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Activists Applaud Leprino’s New Animal Treatment Policies

Luke Runyon
KUNC and Harvest Public Media

Los Angeles-based animal rights group Mercy For Animals is heaping praise on Denver-based Leprino Foods for its updated animal treatment policies. As the world’s largest maker of mozzarella cheese, the company supplies some of the country’s largest restaurant chains, like Pizza Hut, Domino’s and Papa John’s.

The changes will affect a large number of Colorado dairy farmers, many of whom send milk to Leprino factories in Greeley and Fort Morgan, selling through the dairy cooperative Dairy Farmers of America.

In September 2014 an undercover activist documented cattle being punched, dragged and whipped at a New Mexico dairy farm that supplied the company with milk. The farm was subsequently shut down.

In response, Leprino announced a zero tolerance policy for any farm where employees are found willfully abusing animals, using a third-party auditing firm to carry out on-farm inspections. The company’s new Leprino Quality Animal Care program will also require farmers to provide pain relief while dehorning dairy cattle, and will phase out by the end of 2016 a controversial sanitary practice where a cow’s tail is removed called docking.  

A spokesperson for Leprino declined an interview for this story, but said in a statement the company is committed to ethics.

As KUNC’s managing editor and reporter covering the Colorado River Basin, I dig into stories that show how water issues can both unite and divide communities throughout the Western U.S. I edit and produce feature stories for KUNC and a network of public media stations in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, California and Nevada.
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