Grass Asks Woolworths to Commit to More Ethical Dairy Farming Practices

Most dairy products for human consumption come from cows’ milk. The majority of consumers are unaware of the harsh realities of the dairy industry and the ethical implications for dairy cows and their calves. (see an introduction into dairy farming here)

The Grass Team discovered that consumers are being led to believe that they are purchasing more ethically produced Woolworths Ayrshire and Organic dairy products by misleading labels and marketing of these products. We therefore sent the below letter to Woolworths, along with a Commitment List asking them to change the farming practices in terms of shade for the animals, exercise, mutilation (dehorning), pasture access, diet, impregnation, weaning, treatment of male calves, slaughter and organic standards.

Woolworths have promised a formal response. We will keep you posted.


17 April, 2014

Greetings Woolworths Dairy Team,

With regard to the meetings we had with you last year expressing our unhappiness at feeling misled by the labelling and marketing of both your Organic and Ayrshire milk, we attach a Commitment List which we ask you to address.

The list covers the practices on your dairy farms that need attention in order to comply with the perceptions Woolworths has created about these dairy products over the years through your labelling and marketing. We have come to realise through our research and meetings with the Dairy Team, that your dairy products are marketed and labelled as being of a higher ethical and health standard than is the reality on your dairy farms. This is grossly unfair to consumers.

Apart from changing the labels, have you made any changes to your farming practice since our meetings? This Commitment List should be viewed as a request for changes in farming practice and not in marketing practice. In other words, we would now like you to walk your talk so that consumers can be assured that your products are indeed produced in line with your brand image.

We request that you announce to concerned consumers a realistic time frame for making the changes outlined in the Commitment List.

Kind regards,

The Grass Team

See the Commitment List here CommitmentListWW

Story background here.


Helping you find integrity in the food chain

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8 comments on “Grass Asks Woolworths to Commit to More Ethical Dairy Farming Practices
  1. Wonder Meyer says:

    Thank you so much for bringing this issue to light. As a vegetarian, animal welfare is a priority for me, and I try to make informed decisions when buying dairy. In order to avoid supporting unethical dairy farming practices (and rBST hormones) I have been willing to fork out the extra cash for R23 1l Woolworths Organic milk, and absolutely believed their tv advertisment implying that their organic milk was produced by cows grazing in organic, lush, misty pastures, and barely noticed the changed wording in their labels thereafter. I am so dissappointed to discover that the majority of dairy cows are kept in barren barnes and fed with product containing gmo’s. Woolworths, your advertising campaign has been grossly misleading and as a consumer, I feel duped. Could anyone recommend a dairy brand that is truly organic or at the very least has proper free range cows in either the Eastern or Western Cape?
    Thank you for your enlightening article, I hope Woolworths is held accountable for their actions.


    • GRASS says:

      Thanks for taking the time to write which shows you are really serious about sourcing ethical and healthy produce. We have been asked for alternative suppliers by many concerned consumers. Grass cannot recommend any supplier that they have not seen the farm of but I would suggest you take a look at We are attempting to put together a list that consumers can trust but don’t have the resources to visit all the farms we would like to unfortunately.


  2. […] that the reality of Woolworths dairy products does not live up to its ethical hype, Grass sent Woolworths the dairy commitment list  in April this year, asking them to address concerns […]


  3. […] to respond to questions about their labeling and more importantly  for commitments regarding cruel dairy practices in April. Nearly two months later, Woolworths has not responded. […]


  4. Frankly I find it astonishing that nearly two months later there has been NO response from Woolworths to this very important issue. I too have been asking them on twitter repeatedly but they refuse to answers consumers there either. And the way their pigs are treated seems to be grave cause for alarm too


  5. Thank -you GRASS. I was shocked when i read that not all of Woolies Ayrshire herd enjoy free range pastures and that in some regions they are feedlot cows. This is Farmageddon style farming which Woolies MARKETING has distanced itself from – but apparently not all of its dairy PRODUCTION. If i can’t trust Woolies then i may just as well shop at the other retailers who don’t add an eco-price to their products apparently for responsible eco-costs that they are NOT paying themselves!!!!


    • GRASS says:

      Woolworths Organic Dairy products are also not pasture-reared although “organic” is claimed to be free range on Woolworths marketing material and website. Unfortunately, since “free-range” and “organic” are yet to be legislated in South Africa, producers and retailers set their own standards and the result is that consumers are misled and kept ignorant of the true farming practices. The retail, “ethical” lie seems to be spreading to other retailers unfortunately, probably because Woolworths have got away with it for so long.


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