. I would like to clarify some of the factual errors published in some of these articles.

1. Fair Cape Cows DO graze in the pastures at times during the year when they are not being milked (As portrayed in the photo below which was taken in the month of September when natural grazing is possible)

 september grazing

There are, however, times during the year, due to the hot summers when there is no grass in the fields. Further, due to the intensity of the sun, there are times during the year where the cows suffer severe heat-stress if they are left out in the fields. This is when they are housed in massive sheds with a large amount of area to move around in.
The sheds are specifically designed to decrease the temperatures which the cows have to endure by up to 10 degrees Celsius. Important to note is that were our focus on marketing, we could easily leave the cows out in the field to their own detriment, however, because our focus is cow comfort we bring them into cooler environments to ensure their comfort.
Because the cows have limited access to grazing during the year, we chose to remove this reference from our labels to ensure that there were no misconceptions.

2. Fair Cape cows are not kept in stalls – this is absolutely not true

3. Fair Cape is absolutely transparent regarding Fair Cape Free Range; at every instance where the Fair Cape Free Range brand is published , it is always accompanied by the following bullet points explaining exactly what Fair Cape Free Range stands for:
 Why our cows are happy, healthy “Fair Cape Free Range”™ cows:
  • They live in super comfort in spacious surroundings
  • They can choose between basking in the sun or lazing in the shade
  • They eat only natural feeds, with no animal by-products
  • No artificial hormones added
  • They receive daily health check ups and medical care is always available
  • At Fair Cape, we’re serious about keeping the environment in tip top shape
Our milk is produced in an environmentally friendly manner. We recycle, have measures in place to prevent any harm to natural systems, and we re-use our cleaning water after filtration.

4. We also have weekly school tours, and have taken well over 10,000 school children through our school tours since inception.

5. And finally, we have a full and comprehensive explanation of exactly what Fair Cape Free Range stands for which we invite you to look athttp://www.faircape.com/freerange.php

All of this, in reality, makes Fair Cape Dairies one of the most transparent dairies in the world, let alone in South Africa.

How many other South African dairies have a Cow comfort indicator, a carbon reduction program, recycle cleaning water after filtration and have plans for eco-friendly energy generated from processing otherwise-harmful methane?

Fair Cape is taking the lead in terms of good animal husbandry and eco-friendly milk production and setting the example for others to follow. For Fair Cape to be targeted by animal and eco-activists is a pity as it is really a case of the tallest trees catching the most wind.

Fair Cape has, over the last number of years differentiated themselves significantly from the industry with regards to dairy farming practices. We believe that the fact that Fair Cape is so open and transparent is a clear indication of Fair Cape’s bona fides with regard to the above.

Should you have any further queries, please do not hesitate to contact us onsales@faircape.com

I responded to Fair Cape with the following email, but have not yet received a reply:
8 March 2011
Dear Joel,

Thank you for your response. I have a few questions for you – you can either answer them for me (and perhaps amend your official response, which I will then upload), or I can upload the document now, and respond publicly on my blog.
First, I would like to clarify my reasons for investigating Fair Cape, before investigating other dairies. Fair Cape appears to be a leader in commercial dairy production in South Africa – both in terms of milk quality and ‘cow comfort’. If consumers have a better understanding of how the ‘best’ milk in South Africa is produced, they will understand how high the bar is set in the dairy industry. If they are content with this standard, they will continue to purchase Fair Cape products, and if they are not, they will understand that they need to move away from purchasing industrially produced dairy. It’s as simple as that.
I have every intention of approaching other dairies as well, to see for myself how other dairies (that have not set as high a standard as Fair Cape) treat their animals and regulate the quality of their milk. I do hope you understand that this ‘exposé’ has not been an attack on Fair Cape: rather, it has been an attempt to make the information about this dairy more easily available in the public domain, thereby making Fair Cape truly transparent.
Here are my questions:
1) Can you give me an estimate of what period of time, including a minimum and maximum, the cows spend in the pastures each year?
2) What quantity of milk does a Friesland cow produce, on average, when she is not being milked to human ends?
3) Why have South African dairy producers, Fair Cape included, chosen to use cows of European origin – instead of indigenous cows that are accustomed to the South African climate?
4) When will the new labels, without the words “graze” and “pasture”, be visible on supermarket shelves?
5) You say that Fair Cape hosts weekly tours: during which months of the year does Fair Cape not host school tours? (I was under the impression that ‘tour season’ started around September – implying that there are several months during the year where Fair Cape does not invite school tours to visit the dairy.)
6) With regard to the Fair Cape website, there are a number of misleading images. The cow that is pictured on the homepage, about halfway down the page, is surprisingly clean – spotless in comparison with the cows I saw when I visited, who were covered in faeces. The next photograph portrays a cow’s ankle, with tag, photographed in a patch of grass – implying that the cows live spend their days in pasture, which is incorrect.
7) Several people have mentioned to me that the Fair Cape yoghurt labels have been especially misleading. The words “Fair Cape” and “TM” are written in very small letters, while “FREE RANGE” is written in comparatively huge, bold letters. How do you justify this?
8) When, exactly, does Fair Cape intend to implement the plans for methane-capture? It is good, but not enough that this is simply in the planning phase: one can claim to be planning a grandiose project for many years, and be praised for it – but it is the implementation of the plan that will make an actual difference.
I hope these questions are fair, and that you are able to respond to them.

Helping you find integrity in the food chain soniam@eategrity.co.za

Posted in Uncategorized
One comment on “Fair Cape Responded…
  1. Go for it….this is wonderful. I had similar lengthy communication with Fair Cape on this subject. I dispute that they have “Happy Cows” as I dispute that Woolworths has “Loved Cows”. The industry just paints a pretty picture to fool the consumer. Lets have some more honest transparency about the facts….what misery that dairy cows and their calves are subjected to.


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