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Published April 2024

Dairy Deception: Corruption and Consumer Fraud at Alexandre Family Farm

This report details the results of a consumer fraud investigation conducted by Farm Forward, with the help of rancher whistleblowers, that uncovered systemic deception, cruelty, and animal abuse by arguably the leading higher welfare, Organic, and Certified Humane dairy operation: Alexandre Family Farms, LLC.

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Executive Summary

This report details the results of a consumer fraud investigation conducted by Farm Forward, with the help of rancher whistleblowers, that uncovered systemic deception, cruelty, and animal abuse by arguably the leading higher welfare, Organic, Certified Humane, and “regenerative” dairy operation: Alexandre Family Farm, LLC. Our own eyewitness experiences in investigating this report, coupled with extensive documentation—including video footage, photographic evidence, ownership documents, a veterinary evaluation from a large animal veterinarian who works in the dairy industry, and a review by leading animal welfare scientist Gail Hanson, DVM—together provide damning evidence that Alexandre, in contrast to their public claims and certifications, practices a business model that ensures that cows routinely suffer egregiously and that diseased animals are sold into the human food supply chain. Given Alexandre’s leading reputation in the industry, Alexandre’s failures suggest that decades of industrialization make it nearly impossible for modern dairies to produce their products in line with public expectations.

The enormous scale of preventable animal disease and suffering documented at Alexandre reveal loopholes in its certifications that function to deceive consumers, so-called humanewashing. Perversely, Organic certifications frequently function to incentivize farmers to withhold needed medical treatment from diseased animals and, polling shows,1 aid in humanewashing by giving the public the false sense that these certification standards align with their values. Many manufacturers that incorporate Alexandre’s dairy into their own products—including toddler formula—highlight Alexandre’s welfare claims to increase their own sales, expanding the humanewashing (and such products may not identify Alexandre by name and so are hard for consumers to avoid).

One of the most dramatic findings of our investigation is that in more than a hundred videos and photos Farm Forward has documented dozens of cases of serious violations of even the relatively weak Organic, Certified Humane, and other certifications that Alexandre touts in its advertising, yet Alexandre retains those certifications.

Structural conditions in the dairy industry, and particularly in Organic certification programs, may make socially unacceptable forms of animal suffering— like failure to adequately treat obvious injuries and illnesses—the rule rather than the exception. Given that these welfare problems are occurring in “best of the best” operations that, as of the release of this report, remain in good standing with their certifications, it is our recommendation that for the foreseeable future, consumers who wish to avoid animal cruelty steer clear of products made from cows’ milk.


The Historical Moment

When the country’s most diverse, lactose-intolerant, and environmentally conscious generation, Gen Z, turned its back on cows’ milk, it put industrial dairy’s back up against a wall. Americans’ annual cow milk consumption had already fallen by two-thirds between 1945 and 2022, from 45 gallons per person to 15.2 Members of Gen Z drink even less than the rest of the public, in 2022 buying 20 percent less cows’ milk than the national average.3 “We lost almost an entire generation of milk drinkers,” noted U.S. Representative Glenn Thompson (R-PA), leader of the House Committee on Agriculture.4 Meanwhile, in 2022 just over 40 percent of U.S. households purchased plant milks5 like oat, soy, and almond, which occupy ever-increasing footage of grocery store shelves: their global revenue of $15 billion in 2015 is expected to grow to more than $35 billion by the end of 2028.6

The Labels

As the dairy industry tries to convince Gen Z that it offers a humane, desirable, relevant, and climate-friendly product, dairies apply appealing labels to milk cartons: “pasture-raised,” “grass-fed,” “eco-friendly,” even “carbon neutral,” and the recently introduced “regenerative.” Most of these labels are meant to convey in part—as phrased by Alexandre Family Farms, LLC (Alexandre)—“These are some happy grass grazed cows,”7 “I am one happy cow,”8 and “Life on our pastures is a happy one!”9 But how can consumers know that these marketing labels and statements fairly represent the actual conditions on the farm, and aren’t simply more humanewashing?10

The Certifications

Enter third-party certifications like “Certified Humane by Humane Farm Animal Care,” to persuade consumers that on-farm conditions are as humane and environmentally sound as the labels purport. And it’s working, at least for the dairies. Alexandre’s customers likely believe that they are supporting “happy cows.”11 Well-intentioned consumers buy into both the label claims and certifications, paying a hefty premium for cows’ milk from the dairies that sell to “ethical” retailers like Whole Foods Market, which markets their partnership with Alexandre as “Restarting Dairy.”12 Alexandre boasts a number of premium animal welfare certifications and was named a Whole Foods Market Supplier of the Year in 2021.13 But given the evidence that we uncovered, Alexandre’s welfare claims appear designed to deceive.

The Animal Welfare Violations

In more than 15 years of advocacy Farm Forward has seen the worst of the worst on factory farms. Yet our own eyewitness experiences combined with the videos, photographs, and research the rancher whistleblowers provided to us documenting Alexandre’s practices shocked even us.

Dozens of videos and photos depict Alexandre’s numerous indefensible animal welfare violations. Far from indicating isolated incidents, or physical abuse of a few cows by “a few bad apples” among Alexandre staff, the footage points to routine management practices, driven from the top, that lead to systemic, egregious suffering. In addition to what the videos depict, whistleblowers working with and around Alexandre provided photographic evidence of more than a dozen calves who were kept isolated from their mothers and died; whistleblowers also described serious lapses in management that resulted in, for example, the extreme suffering of hundreds of cows and the violent deaths of dozens of cows.

The Report

The report’s first section, “Animal Abuse at Alexandre,” documents the condition of cattle videoed, photographed and/or witnessed by the whistleblowers or by Farm Forward staff, as well an assessment of video evidence from a large farmed animal veterinarian specializing in dairy. Their evaluations, along with an independent evaluation by farmed animal welfare expert Gail Hansen, DVM, all point to dismal welfare conditions at Alexandre.

The report’s second section, “Animal Welfare Certifications Failed to Prevent Suffering,” demonstrates that the certifications supposedly verifying Alexandre’s welfare practices—USDA Organic, Certified Humane by Humane Farm Animal Care, and Regenerative Organic Certified—did not prevent, or apparently even detect, the abuses at Alexandre. In fact, documentary evidence indicates that the Organic program and Organic certifiers were notified of abuses and potential violations of Organic standards and yet the issues persisted. Sadly, when combined with the market pressures in the dairy industry, a requirement of the Organic program—the prohibition of the use of antibiotic treatment of animals marketed with the label—may have perpetuated and even worsened systemic animal suffering at Alexandre.

Third, in “Ripples of Humanewashing,” this report shows that Alexandre’s claims of ethical production expand through the market through food manufacturers who purchase its dairy products, including a company producing toddler formula. These “ethical dairy” companies spread Alexandre’s deception far beyond the products that Alexandre sells directly to consumers.

When the certifications with the highest animal welfare standards don’t prevent appalling animal suffering even at the leading higher welfare regenerative dairy, we are left to wonder what is happening at other big dairies, and whether higher welfare dairy is possible for today’s grocery markets. Given current market dynamics, big dairy may be a welfare problem that cannot be solved.

Widening the focus from just Alexandre, the appendix “Structural Suffering” explores how the organizational structure of large scale organic and conventional dairies depresses animal welfare and leads to the staggeringly high annual death rate for cows used for dairy, and suggests directions for future research.

Read the report



Grace Adcox, Kevin Hanley, Andrew deCoriolis, and Trevor McCarty, “Holding Companies Accountable: Humanewashing, Antibiotics, and Animal Welfare,” Data for Progress & Farm Forward, Aug 2023, accessed Jan 5, 2024, available here.


1945 figures from Judith Jones Putnam and Jane E. Allshouse, “Trends in U.S. Per Capita Milk and Cheese Consumption, 1909 to 2001,” United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Economic Research Service, Jun 1, 2003, accessed Jan 5, 2024, available here. 2022 figures from “Dairy products: Per capita consumption, United States (Annual),” USDA Economic Research Service, accessed Jan 5, 2024, available here.


Kim Severson, “Got Milk? Not This Generation,” New York Times, Apr 4, 2023, accessed Jan 5, 2024, available here.


Tom Venesky, “USDA Decision to Keep 1% Milk in Schools Seen as Positive Step, “ Lancaster Farming, Feb 13, 2022, updated Dec 7, 2022, accessed Jan 5, 2024, available here.


“2022 U.S. Retail Sales Data For The Plant-Based Foods Industry,” Plant Based Foods Association, accessed Jan 5, 2024, available here.


“Revenue of the milk substitutes market worldwide from 2018 to 2028 (in billion U.S. dollars)”, Statista, Nov 14, 2023, accessed Jan 5, 2024, available here.


Alexandre Family Farm, Facebook post, Apr 29, 2023, accessed Feb 7, 2024, available here.


Alexandre Family Farm, Facebook post, Sep 10, 2022, accessed Feb 7, 2024, available here.


Alexandre Family Farm, Facebook post, Jun 8, 2023, accessed Feb 7, 2024, available here.


“The Dirt on Humanewashing,” Farm Forward, Dec 2022, accessed Feb 7, 2024, available here.


E.g. S.G. Sweeny’s and K.O. DeLeon’s separate comments on Alexandre’s Facebook post, Sep 8, 2022, accessed Feb 7, 2024, available here.


“Restarting Dairy,” Whole Foods Market, accessed Jan 5, 2024, available here.


“Alexandre Family Farm Wins Nexty Award for Best New Mission-based Product at Natural Products Expo East 2021,” Associated Press, Sep 23, 2021, accessed Jan 5, 2024, available here.