Dairy cow feed at heart of lawsuit against Kerrygold

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/venemama
© GettyImages/venemama
A California resident is suing Kerrygold and its parent corporation alleging misrepresentation of the feed used for the cows that provided milk to make the company’s dairy products.

Dyami Myers-Taylor brought the lawsuit alleging that the dairy cows that provide milk for Kerrygold’s dairy products are not fed only grass but instead given feeds including soy, corn and products that are genetically modified, according to court documents.

“The Kerrygold Products contain the grass-fed claims, which were and are false, misleading, and deceptive claims and advertisements set forth on packaging, labeling and in advertisements as alleged herein,” ​Myers-Taylor said in his lawsuit. “On information and belief, the Kerrygold products are derived from cows that are fed soy, corn and other grains, among other non-grass feed, including grains that are genetically modified, and are thus not ‘grass-fed’ as advertised.”

The class action lawsuit was filed July 6 in the US District Court for the Southern District of California.  

In addition to Kerrygold, the lawsuit was brought against the Ornua Co-operative Limited and Ornua Foods North America Inc., according to court documents. The products referenced include salted butter, unsalted butter, naturally softer pure Irish butter, garlic and herb butter, reduced fat Irish butter and Irish butter with canola oil.

Myers-Taylor brought the lawsuit both on his own account and as a class action for others in a similar situation in California or the US, according to the lawsuit.

A spokesperson with Ornua told us that, “We (Ornua) believe our products are marketed in accordance with applicable laws and regulations and will vigorously defend claims which propose otherwise.”

Feed-focused concerns raised

In the lawsuit, Myers-Taylor alleged that from 2014 through 2018 he paid a “price premium”​ for dairy products produced by Kerrygold based on the understanding from their advertising that the cows were fed only grass. Had he known that cows were fed grains or genetically modified feed ingredients he would not have purchased the products or paid a higher price for them.

He also alleged that grass-fed dairy products contain compounds like omega-3 fatty acids, butyric acid and conjugated linoleic acid, which reportedly provide health benefits. Dairy products from grain-fed cows do not have the same amounts of those elements.

“Plaintiff and the proposed class would not have purchased or paid a price premium for the Kerrygold products had they known that the representations, ‘Milk From Grass-fed Cows,’ ‘Made with milk from grass-fed cows not treated with rBST or other growth hormones,’ ‘All Natural,’ and ‘100% Pure and Natural’ … were false, deceptive and/or misleading,”​ according to court documents. “Plaintiff saw and read the grass-fed claims on product packaging and relied on the representations, statements, and warranties thereon and on the Kerrygold website in believing that the Kerrygold products were made with milk from grass-fed cows and purchased the Kerrygold products based on the perception of value derived from those representations, statements and warranties.”

Allegedly, at some points in time during the year, cows used to produce milk for Kerrygold products are given grain-based diets, according to court documents.

The labeling used is allegedly additionally problematic because the company would have had other feed alternatives than grain or genetically modified feeds, according to court documents. Some of the company’s competitors reportedly say they use 100% hay diets for their cows.  

“Rather than disclose the use of non-grass feed, as other partially grass-fed competitors do, Kerrygold deceptively implies that its products are derived from cows that are fed only grass,”​ according to court documents. “On information and belief, Kerrygold chooses to feed its cows genetically modified and other grains instead of non-grain and non-genetically modified alternatives as a cost-savings measure which undermines Kerrygold’s ongoing effort to posture the Kerrygold products as “grass-fed.”

Response sought

The lawsuit asks to be certified as a class and sub-class action lawsuit, for Myers-Taylor to be named the representative and for an order stating that Kerrygold’s and Ornua’s conduct violated several statutes and laws.

Myers-Taylor has asked for an injunction to stop the alleged “false labeling, deceptive marketing and consistent pattern and practice of falsely promoting natural claims,” ​according to court documents. The lawsuit requests damages, punitive damages, damages from breach of express warranty, restitution and the “disgorgement of all profits and/or restoration of monies wrongfully obtained” ​from the alleged “unfair and deceptive business practices.”

Additionally, Myers-Taylor asked for attorney’s fees and expenses related to the cost of the lawsuit, according to court documents.

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