November 16, 2017


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Southeast Milk, Inc. Statement Regarding Alleged Animal Mistreatment at Burnham Dairy Farm

Jim Sleper, CEO, Southeast Milk, Inc.

Southeast Milk, Inc., a cooperative of family-owned dairies, was made aware on Nov. 15, 2017 of allegations of mistreatment of dairy cows at Burnham Dairy Farm of Okeechobee, FL, which is one of our members. Working in collaboration with national animal care experts, we immediately initiated our own review to assess the validity of the report of mistreatment.

Animal abuse of any kind is never tolerated at SMI. While some of the conditions depicted at Burnham Dairy reflect our farming community’s struggle to deal with the aftermath of the historic Hurricane Irma, others clearly show a breakdown in the adherence to our SMI protocols, as well as our broader dairy community standards.

Our organization has a zero-tolerance policy for animal abuse, which mirrors the expectations of proper animal care outlined in the National Dairy Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) Animal Care program, the dairy industry’s comprehensive animal care program. Any employee of a farm marketing its milk through SMI who is found to have violated our animal care guidelines, as well as any employee who witnessed abuse and failed to report it, should be terminated.

SMI is working with the FARM Program, which has activated its official protocol for Willful Mistreatment requiring an inspection by an outside, 3rd-party auditor. The program has placed Burnham Dairy Farm on probationary status, pending the completion of any and all corrective actions deemed necessary by the third-party auditor and the FARM Program. These actions demonstrate SMI’s ongoing commitment to the proper care and responsible treatment of our member farms’ animals.

Animal care and well-being is paramount to our operations at SMI and its dairy farmer owners and we will work with our member dairies to do better, for our customers, our community and our cows.