Fair Cape: a final exchange

In response to my email in the previous post ("... and Fair Cape responds.), I received the following:

11 March 2011
Hi Muriel

Thanks for the response.

I would first like to address your contentions that this is not an attack on Fair Cape, but an industry expose. I would like to state at the outset that this is absolutely currently nothing more than an attack on Fair Cape which is totally out of context.

Were this an industry expose, you would FIRST have done your research across the entire industry, then presented your findings within this context. You have NOT done this, you have simply gone after the most transparent operation (as you have admitted it was the only dairy who has given you access) and have left the impression with your readers that Fair Cape is the problem, where, in reality, Fair Cape’s operation, in terms of cow comfort and environmental friendliness is currently without peer in the South African market.

If you look at some of the comments on your blog, this is clearly the case and frankly, you have acted irresponsibly in allowing this impression to be created WITHOUT SO MUCH AS SURVEYING ANY OTHER INDUSTRY PLAYERS.

To call this an industry expose is disingenuous.

As you so eloquently stated below – it is “not enough that this is simply in the planning phase” yet you have printed your findings with nothing more than the intention to survey the rest of the market.

I have no problem with you going after Fair Cape, who currently leads the South African industry in terms of good animal husbandry, however, you MUST then go after them in the context of local, national and international best practice. This you have not done in your rush to print an incendiary article without the proper context.

To say you only went after Fair Cape because they are the “best dairy” is no justification for neglecting to place the South African market in context.

Please don’t get me wrong, we see massive value in having people like you in the industry to ensure that corporates are answerable, however, I hope, as you gain experience and do more ‘investigations’ you learn to present a more holistic view of the actual circumstances.

That said, I will answer your questions below.

I can’t give you an estimated period of time in a year when the cows graze, as it is totally dependent on the weather and the pastures. Once cows become uncomfortable in the heat or the grass dies, as it does in summer in Cape Town, they are then housed in the temperature reducing enclosures. These are not stalls at all, they are massive open barns with inside and outside sections which allow the cows full access to the indoors or outdoors.

The new milk labels have been printed and are currently going into the market – the products will be in the market with the new labels by end-March

Please be careful with your allegations regarding ‘misleading images’ as you have no basis for these. With regard to dirty cows –please note that the image you are creating of the dirty cows is a misnomer.

Our cows get milked 3 times a day.

There is a shower built onto the milking system which gives the cows a shower each time they are milked, so, while there are certainly dirty cows on the farm – as there are on any dairy farm – specifically during the winter when it is wet, they are cleaned on a consistent basis 3 times a day. Given the daily showers, when it is not wet (the vast majority of the year) the cows are always clean. Pictures on the website illustrate the average situation on the Fair Cape Farm.

As mentioned, Fair Cape changed its strategy towards the end of last year where we decided that The Fair Cape Free Range brand reflected too heavily on the cow comfort, and not enough on the other aspects of the environmental friendliness of our milk production. We are therefore in the process of moving away from the brand and towards another brand which will illustrate not only the cow comfort aspect of our band, but also the environmental and carbon footprint angles.

As you can appreciate I cannot furnish the details of this new brand as it is proprietary information prior to its launch, however, I am certain you will be suitably impressed once it is launched.

Finally, regarding the carbon footprint project:

We have had our carbon footprint tested and it will be appearing on all our milk bottles in the near future. We are also far down the line in the planning stages of installing a bio-digestive plant on our farm.

This plant will take the waste streams from the milk production and processing and capture the methane to create eco-friendly energy and ensure that Fair Cape does its bit to ensure that we help reduce CO2 in the atmosphere and thereby reduce global warming.

Whilst this project is undertaken at a substantial capital cost to Fair Cape, we are undertaking it with the stated mission to produce the milk with the lowest carbon footprint in South Africa.

A capital project of this nature is quite an undertaking, however, we will, of course, keep our consumers and the media informed of our progress

11 March 2011
Dear Joel, and Mr Loubser,

Thank you for your response. I will happily post it on my blog, however keep in mind that I did not claim that this was an industry expose; I did not say or insinuate that the cows are kept in "stalls"; and that for the most part, my questions have not actually been answered. Would you consider amending your response?

On a better note, I applaud Fair Cape's efforts at reducing their carbon footprint, that is really fantastic news and I think that in this respect, Fair Cape truly is the industry leader.

I have contacted Sonnendal, Woolworths, Darling, Parmalat and Clover dairies. If/when they welcome me onto their farms, I will publish the photographs I take and the information that I receive. Similarly, if they refuse to let me see their farms, I will publicise this. I hope to show that Fair Cape is indeed the industry leader with respect to animal welfare. I stress again that this is not an attack on Fair Cape, it is simply an attempt to find out where "my" milk comes from - and to make this information publicly available. I apologise for coming across as attacking - I have let my emotions get ahead of me and it is clearly not constructive! I have no experience in "investigative blogging", and I will work on my professionalism. I hope that by visiting more farms, I will have a more balanced view of the South African dairy industry.

Kind regards
Muriel Gravenor

Although I am disappointed that Fair Cape has steered clear of answering the questions I asked in my previous post, I want to bring this to a close and move on. I made every effort to relay only objective information, resulting from what I saw on the farm and from what I was told by Fair Cape representatives. Although I was taken aback by what I saw, this is primarily because I was misled by the labeling of their dairy products. I am nonetheless impressed by the efforts that Fair Cape continues to make to be the industry leaders in animal welfare and environmental responsibility.


  1. Well said Fair Cape, I really do think that this was an "attack" on the wrong company....and I am glad that you have stood your ground and shown us what you believe in! I commend you guys on really trying your best!

  2. @faircape
    Interesting that you get so defensive about this blog. All muriel has done is shared her experience on your farm and pointed out the stark contrast between what your marketing implies about your farm and the reality. People read your label and think cows in fields. Reality-cows in sheds. Not stalls sure, but not fields. She gladly admits that you are doing a great job, its just your marketing that she takes issue with.

    Well done on an honest blog! You've taken some tough flack from 'anonymous' readers and from Faircape, which is unfortunately what you have to expect when you expose the half truths of advertising. Look forward to hearing how the rest of the industry looks on the inside!

    Its easy to throw stones when no knows who you are. Why not be give your name when you choose to bash others efforts? Scared of having to defend your claims or employed by Faircape?

    Brendan Argent

  3. Well done Fair Cape for defending yourself against these bullys with a platform.

    You are clearly the one dairy company with a consience. You have a new cusomer after reading this blog

  4. Concerned ShopperMarch 25, 2011 at 9:38 AM

    If consumers who shop at Checkers and Spar wish to know where the Fair Cape FREE RANGE TM milk which THEY buy comes from, it matters to them what conditions are like at the Fair Cape farm, and not elsewhere. It's as simple as that. FREE RANGE means cows who live in fields, and NOT cows cooped up in a barn all year, bar September! You are deliberately misleading customers and this is not acceptable.

  5. Following with interestMarch 25, 2011 at 9:58 AM

    From 1 April 2011 Consumers will have the right to choose, the right to disclosure of information, the right to fair and responsible marketing, the right to fair and honest dealing, and the right to accountability from suppliers. Essentially we now have a legislated right to know what we are buying and how it is produced. If conditions at the Fair Cape Farm are disappointing to customers who buy Fair Cape Free Range milk TM, and not what the labelling implies, then that's of grave concern, irrespective of what goes on at any other farm or with any other product.

  6. In your reply you say that "Fair Cape...currently leads the South African industry in terms of good animal husbandry." This must mean that conditions on your farm are ahead of those farms which produce milk for Woolworths Ayershire and Organic milk - do we understand you correctly?

  7. Kelly - DurbanvilleMarch 28, 2011 at 8:35 PM

    I was at Fair Cape a week ago....guess what, the cows were in the fields and Fair Cape is correct, in summer the fields become very dry and the food is minimal, so there definitely is a need to bring them in for feed and with temperatures reaching over 30 in Durbanville, one could see why they would want to bring the cows in.....did you know that Fair Cape also supplies produce to Woolworths, a company who has really high standards??? Including their Ayrshire Disney Yoghurts and cholesterol drinking ones too....Maybe each and everyone of us have different standards, but wouldn't you rather support a company like Fair Cape, than a company that cows aren't as well looked after???

  8. Just came back from Fair Cape farm - what a beautiful place. I must say the cows all looked very happy and content - i cannot believe the technology required to ensre that each cow is idividually monitored to ensure its comfort - i honestly believe that, after going there, this blog is in poor taste

    @muriel - please update us all on your progress with the other dairies as you said you would

  9. To Kelly & Jamie, what are you basing your positive impressions on? What is of grave concern here - is the non-free-range conditions at the farm vs labelling on the bottle? Do you not share the view of the many worried consumers who feel mislead by Fair Cape's labelling? I've spoken to Woolworths, and they specifically do NOT label Fair Cape milk as Free Range. It is used in their essentials range of milk, i.e. the cheaper milk, and has no free-range labelling, nor any image of a cow in a field - for a reason. If you think it's OK to call milk free-range when it's not, see details on the Consumer Protection Act.

  10. Following with interestApril 5, 2011 at 1:33 PM

    Hi Kelly, that's strange...Fair Cape said the cows only go into the field in September - what's going on?

  11. @ Following with interest

    Thats not what they said, you have misread or misunderstood

    @ muriel - when can we expect a story on other daires?

  12. @Feral: Stories on other dairies are on their way, hopefully getting the next one out in a few weeks. It takes time, and this is not my full-time job unfortunately. I'll be sure to update you all as soon as I've looked into other brands.

  13. Wow...one begins to wonder whether this was all a witch hunt...where are the other stories we were promised??

    sis on you Muriel

    1. LW, I believe that this "story" served its purpose. South African consumers are blinkered, and, consequently, the SA food industry is non-transparent to the extreme. Fair Cape made sweeping claims about their product, so I investigated and was sorely disappointed. The truth about how damaging the dairy industry is (to animals and to the environment) really hit home, and I am now vegan. I have contacted other dairy producers (Sonnendal, WW and Clover) and have had underwhelming responses. I am a full-time student, so where time permits this year, I will look into this issue further to bring the truth to light. It would be good if I could find out from the readers of these articles which dairies they think I should look into... If dairy producers fail to respond, I'll make it known.

  14. WOW...that is disgraceful. you have prefaced your slanderous behaviour regards Fair Cape with the premise that you would place this in context give reviews of other dairies.

    Now, all of a sudden, you are too busy

    this is the most irresponsible journalism i have seen in a long time.

    So much for your credibility regarding 'fairness'

    Fair Cape should take action against you


    1. LW, I am no journalist and did not claim to be one. I am a consumer of store-bought food, and I like to know where it comes from. I found out some things about a particular producer of food, and made it public. I have no responsibility towards you - and who are you, anyway?

  15. Hi Muriel,

    I feel I understand where you're coming from and I appreciate your efforts - if somebody tries to appeal to a certain market by implying that their product is free-range when it is not so, they need to be exposed. If I purchase milk, I will choose Fair Cape, though I tend to avoid animal products.

    I'd love to read more on the other farms as a comparison. Any chance?