Dear Starbucks, Let’s Get Real

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Dear Starbucks, Let’s Get Real

(Photo: Federico/cc/flickr)

Starbucks is taking a lot of heat from consumers lately. 

Multiple organizations, including OCA, have appealed to CEO Howard Schultz to switch to organic milk.

And recently, hundreds of thousands of consumers signed petitions, including ours, demanding Starbucks drop out of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), a lobbying group that is suing Vermont to overturn its GMO labeling law.

It’s no wonder Starbucks is looking for ways to polish its image. And it found one. In a move no doubt intended to make the company look more consumer-friendly, the world’s largest coffee chain has pledged to source milk, eggs, cheese, poultry and pork only from suppliers that meet Starbucks’ new-and-improved animal welfare standards. 

First, let us just say this. The Organic Consumers Association is unequivocally in favor of any and all steps taken by Starbucks and any other company, that will lessen the horror endured by animals tortured in factory farms, or as the industry prefers to call them, CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operations).

But let’s get real. 

The list of “Best Practices” on the updated Animal Welfare-Friendly Practices page on Starbucks’ website, at first blush, make it appear as though the company is really taking a stand for animal welfare. But all the statement really addresses are issues of direct torture, issues most conscious consumers oppose.

Here’s what should really be of concern to a company like Starbucks, which buys millions of gallons of milk annually: The cramming together, indoors, of hundreds of thousands of cows, on concrete floors, in spaces too small to move, hooked up nearly non-stop to milking machines. According to a report prepared for the Minnesota Planning Agency, lack of enough space to move, combined with spending an entire lifetime standing on concrete floors, have led to an epidemic of (untreated) lameness in dairy cows.

What happens when dairy cows go lame? They’re shipped off to slaughter, usually after only five years of a miserable life.

If Starbucks is truly committed to “Animal Welfare-Friendly” practices, it will begin sourcing milk exclusively from farms where cows have access to pastures—where they can eat grass, as nature intended, instead of being fed GMO corn and cotton gin trash made from pesticide-soaked cotton seeds.

If Starbucks really cares about animal welfare, not to mention the health of the consumers who have made the company so profitable, the company will begin, today, to transition away from milk—and all other animal products—produced on inhumane, pollution-generating, GMO and pesticide-promoting factory farms, where GMO-contaminated diets lead to unhealthy animals who, in turn, produce unhealthy food for humans.

All Starbucks has to do is make a commitment to go organic. And it should start with the product it buys the most of—milk.

In its updated statement, Starbucks says:

Recognizing the responsibility we have as the voice for our customers, we continue to look for opportunities to collaborate with others across our industry and the NGO community to promote best practices. 

Mr. Schultz, look no further.

The OCA, along with many other nonprofits, is ready and willing to collaborate with Starbucks, and with the many struggling organic dairies, to build a national network of regional suppliers of organic milk, produced by pastured, grass-fed cows.

Just pick up the phone. We’re ready.

Katherine Paul

Katherine Paul is associate director of the Organic Consumers Association.

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