Fairlife milk works hard to project a good image of itself. However, the company’s efforts regarding sustainability are minimal and presented only in small amounts. If they want to make their efforts to cut energy and reduce waste effective, they should implement them across their supply chain. They also have a history of animal abuse that I am not fully convinced the company has recovered from. Although this milk seems to be slightly better for consumers than other brands, I am extremely reluctant to recommend Fairlife ultra-filtered milk to anyone who has an alternative option.
Fairlife milk is lactose free, low in sugar and high in vitamins and calcium thanks to their ‘ultra-pasteurization’ process. Unfortunately, this is where my praise for this milk’s ingredients stops. The company uses ultra-filtered milk because it is lower in sugar and holds more concentrated proteins and calcium than milk processed traditionally. From a purely final product standpoint, Fairlife milk seems to be better for people than normal milk from another comparable brand. However, milk as a dairy product is one of the least sustainable products on the market. Dairy farming causes issues like nitrogen polluting water supplies, and actually milking cows produces even more manure (which causes nitrogen pollution) than beef cows. Dairy farming also causes soil and habitat degradation, and massive greenhouse gas emissions. I could write pages and pages about the issues with milk production, but I’m sure we’ve all heard it before. Fairlife containers are made entirely of PET plastic which is recyclable but produces extreme amounts of toxic emissions in the production process. With the exception of it’s health benefits, there is not much that’s impressive about the ingredients in this milk.
The production of Fairlife milk seems to be a highly energy intensive process that the company is not doing enough to combat or prevent. Fairlife pairs with lots of different dairies to source their milk and then further refines the milk to make it ‘ultra-pasteurized’. This process involves receiving the milk from farms, quick-chilling the product to 37 degrees, and then filtering the product with a special filter to remove sugar and concentrate vitamins and calcium. In addition to the environmental impact of the farming process, it seems to me that this ‘ultra-pasteurization’ process and the process of shipping milk from around the country are both very energy intensive. I am weary any time a company claims to include rapid heating or cooling of a product in their supply chain, as this inevitably involves a fast exertion of a lot of energy on a single process, therefore, also rapidly producing ghg’s and waste. Fairlife claims to hold all of their farms to extremely high standards with a zero tolerance policy for animal abuse and conducts regular audits to ensure all of the cows have access to a good quality of life and clean and safe environments. However, in 2019, Fairlife was the subject of a lot of controversy when a viral video showed extreme animal abuse at one of their milk supplying farms. After this incident, Fairlife and Coca-Cola publicly cut ties with the farm and instituted new policies and groups to better assess the farms involved in their supply chain. I appreciate that the company quickly cut ties with this situation and committed to do better, however, the company did reportedly have standards and commitments related to animal welfare prior to this incident that obviously were not being upheld. The production of this product seems to be extremely energy intensive and unsustainable, with no commitment by the company to combat their environmental impact, and a questionable status with regards to ethical farming practices.
Fairlife, as a company, is owned by Coca-Cola and together the two of them do not have a fantastic reputation. One positive for Fairlife is that the company has a grant program dedicated to supporting grassroots organizations trying to provide access to high quality healthy food in local communities, especially those that are underserved on the whole. The company has 100% recyclable packaging and has cut ghg’s from some of their transportation by shipping directly from factories to stores. However, they have not cut out all of their intermediary shipping locations, which is unfortunate. They also have systems at one plant that capture and reuse almost all of their wastewater and eliminate the amount of water used on the whole. Unfortunately, this system is not present at all of their facilities. A lot of this information comes from Fairlife’s annual stewardship report for 2020, a document that on the whole is difficult to follow and presents a lot of information in a misleading way. This makes me trust the company less and question what other information they are spinning to support their image. Following the incident with animal abuse at one of their farms, Fairlife created an advisory council with external scientists and experts, and claim to be constantly relying on science to improve their farming practices with regards to animal welfare. They also claim to frequently conduct audits of their farms without warning, in hopes that this will reveal the true practices on their farms. However, I want to once again reiterate that the company claimed to have a commitment to supporting animal welfare prior to that event. Fairlife’s parent company, Coca-Cola, is far from a sustainable company and is actually the largest plastic producer in the world. On the whole, Fairlife is making progress in their sustainable goals, but unless they expand them and provide clear evidence of more ethical practices, it is not nearly enough.