Lifeway is lying about our farm.

138

October 6, 2014 by dairycarrie

Sunset in Wisconsin

Just a sunset photo I wanted to share with you.

It was a year ago when I ran into a few board members from our cooperative at World Dairy Expo. The Golden Guernsey plant in Waukesha had suddenly closed and I found out that day the Lifeway company had purchased the plant and would be bringing it back to life and Swiss Valley Farms had just scored a contract to supply them milk. This was great news for our farm and the rest of the Swiss Valley Farms coop members. Looking back, maybe I shouldn’t have been so excited.

Dairy farmers in the US are all independent, we choose which company we sell our milk to or we become members of coops and sell our milk through the coop. You may buy a gallon of Dean’s brand milk or Great Value milk at the store but that does not mean that Dean’s or Walmart owns dairy farms.

As members of Swiss Valley Farms, our milk could go to a Swiss Valley plant, like our Luana, IA or Mindoro, WI plants, they make excellent cream, blue and gorgonzola cheeses. However, our farm is a long and expensive haul from those plants and there are lots of closer Swiss Valley farms. Instead our coop sells the milk from the farms in our area to plants closer to our farms. Some days our milk goes to Kraft and is made into Philadelphia cream cheese, some days it goes to Edelweiss Creamery or Arena Cheese, some days it actually goes to a Dean’s plant and is bottled. Since Lifeway opened their plant, our milk has been going to Waukesha a few times a week.

I’ll be honest, before last year I had only heard of kefir a few times and I had never tried it. After hearing that our milk was going to be going into this mysterious to me product, I was a woman on a mission. Of course I not only had to try kefir, I had to find Lifeway kefir and encourage the grocery stores in our area to carry it. Afterall, good sales for Lifeway means good things for our coop and that means good things for the member owners like us.

I found the kefir and I really, really liked it. They say kefir is the champagne of dairy. I’m not sure that describes it, I think of it more as a smoothie without the blender or maybe a drinkable yogurt. Either way, it’s got lots of good probiotics in it and made my tummy pretty happy.

While I drank my first glass of my tasty newfound treat, I checked out the bottle. It was obvious that Lifeway liked buzzwords and food marketing trends…

This kefir is gluten free and kosher, its made by a company that cares about the environment. You can tell this because hello the bottle is made from recycled material and there is that little windmill thing right there on the label.

This kefir is gluten free and kosher and the bottle is free from BPA. Obviously it’s made by a company that cares about the environment. You can tell this because they want you to recycle and there is that little windmill thing right there on the label. Since they are members of the National Kefir Association, you know they are legit!

While I was slightly annoyed by the silly amount of labels, logos and buzzwords on the bottle, that’s not what this post is about. When I turned the bottle I found something that confused me.

Hmmm....?

Hmmm….? Wait, is this the Organic version?

After reading the “Farmer’s Pledge” on the side of the bottle I checked to make sure that I wasn’t holding the Organic version of their product. Lifeway does have an Organic line and the statement on the side of the bottle would make more sense on that product. I wasn’t looking at the Organic version.

I sent a message to a few Swiss Valley board members with a picture of the bottle. Our milk wasn’t yet going to Lifeway, maybe they were going to be changing their label? I wanted to make sure that they were fully understanding that the milk from Swiss Valley farms wasn’t what their label said it was.

Phone calls from Swiss Valley to Lifeway were made, I heard back that Lifeway was planning on changing the label and that Swiss Valley made sure they fully understood that they were not buying organic milk from our cooperative. I continued to buy and enjoy Lifeway kefir. Our milk started going to their plant. Life was good! Then one day I noticed that the label had changed and I was reminded that you should be careful what you ask for.

This isnt better.

This isn’t better.

Wait, what!?!?! Suddenly the label went from misleading to outright silly and misleading.

“Our milk comes from cows not treated with pesticides…”

A pesticide is something used to kill pests. Generally, when people talk about pesticides they are talking about using them on crops. While maybe using fly spray on our cows in the summer could possibly be considered “treating them with pesticides” I don’t think that’s what Lifeway was thinking of when they made this claim. Either way, I have not been informed that we can no longer use approved (yes, we must only use fly spray that has been approved for use on or around dairy cows) fly spray because our milk goes to Lifeway.

“Our milk comes from cows not treated with pesticides, antibiotics…”

Ok, again what does Lifeway mean here? Do they mean that they don’t allow milk from cows that are currently on antibiotics? Considering every tank of milk is tested for antibiotics every day, I don’t think Lifeway needs to advertise a basic safety fact about all milk. However, if they mean that the milk their Kefir comes from is from cows that have never in their lives been treated with an antibiotic, again that’s not representative of our farm or the other farms that are supplying their milk. Just to be crystal clear, we use antibiotics when a cow needs them to get better. The milk is dumped until it’s been tested to be clear of antibiotics.

“Our milk comes from cows not treated with pesticides, antibiotics, or synthetic growth hormones…”

They dropped the rBST claim, which was about the only thing that the first label had right. In doing so they also dropped the required FDA statement about milk from rBST treated cows being no different from milk from cows that have not been given rBST. Instead the new label has a vague claim about “synthetic hormones”. I’m not sure that the FDA would be pleased with this little tweak, but I’m not a lawyer for the FDA so I’ll let them figure that out.

“Cows are grass fed. GMO Free”

I guess technically our cows are grass fed, alfalfa is part of their diet but they are not exclusively grass fed, which I think is what most people think when they buy something that says grass fed. What about the GMO free claim? Again, technically the kefir and the cows aren’t genetically modified. However, the cows on most conventional farms do eat feed that is made from GMO plants. From my understanding those worried about consuming GMOs would be pretty upset to learn that the label claim is only true on a technicality.

I can’t call out other companies for their misleading marketing and turn a blind eye here. I hate to see any company knowingly market their product as something that it’s not. The folks at Lifeway are essentially marketing their non organic product as organic by using claims that would disqualify 99% of conventional dairy farms. Rather than pay the premium price to organic farmers and having an honest product, Lifeway is using vague claims that barely keep them out of legal trouble on technicalities.

I love to support the companies that do business with my farm but I will not support Lifeway lying to their customers about our farm.

UPDATE- I probably shouldn’t have looked at Lifeway Website but I did. Not only did they clarify their stance on GMO, Lifeway also explains that all their milk comes from Guernsey cows. Which I guarantee is not true now and was not true at any time.

And I ride a magical unicorn back and forth to the farm.

And I ride a magical unicorn back and forth to the farm.

138 thoughts on “Lifeway is lying about our farm.

  1. Egg disttibutors do this on egg cartons too saying they are “hormone and antibiotic free”-well of course they are! Producers are not allowed to sell eggs if using antibiotics and there is not a hormone they give chickens to lay more eggs or grow faster!

    • Dana says:

      They also like to say “vegetarian-fed” which is a falsehood for both chickens and pigs, or it had better be, considering both are omnivores.

      • Penny says:

        Maybe that means the farms are supposed to hire vegetarians to feed their chickens? Better check that fine print!

      • A says:

        I bet that claim is accurate, as it is cheaper to feed chickens a vegetarian diet. We have our own flock of chickens, let me tell you, they are NOT herbivores. They eat their own if given a chance. They get into knock down drag ’em out fights over mice when they catch them. I hate that I can’t find feed made with bugs and animal based protein. But yet grain producers are looking to use meal worm meal (sorry for the sorta double speak) as a protein source in horse feed?! Why not put that grain from the chicken feed into the horse feed, and the meal worm meal into the chicken feed?! Then the animals would all be on the correct diets! Urgh.

      • It means soybean protein. Typically gmo. It isn’t a healthy diet for chickens, nor does it produce the nutrient dense food people are looking for when scouting out those label claims.

  2. gordonedgar says:

    I hear you on the “grass-fed” labeling. Since there is no legal definition (unlike with meat) companies throw around this term all the time. As a cheese buyer, I am constantly asked which cheese is “grass-fed” and — outside of a few seasonal (and very expensive) cheeses — my refusal to let the question go without a long explanation of dairy-animal feeding has lost us sales I am sure. We try to go for the answer with integrity and hope it pays off down the line.

    It’s just such a complicated question that includes — as I am sure you know better than me — animal health, the role of silage, what is a “natural” diet for different mammals (no, you can’t have “grass-fed” goat milk), region, small vs large scale dairy, etc.

    I think it comes down to customers (reasonably, if naively) wanting to know two things when they ask the question. How are the cows being treated (grass-fed implies animals are not penned into tight, dirty spaces) and are there increased health benefits to the milk for humans. (CLA levels, Omega 3 ratio, etc.). I think it’s especially hard for our urban customers that they just can’t get an easy answer, because it is certainly not feasible for someone trying to feed their family to visit every farm their food comes from. Though I agree with you about label-overkill, I would love to have a legally-defined certification for “grass-fed” in the USA, just so I could explain with any certainty what it actually means to a given dairy/creamery/cheesemaker.

    And I have sold kefir for two decades and NEVER heard it called the champagne of dairy. 😉 I do like it though.

    Thanks fir your blog, btw. I really appreciate it.

    • Really appreciate these comments from one of the industry’s foremost cheesemongers! You did a great job on the recent ACS panel and I just wish every cheesemonger had your knowledge… thank you for knowing what you know, and selling our products.

    • Scooter says:

      Little correction here.. there are certain breeds of goat (specifically the heritage Golden Guernsey, the Nigerian Dwarf, and the traditional dairy Saanen) that are more than capable of large production of milk on a grass-fed diet. The pasture needs to be top notch for the Saanen production, but they are still very capable of wonderful production on a grass-fed diet.
      That said, most goat breeds do require a browse diet, and the best goat for that is a Kiko. Most think it is only a meat breed, however, it can out-produce a Nubian, has close to Nigerian Dwarf levels of butterfat, and thrives on a browse only diet.

      Referencing to another comment: I can’t stand the people who look at the “Hormone & antibiotic free” labels… Uhm, hello, look at that asterisk beside the claim people, the FDA does not allow hormone or antibiotics to be present in milk or meat for sale. The labeling on eggs is so much worse, with the “Cage Free”, “Free Range”, “Vegetarian Fed”, and Organic claims… ugh. “Cage Free” under the standards simply means that the birds are not in battery cages, not that they are not caged at all. “Free Range” under the standards simply means that the door to their coop or barn was opened for 5 measly minutes per day, not that any birds actually went outside, just that the door was opened for a brief time. “Vegetarian fed” always gets my dander up, as chickens are omnivores, happily eating mice, snakes, frogs, bugs.. they are not vegetarians, and are not designed to eat a vegetarian diet. Organic.. well, think about this for a minute.. Even if a hen is raised on “traditional” methods, any of her eggs can be hatched and as long as they are fed organic feed from the start, those chicks are considered organic. Same egg whether it was eaten as an egg or it was incubated to hatch out…. So much of our modern food labeling is very deceiving and designed to increase the markets and line pockets of the corporations. I always advise people to buy directly from the farms, that helps them a whole lot more than going through a third or fourth or fifth party. Ask questions about what treatments are used, what disease testing is done, dealing with what management practices are important to you. I and other farmers I know are all too happy to answer your honest questions and help you find what you are looking for.

      • Karen says:

        I want vegetarian fed chickens, because I don’t want to buy chickens that have been fed other chicken or cow. I agree though, chickens are omnivores. They should have access to lots of bugs.

        • Dana says:

          EATING BUGS IS NOT VEGETARIAN.

          For that matter, it’s not correct to call animals vegetarians. The proper term is “herbivore” or “herbivorous.” Vegetarianism is a choice.

        • mary says:

          I had to lol at this comment because chickens will eat anything. They eat chicken for crying out loud! And bugs, and worms. They love worms! My chickens would eat nothing but worms all day long!!

          If you want good eggs, what you think of when you think “free range”- what you are looking for is pasture raised, supplemented with organic, non gmo grain, antibiotic free. My girls are pasture raised, yes it’s a lot of extra clean up for me, but happy chickens produce better eggs. And I was gonna pressure wash the driveway anyway….

    • Gordon, my LaMancha and Nubian goats are pastured from around the beginning of May till about the end of October, and then when they are inside, they are fed Haylage. They eat the same as my jersey cows.

    • Dana says:

      I’ve seen Paleo adherents use the term “pastured” which is meant to be a catch-all term for “the animal ate a species-appropriate diet” (that is, stuff similar to or the same as they’d find if they were living in the wild–no Frankenkibble, no cows eating cows, etc.). It’s not a perfect term but I think it’s a little more honest, assuming the meat providers are telling the truth.

  3. Wow Carrie–I am proud of you for posting this. Not many farmers would “own up” and out their very buyer! I hope they figure it out and start telling the ignorant public the truth!

  4. Brian says:

    I’ve got to update my post about there being no GMO popcorn because now the brand we grow for has jumped on the non-GMO labeling on their packages. I suspect all the brands will do this before long.

    • dairycarrie says:

      So frustrating!

    • Diane says:

      I’m trying to understand NO gmo free popcorn- I thought Arrowhead Mills organic popcorn was GMO free?

      • dairycarrie says:

        Diane there is no popcorn that has GMO traits. So all popcorn is GMO free.

        • Dana says:

          Are you sure there’s no chance of popcorn cross-breeding with regular corn, a lot of which *is* GMO at this point? Don’t they have to DNA-test samples of their crop before they can label it GMO-free?

        • Brian says:

          Dana, there’s really no worry with cross pollination of corn to popcorn. Unless for some reason you are growing an open pollinated variety. Nearly all the popcorn grown commercially is dent sterile meaning it cannot be pollinated by regular dent corn. Dent corn is another name for field corn. We often have our popcorn adjacent to a regular corn field.

    • Erin says:

      Brian, can you explain what you mean about GMO popcorn to a lay-person? I try to avoid GMOs like the plague and I’ve figured out a lot of the loopholes (like when Trader Joe’s claims their dairy and eggs are “GMO-free” – yeah, right) but I do occasionally buy organic popping corn. Can you share what you know to be true about GMOs in regards to popcorn?
      Thanks!

      • dairycarrie says:

        I’m sure Brian will be along to answer this but in the mean time I can give you the short and skinny…. There is no GMO popcorn. So any popcorn you buy will be GMO free.

      • Brian says:

        Hey, guys. Happy to help. There is no such thing as GMO popcorn on the market for anyone to sell or grow. It’s just not out there. We are talking about the popcorn itself here and not other ingredients. If you want to be absolutely sure you are buying a GMO free product them go with organic or a label like GMO Free. If you buy microwave popcorn I suppose it could have GMO canola or soybean oil. My blog post explains in more detail at http://thefarmerslife.com/biotechnology/avoid-gmo-popcorn/

  5. I will also comment about how their product is kosher. I had a veterinary client who would ship a load of kosher milk to south Florida once or twice a week. The rabbi was on the farm during the entire duration of that load of milk being collected from the cows. Are you having a rabbi on your farm too?

    • dairycarrie says:

      Great point! I have not seen a rabbi on our farm in the 6 years I’ve been on it.

      • Tsu Dho Nimh says:

        The kosher symbol “K” on milk cartons means that ****the company processing the milk works under rabbinical supervision***. The rabbinical supervision checks that no non-kosher additives or non-kosher processes were used in producing the milk.

        The kosher symbol “KD” simply means that the item is under rabbinical supervision, as explained above, and that the product is dairy.

        ====
        Or maybe you have ninja rabbis

      • Tsu Dho Nimh says:

        There is an ultra-kosher kind of milk where a rabbis in on the premises from the start of milking to the end to assure that no non-kosher sources of milk have been used.

  6. Pam says:

    Thanks for this, companies are so misleading, they say what ‘we’ want to hear to sell us their products.

  7. cecilia says:

    typical huge disconnect between marketing and manufacturing. marketing people push the envelope to sell products, the company can choose to ignore their misinformed label choices until someone makes them pay for it.

  8. Eric Baehler says:

    Alfalfa is technically a legume, not a grass so your cows technically may not be grass fed. You have been far more diplomatic than most. As a dairyman who understands the nuances of these issues, I believe the company is clearly lying, and most consumers would as well!

    Thanks for pointing these things out.

    • dairycarrie says:

      You’re right, technically alfalfa is a legume… and a tomato is a fruit. I think for our purposes here, alfalfa would be considered “grass fed”.

      • I think you’re right about alfalfa qualifying as a “grass” when used as feed. Corn, when harvested as forage and before the ear forms (or before the kernels form, I forget which) qualifies as a non grain feed (corn is actually in the grass family).

        All labeling has to be approved by FDA before it can appear on a food product package. FDA has an astounding number of regulations that you have to pay attention to when designing labeling. I was going to sell cottage foods I produced in Oregon a year ago, and, while I don’t have to get FDA approval under Oregon law, I do have to follow their guidelines. Everything from font size to where a particular piece of information appears on the label in relation to other pieces of info, is regulated by FDA.

        So, while I’m sure that they’re skating right on the line, everything on that label was approved by someone at FDA.

      • Erin says:

        And now that we have GM alfalfa, that further raises the question of whether the product can be called “GMO-free.” 🙁

  9. Yeo-dairyman says:

    I thought Swiss Valley allowed the use of BST? Thank you for calling Lifeway out. Their claims devalue all other legitimate claims on other dairy labels, and their deception will sour consumers on all dairy. I’m surprised they didn’t claim humane care verification as well.

  10. Tsu Dho Nimh says:

    I have seen one beef producer skate the thin line, claiming “pasture finished” when it meant his pastures managfed to have some grass and a lot of feed troughs.

    This is a marketing department run amok.

  11. Jon Riley says:

    Good for you! Thanks for this post. I get so mad at people/companies who are willing to give up their integrity so easily for a fast buck. You have definitely kept your integrity and took an honorable stand. Thank you.

  12. Maggie Nutter says:

    Carrie it is so good to hear that honesty is important to you. That you care that the buyer of your diaries milk is honest. My thought is if they are willing to mislead the customer they would be willing to miss lead you or the inspector or who knows who else. Thank you for being honest.

  13. Tiffany Rich says:

    Organic to qualify as organic only needs to be 85% Organic. So if 85% if the animals are organic, they would pass. This is, stuff I struggle to educate people on daily. Unfortunately, most turn a blind eye, but wanting to see the truth. They wish to have the government and big Pharma term then what to do, what to eat and how much. That way it’s not their fault. Kudos to you for standing up.

    • dairycarrie says:

      Tiffany, there are a lot of rules for certified Organic, can you give me a link to where it says in the rules that you can be 85% organic and still have the label?

      • Amy says:

        85 percent organic? I can tell you my milk is absolutely not getting on the Organic Valley truck if 15 percent of my herd is not organic and/or 15 percent of the feed I give them is conventional. Farming organically would be a whole heck of a lot easier if that were the case.

      • Gordonedgar is right. If an essential ingredient is not available as an organic product, then conventional can be used and the product is allowed to be certified organic. Hops are a good example of this. For years, organic beer could use conventional hops, because there weren’t enough organic hops available. But once there were, that exemption for that one ingredient was dropped and now if a brewery is making certified organic beer, they must use certified organic hops. That one was changed several years ago.

    • Laurel Ring says:

      I would like to see the documentation you have for this, Tiffany. We are organic dairy farmers, and if 100% of our animals aren’t organic then the milk we ship is not considered organic. Our feed has to be 100% organic as well. Please don’t miss-educate people until you have the facts to back this up.
      Thank you Dairy Carrie!

    • Kelly O says:

      Maybe you are talking about the different standards. The different is in the marking. If it says “ORGANIC” it does need to be 100%, whereas if it says “Made with Organic” then it does have more leeway. Here is the rules: http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELDEV3004446

  14. The hormone thing is misleading as well. Hormones are produced in all living things, at least that has been my understanding. I know there are synthetic hormones, but really… the labeling regulations are out of control and obviously mean nothing.
    Good for you for keeping up the good fight!

    • Yeodairyman says:

      It’s also misleading as many dairy farmers who pledge not to use growth hormones (BST) continue to use injectable reproductive hormones like GnRH and Prostaglandin.

    • Dana says:

      Using rBST in dairy cattle is adding more hormone than their bodies are adapted to dealing with and it is my understanding that it causes a greater than normal amount of IGF-1 in the resulting milk. Forcing cattle to make more milk than their bodies want to make is cruel anyway (it leads to a lot more problems with the udder, nutritional depletion and so on), but the additional IGF-1 in a human population that already has a higher than normal average amount of insulin circulating in their bodies is probably not a recipe for good health.

      It’s not enough to say “blah-blah occurs in nature,” first off the rBST certainly does not occur in nature and secondly you have to look at the whole picture of what is going on with the plant or animal–are you introducing something they haven’t adapted to? Then it’s probably not a good idea to introduce that thing, especially not in industrial amounts with no regard to what is actually going on with the animal or plant body.

      Don’t even get me started on Monsanto’s disinformation campaign equating plant breeding with GMO. I’d love to get whoever came up with that down some dark alley some evening… just them, me, and a crowbar.

  15. Tami says:

    My company does A2 genomic testing for dairy cows and I believe they are not allowed to use A2 in the designation of their product (licensing etc.). However, there may be a technicality in the wording on the website, just as on the bottle … More research is needed on my part to confirm.

    Pretty appalling how blatant the marketing has misconstrued both the product and farms. As the wife of a dairy farmer, I’m disappointed and will try to keep a closer eye on where our milk goes. The public deserves to know truthful facts and believe in the integrity of the farms and the products they buy!

  16. Jerry Foster says:

    Carrie, this isn’t the first time Lifeway has played fast an loose with their label. They tried to hide the addition of sugar by calling it “evaporated cane juice.” http://topclassactions.com/lawsuit-settlements/lawsuit-news/21740-lifeway-kefir-yogurt-class-action-lawsuit-postponed-pending-fda-weigh/

  17. And people (not those of us in Ag) wonder why consumers are confused. :/ Keep up the good work!

  18. browncow@ics-il.net says:

    Well I’m sure Guernsey producers would appreciate a leg up in niche marketing considering we-combined with Brown Swiss, Ayrshires, and Milking Shorthorns-only make up 2% of the dairy industry. But, oh wait, for that to work they actually have to be holding true to their claims and buying from us Guernsey producers. How about they put their money where their mouth is and help us out? That, or just take their lies down.

  19. Jeff Berlat says:

    hasn’t milk always been gluten free? Like bananas being gluten free?

    • Dana says:

      Food companies that make food products (as opposed to just selling single-ingredient foods) like to add gluten to nearly EVERYTHING. That’s why the gluten-free label on stuff that you would think would be gluten-free. You’d be surprised. Until you have to avoid it, you probably can’t appreciate how bad the problem is.

      I haven’t formally been diagnosed with celiac, but I cured something like 99 percent of my migraines just getting off wheat (and other gluten grains–I find even rye will upset my insides now, and trace gluten in sauces makes me stupid for an hour or so)–the remnant that I still sometimes get are not severe enough to send me to bed and go away pretty quickly. I wasn’t looking to cure them by going off wheat, it was just an elimination diet experiment trying to get my weight loss going again, AND it’s been over two years so placebo is not an issue. So at this point I’m pretty careful.

    • Jillian says:

      Yes! Drives me crazy. I see food bloggers say, “I recommend this brand of X because it says it is gluten free, so you can be sure.” Someone then asks, “Isn’t X naturally GF?” And the food blogger says, “yes, but it makes me feel better to see it on the label.” {eye roll}

      I follow a gluten free diet for health reasons, and it is nice when a multi-ingredient product says “gluten-free” because some additives might have been contaminated with or contain gluten and it’s nice to have a reasonable assurance when picking up a new product in a hurry. That said, most of us GF people know the hidden sources for gluten and can easily avoid them. I generally like to purchase single ingredients and make my own food anyway.

  20. David Bice says:

    Carrie,
    Kudos to you for making the effort, on behalf of consumers that are often misled.
    The points you bring up are all valid, and Lifeway has a history of misleading consumers. The “99% lactose free” is also an erroneous claim. After bringing it to their attention two years ago, they temporarily removed that claim, and are now using it again. Unfortunately, unless someone with deep pockets challenges them in the courts, or there is a significant public outcry, they will continue to mislead the buying public. One thing I’ve learned when it comes to marketing within the very competitive kefir & yogurt category, is that anything expressly marketed toward children, as many of their products are, or contains a laundry list of ambiguous health claims & benefits, they are usually stretching the truth, or using outright deception.
    In my opinion, our government agencies are equally at fault here, for allowing deceptive claims without challenge.
    Thanks for your blog, much appreciated.

  21. Anni says:

    For people like us not able to produce our own milk (and other products) at the moment, false/misleading claims like this really get frustrating. I’m so glad you called them out, even though they use milk from your farm!
    (I can’t help grimace/smile at the “our milk comes from cows not treated with pesticides…”)

  22. Carrie, kudos to you for calling them out! Can any of this blowback on you and hurt your business?

    • dairycarrie says:

      Lifeway could decide to drop Swiss Valley as a supplier and that would hurt our coop and in turn hurt our farm. However I doubt that other farmers at other coops that supply the milk to Lifeway would just keep their mouths shut.

  23. Jennifer Digman says:

    Way to make market or get their act together. I didn’t realize there were so many Guernsey herds left…my grandfather had one. (LOL) They milk Jersey, Brown Swiss, Angus, Normandy, etc. Crosses. Awesome tasting milk, perhaps they can ask WMMB for proof reading assistance. I do buy their Kefir almost every week . They just need to be truthful and accurate. Buzz words sound good but I drink it cut its good for me. They just need to get it right.

  24. Angela says:

    Lifeway is not real KEFIR. Real kefir only comes from kefir grains!

  25. APLewis says:

    Good job, Carrie!

  26. Karen says:

    The Lifeway brand also tastes absolutely terrible compared to other brands of Kefir we have tried. To be honest, this one ended up getting dumped, because no one in the house besides me would drink it, and the only reason I would was I didn’t want to pour $6.00 down the drain. But I did eventually.

  27. Katie says:

    Hey, my dairy-farming cousin up in Merrill could really use one of those unicorns. Who’s your breeder? 😉

    Seriously, I think the pesticide thing is funny. Did you know all vets in Wisconsin have to pass a pesticide application test as part of their licensure? Even the small animal exclusive ones? Because, you know, we apply stuff like Frontline…

  28. L bart says:

    Well they really had me fooled, as I was looking for a product with all these things in it.
    they deceived me.

  29. awastell says:

    I love kefir now, but I lived in Lithuania for a couple of years, and milk & kefir came in the same package right next to each other and looked indistinguishable until I learned the words. Not a happy mistake in my morning coffee.

    I’m proud of you for confronting a company you are in business with. Good blogging ethics at work here 🙂

  30. rachel says:

    I feel like my world is crashing down. I have not personally purchased Lifeway’s Kefir. My daughter has a milk allergy so we don’t buy a whole lot of dairy, but I am seriously concerned about what this means for the non-GMO Project’s verification standards. We buy organic and non-GMO verified products almost exclusively and to think that this is happening even with an independent verification process makes me sick to my stomach. I wanted to let you know that after reading your post, I sent an email to the non-GMO project asking for investigation and an explanation. I did make sure that they were actually verified first. (It’s pretty obvious that you can’t trust Lifeway’s statements haha) I can’t thank you enough for your honesty and your transparency.

    • Erin says:

      Rachel, I sent the Non-GMO Project an email as well. I also sent one to our mom & pop whole foods store (which is about to open its 5th store next month.) They’re big supporters of local foods and the Non-GMO Project (they’re even holding a Non-GMO day on 10/17 where 5% of sales go to the Non-GMO Project.)
      Stuff like this really ticks me off when I try SO HARD to keep GMOs out of my family’s bodies.

    • Aurelien W. says:

      Rachel,

      Why is this issue from Lifeway concerning you regarding the Non-GMO Project’s verification Standards? None of Lifeway’s products have been verified by the Non-GMO Project. Lifeway might be enrolled with the Project and working toward’s becoming verified, but they wouldn’t be approved based on current practices.

      • Rachel says:

        I actually misread the non-GMO project website. For some reason, all their products came up when I did the search so I assumed that they had been verified. I got a very nice email back from the project saying that they are currently going through the verification process. I did notice though that the blog post on Lifeway’s site is from quite a long time ago. I wonder how long they can claim they are going through the process before people figure out that it really isn’t happening. Lol

        • Aurelien W. says:

          The Non-GMO Project website used to show all enrolled products (verified or not) until a couple years ago as a way to highlight the early companies that had enrolled before it became as popular as today. Consumers could see which companies already had verified products, as well as additional products companies were working on verifying. More recently the Project site stopped showing companies that were simply enrolled (like Lifeway) but not actually verified yet, to prevent consumer situations such as yours.

  31. Michelle Canfield says:

    As stated above, I think the A2 designation is still trademarked/patent protected. Seems like they need a better corporate lawyer looking over their claims!

  32. Torry says:

    Thanks for the truth. Now I actually know what I am buying! 😉

  33. Romy says:

    It’s sad that such marketing gimmicks needed to be used to sell products. Why do consumers need all this fancy wording and bullshit to “trust” a product. Farmers have always sold quality products. What happened to good old milk? I hate how everything need to be “special” to be sold now.

  34. Megan says:

    Wow. Wow. Wow. I sure would think Life way was ok in my book by reading the label. Too bad the whole thing is a big lie. Sometimes the frickin label on things is all I have to go by. I have no trust in labels now so now i am feeling hopeless. : (

  35. EDM says:

    I call bs on this. Why would she jeopardize their contract? This is obviously an attack by a competitor or nut.

    • dairycarrie says:

      Yes, you’ve figured me out. I’ve spent the last 3 years blogging about our farm and my life so that I could post this one post. It’s obvious that I am just a Lifeway competitor in disguise because there’s no way that a dairy farmer would have enough integrity to call someone out for misrepresenting the milk that they provide.

      P.S. The above is all sarcasm.

  36. Yeo-dairyman says:

    According to this , maybe there is a “jklol” hidden somewhere in the fine print!

  37. Sadie says:

    Wow, you never know where an internet search will lead you too! I live in a very rural area and thought I would see if I could find a way or source to have organic foods shipped to my house. That lead to the big A of online shopping…which lead to my wanting to know if popcorn is non-GMO…as I am trying hard to make good food choices for my family. Searching for the answer to that question lead me to find Carrie’s article. After reading though most everyone’s posts I am infuriated with the whole travesty of food labeling injustice, skirting of the laws and the FDA in general. I am a housewife, not a farmer, and I like countless other people am doing my best to educate myself on healthy eating. We depend on truth in labeling and I thought it was so much better but with the manufacturers constantly finding ways to pollute the simplest of things to increase their profits 3,4, 5 times or more the whole truth in labeling system has been turned into a farce. Thank you Carrie for your eye-opening article and INTEGRITY! Appreciate and support all of you who are standing up for the truth and seeking to change that which is wrong.

  38. Zach Hollingsworth says:

    False labeling like this example is the one of the biggest causes of misconceptions in agriculture. Thank you for sharing.

  39. Has Lifeway commented on this post?

    • Rachel says:

      No! And when we post something about it on their Facebook page, it gets deleted. I posted twice and they deleted both comments and blocked me from commenting, posting, or sending them a message!

  40. Jamie says:

    Considering they’re claiming Non-GMO status which is being “verified” by the Non-GMO Project-wouldn’t that call into question every single product that claims to be GMO free under the Non-GMO Project?

    I think you’ve stumbled upon a much greater issue here.

    • Aurelien W. says:

      None of Lifeway’s products have been verified by the Non-GMO Project. The Non-GMO claim they currently have on their packaging is not the Non-GMO Project seal. Lifeway might be enrolled in the Non-GMO Project and working toward verification, but that doesn’t mean that they currently comply; otherwise they would have the seal.

      • Jamie says:

        I see the difference now. I can’t help but think they’re being intentionally misleading-in my google search all the hits seemed to imply they were already verified.

  41. I just posted on Whole Foods page & they responded with the following:
    Whole Foods Market Hey Belinda, I can assure you that we did not delete your comments. I have followed up with the vendor and you can find more info in their statement below:

    “Lifeway Foods has been dedicated to healthy eating since my father founded the company in 1986. I feed Lifeway Kefir to my own children and drink it myself almost every day. We are committed to empowering our customers with products and information that support their choice for a healthier and higher quality of life.

    We follow state and federal regulations with regard to the labeling of our products and make every effort to clearly state the features of our products so that each consumer, regardless of his or her knowledge level, feels well-informed and empowered when purchasing a Lifeway Foods product. The FDA and the USDA periodically review our label copy.

    Lifeway Foods is enrolled in the Non-GMO Project, and we are partners in the Just Label It advocacy group. Additionally, our milk is certified rBST free and all labels are written to reduce confusion between natural hormones and synthetic hormones (rBST/rBGH).

    Standards of our customers have changed over the years to reflect changes in eating habits. Our own standards get higher by the day to reflect the changing needs of our customers, new science and research, and changing food industry regulations. Over the last several months, we have become increasingly frustrated with certain of our milk suppliers as not meeting our standards for quality of product and lack of interest in enrolling in the Non-GMO Project. Six months ago, we had made the decision to transition to an alternate Midwest supplier. Last week was our last and final order and Ms. Mess’ coop is no longer involved. I understand that Ms. Mess is disappointed and frustrated over the loss of business. I too have been disappointed, frustrated, heartbroken, and have lost sleep over lost business. I have used those moments to evaluate my business, challenge my team and myself, learn and grow. I have risen above those moments and reinvented our company and products, pushed innovation and evolved personally.

    Lifeway Foods will continue to provide the best and healthiest products we can for our customers and their families. We will continue to source ingredients that meet the changing demands of consumer eating habits, challenge suppliers to evolve, remain quick and nimble in response to the changing needs of consumers, and lead the way in innovation of healthier food products. We have been doing that for nearly 30 years, and we pledge that will never change.”

    • dairycarrie says:

      Holy crap! What a load of bologna!

      That’s all I’m going to say about this at this time.

      • Rachel says:

        Wow!! So instead of admitting that they’ve known about this for a year, they’re blaming the farms for producing the product? Go get ’em Carrie!

  42. Mia says:

    Thanks for bringing this to light! I won’t be buying from Lifeway anymore.

  43. Lizbeth says:

    Are there any updates to this story? Does Lifeway plan to fix the labels?

    • dairycarrie says:

      Lifeway dropped our coop in retaliation for this post. They are now purchasing milk from another local milk company that is providing them with the same milk we were but they have not yet changed their labels and I doubt they will. They seem to think that they can lie to their customers and that rules and laws don’t apply to them.

      • Lizbeth says:

        That’s awful. I applaud you for speaking out and I’m sorry that doing so led to your coop being dropped. I hope someone at the new milk company is brave enough to say something about their lies. I won’t be purchasing anything from Lifeway and will let them know it. Is there anything else that can be done?

        • dairycarrie says:

          At this point I’m just hoping the new milk company and their farmer stand up and put a stop to it. I’m keeping a close eye on them for sure and I’m certainly doing what I can to make sure the farmers who’s milk is going there know what’s up.

      • cindy says:

        I was wondering who the Lifeway owner was referring to as Ms. Mess in the published letter quoted above…do you think she meant you or your unicorn? I think that was pretty rude and unprofessional, but expected given how the company has played fast and loose on their labelling claims. She showed no interest in digging deeper and educating herself so that the product label could factually represent the product in the future. I have worked for a large pharmaceutical company and a large retailer…both companies painstakingly picked apart product copy/labels for absolute precision and accuracy. IMHO, anything less shows lack of respect for the customer.

        I’ve had their Kefir. Its a nice product and I don’t think they need to fabricate the label details to sell it. I don’t drink it because I make my own from milk from my own cow….bet most people reading this blog wish they could say the same. Nice job on your blog, sorry it cost your co-op the account.

  44. Lisa says:

    If you fed alfalfa with a popcorn(non GMO) ration while having the ninja rabbi watch you milk from his magic flying carpet with Guernsey painted pictures on the cows, then would you “technically” fit the label?

  45. Sue Puff says:

    Carrie, did they ever contact you or the Swiss Valley board about the new changes? I’m curious to see if they’ve read the blog.

  46. Jill says:

    I feel betrayed, I love Lifeway Kefir. I should have known when I saw all the grams of sugar in their product. There are no good sugars. As for chickens, they will eat literally – ANYTHING! We feed ours scraps from our dinners, they will eat their own eggs and it is good for them to eat their eggshells. Chicken is tasty, for sur, but they are NASTY! They will even eat their own poo.

  47. ren says:

    from my understanding as a consumer, grass-fed is simply that the animal is not consuming grain – i.e. grass seed. as a dairy farmer, i’m surprised that you’re confused about standard grass-fed foraging if you are so concerned about the marketing claim – or at least look it up.
    http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/ams.fetchTemplateData.do?template=TemplateN&rightNav1=GrassFedMarketingClaimStandards&topNav=&leftNav=GradingCertificationandVerfication&page=GrassFedMarketingClaims&resultType)

    wherein it explains that normal plant material that a foraging animal would normally come in contact with is considered grass-fed. slaughtered cattle are often fed a lot of grains (corn and other seed material) to make them fat. from my understanding, prolonged grain-only feeding will cause gastro-intestinal infections that require the regular and prolonged use of antibiotics. so, the gimicks on labeling is actually due to us urbanners pushing to find out the conditions the animals thrive in, and are simply the catchwords for our concerns due to food movements. from my understanding of research on cultured dairy, the bacteria nearly destroys all lactose in dairy. i do know takepart.com has an article to such effect. the percentage of lactose, however, should be properly represented on the labeling.

    i have loved kefir for years, and lifeway i supported because they started out as a family business where my parents grew up, and near where my extended family farms old school with animals wondering in pasteurs and chickens roaming about.

    BUT! after how your coop was treated, and the marked change in their labeling, i will stop buying their product if they can’t come clean with me for trying to make an informed decision about the products i buy.

  48. Catherine says:

    Honestly, you can tell from the price what these products have or may have in them. Not gonna get liquid gold on sale.

    • Patty says:

      I love this product but now upset with the fact they are lying about something consumers (myself) been buying for a while now. I have some in the fridge, but it look like I will be throwing it away until I get my organic kefir grains. Will not be purchasing this again.

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