Big Dairy has agreed to pay a $52 million settlement following the slaughter of more than 500,000 young dairy cows in an attempt to artificially inflate the price of milk.
The class-action suit was filed in 2011 on behalf of individual consumers who purchased fresh milk products in 15 states. The suit came after lawyers with Compassion Over Killing, an animal rights group, stated that the industry policy of buying out smaller dairy farms' milk cows to process them for meat was carried out specifically for the purposes of inflating milk prices and went against federal antitrust laws.
Umbrella group Cooperatives Working Together, a farmer-funded export assistance program, offered this buyout program, known as the CWT dairy herd retirement program, between 2003 and 2010, when the price of milk got too low, reports NPR. The program has since been terminated.
“The biggest dairy producers in the country, responsible for almost 70% of the nation’s milk supply, conspired together in a classic price-fixing scheme,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of the Hagens Berman law firm in San Francisco, which brought the suit for Compassion Over Killing.
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An analysis by a University of Missouri dairy economist found that the program added an average of 59 cents per hundred pounds to the price of milk between 2004 and 2008, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
“Compassion Over Killing is proud to have spearheaded the research that led to this class action suit," said Cheryl Leahy, General Counsel for Compassion Over Killing. "Not only was the price of milk artificially inflated, but this scheme ultimately also cost 500,000 young cows their lives.”
The defendants made no admission of wrongdoing in the settlement, which releases them from the possibility of litigation. The settlement was the “most sensible” way to end the litigation said National Milk Producers Federation.
The suit was brought against several food companies and dairy producer groups including Dairy Farmers of America, Land O’ Lakes, Cooperatives Working Together, Dairylea Cooperative, and National Milk Producers Foundation.
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