Can Chobani’s fair-trade partnership prevent the dairy industry from curdling?

Chobani partnered with Fair Trade USA to certify its yogurts as humane -- but farmers aren’t sure it was a smooth move.

July 3, 2019

Chobani, the New York state-based yogurt company, announced a partnership with the California nonprofit Fair Trade USA to bring fair trade to the dairy industry, which is struggling to avoid going sour.

What spoiled the milk?

Dairy farmers’ first problem is that milk drinkers went nuts… for nuts. 

Now, udderless upstarts like almonds, soybeans, and even oats are replacing mammal milk in coffee cups countrywide — which caused milk sales to fall by $1.1B last year.

Secondly — and even more problematically — the dairy industry has struggled to address climate concerns about cow-missions and criticisms about poor conditions for both livestock and laborers.

So Chobani is preaching lactose tolerance to end the milk mayhem 

Chobani will require its partner farms to undergo a comprehensive audit — from the gutter to the udder — in order to receive certification.

The yogurt company will pay producers a premium — likely 2% to 4% above market price — to undergo these audits, and it will also pay Fair Trade fees associated with certification.

But then, once its partner farms have been certified as humane, Chobani can market its yogurt as fair-trade — something Chobani hopes will boost its already socially conscious brand.

But dairy farmers are torn on the plan

Chobani revitalized the dairy business in upstate New York when it opened there in 2005. Some farmers think that selling their milk at elevated, fair-trade prices will be a similar boon. 

But others are concerned that few farms will open themselves up to the audits because so many workers in the US dairy industry are immigrants from Central America who are believed to be undocumented.

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