... and Fair Cape responds.

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) 

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 at http://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 on sales@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.



  1. AHA...and thats why we always need to hear both sides of the story...i feel a lot better now about Fair Cape...

    I'll be buying your milk once again

  2. It's great that they sent a response. Now for the answers to your other questions.

  3. Hi Muriel. Have to say – what a spectacular piece of irresponsible “journalism”. The majority of people in SA (including you as it happens) are not going to become vegan. So all you have done is turned people away from the dairy with the highest animal welfare standards in the country. The only reason you even got to do this article is because of their transparency. I laughed to myself when I read you plan to visit the other commerical dairy farms. Good luck. Fair Cape is the furthest thing from factory farming that there is in terms of commercial farming... had you investigated other farms you would have known that. If people are going to consume commercially farmed milk (which they inevitably are), Fair Cape is certainly the most humane. Sad that people will now be supporting less humane dairies because of this article. Sad.

  4. Hi Muriel

    I have sent you our response to please upload. Kindly upload as it is without any editing

    Kind regards

  5. well done Muriel for tackling this issue and making both sides of the story available. these are the realities of industrialised farming and that is why many of us are indeed vegan. there are many other practices involved in industrialised farming which mechanises nature and also great cruelty to the animals - but these are all subject to the individual's sensitivity to what is natural and acceptable and how far they are prepared to sacrifice animals for their own needs. What about doing some investigation into chicken farms. I have visited some years ago and have not eaten chicken nor eggs since.

  6. @Hettienne: Thank you for the encouraging response! I am planning on checking out some chicken farms, yes :) In fact, I am involved with a consumer activism group that is beginning to look into the sources of various meat, egg and dairy products. I'll definitely keep you in the loop via this blog. I have gone vegan for lent, actually (not for religious reasons, just a personal challenge) and am loving how I feel - both physically and morally!

  7. Hi Muriel

    Why have you not uploaded Fair Cape's response?

  8. I am not satisfied with their response, as they've avoided answering 6 of my 8 questions. I've asked if they'd be willing to amend their response by adding answers to my questions - if they prefer not to, I will upload the original response as soon as I hear from them.

  9. I fully understand that this is your blog, and that you decide what gets loaded or not, but I also think it totally irresponsible "journalism" to decide what you do and do not want to post as a response from Fair Cape......This whole story started because you noticed the TM mark on the bottle, one which ensures that no one copies Fair Cape's name, and you took it as an opening to blow things totally out of proportion.....if Fair Cape where as bad as you would like to make them out to be, then why are they so open and transparent as to allow people through the farms? One thing is for certain, no other milk farm would come close to their standards and transparency....as for Free Range......the cows are not "locked" up in sheds and can't move about, yes, sure they don't roam 24/7 but they are well cared for and looked after and do get to roam in the fields at certain times, shouldn't that be the most important point here? Also, if they were such a bad farm, then why would the likes of Woolworth's (with such high standards) use their products (even if branded under another name)? I also suggest that you upload Fair Cape's response, I feel it is only fair on them, don't you think you have caused enough damage already?

  10. I personally choose to drink whole milk from Camphill Dairy, but if I ever run out and need milk desperately then I always choose Fair Cape. Nothing in your article has given me any reason to change my mind. It seems by far the best of the commercial dairies. Their efforts should be congratulated! It must be very challenging to make milk that is both ethical and affordable and they are doing a pretty decent job. I look forward to hearing their response, please upload ASAP.

  11. We shouldn't be drinking milk in the first place. Maybe our own mother's while we're babies, but how does it possibly make sense that we drink milk from an entirely different species and while no longer babies? Unnatural.

  12. It would be only fair to upload their response in it's unedited form. What could you possibly be afraid of Muriel?

    1. Hi Suzannah, the response I uploaded was only style-formatted, it was not edited.