Soon you’ll be able to put a dollop of fair trade yogurt over your sliced fair trade bananas. The ethically minded leaders of Greek yogurt company Chobani have teamed up with Fair Trade USA, a nonprofit group in Oakland, Calif., to promote dairy farmers who are doing the right thing. The companies are creating a label that will let customers know that the milk product they are buying originated on a farm that treats its workers and cows humanely.
The program, called Milk Matters, will offer relief to struggling dairy farmers in the U.S., by inviting them to sign up for the Fair Trade USA vetting process, where auditors periodically look at the cows, interview workers, and inspect environmental issues like the containment of runoff. If the farms win Fair Trade USA’s approval, Chobani will pay a small premium (reportedly between 2% to 4%) for milk supplied by those farms and sell the yogurt with a fair trade sticker.
The initiative will focus on six areas: worker well-being, environmental stewardship, animal care, local sourcing, investing in dairy communities, and “freedom and flexibility for dairy farmers,” a potentially controversial element that allows farmers to feed the cows GMO grains, but also helps small farms in partnership with the Cornell PRO-DAIRY program and New York State’s Dairy Acceleration Program. It’s an appealing proposition not just for farmers but for consumers looking for yogurt that doesn’t pollute the planet or poorly treat its human and bovine employees. Even better, Chobani doesn’t plan to increase consumer prices, according to a report in the New York Times.
“Dairy farms are the backbone of the communities we call home, but the current model is broken and it’s leaving consumers questioning everything, including the treatment of animals, farm workers, and the land itself,” said Chobani founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya, in a statement. “Our solution is simple but powerful. We all have a responsibility to support the farmers who make our business and our vision possible.”