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Yeo Valley Production Limited

Is organic brand Yeo Valley leading the whey when it comes to ethical dairy, or does it have a sour side?

Yeo Valley is one of the most recognisable brands in the UK organic dairy sector.

In a recent poll of nearly 2,000 Ethical Consumer readers, it was voted the company people most wanted us to rate on its ethics.

How ethical is Yeo Valley?

In this article we examine whether Yeo Valley really is the cream of the crop when it comes to ethics.

We explore its close relationship with mega dairy company Arla, climate change and animal welfare.

Who owns the Yeo Valley brand?

This is perhaps the most significant (and least transparent) issue when it comes to figuring out how ethical Yeo Valley really is.

Yeo Valley describes itself as a family farm which has been passed down through generations, and you can even go and visit the farm if you want to.

However, if you’re buying any of the following products, it’s very possible they had nothing to do with that farm – because they’re actually made and sold by dairy giant Arla.

In 2018 Arla bought the rights to make the following products and sell them branded as ‘Yeo Valley’:

  • Fresh milk
  • Butter
  • Spreads
  • Cheese

The following products bearing the company’s logo appear to still be independently owned by the Yeo Valley Group:

  • Yoghurt
  • Ice cream
  • Cream
  • Desserts

How ethical is the Yeo Valley group (which makes yoghurt, ice cream, cream and desserts)?

Yeo Valley scored worst ratings in the Climate Change, Animal Rights, and Supply Chain Management categories – but did well in everything else.

Though it uses some solar energy on its own farms, it doesn’t publicly report on its carbon emissions, or discuss emissions in its supply chain. It also has barely any detail about how it supports the rights of workers in its supply chain.

Positive aspects of the Yeo Valley group include the fact it’s fully organic, GM-free, and doesn’t appear to use any palm oil in its products.

What are Yeo Valley’s cow welfare standards?

On the Yeo Valley website you’ll find a cow welfare FAQ section which discusses cow welfare standards on its own family farms in Somerset. However, Yeo Valley buys most of its milk from other companies: Arla and Organic Milk Suppliers Co-operative (OMSCO), which may not follow the same requirements as Yeo Valley group.

As Yeo Valley products are organic, some welfare measurements must be met for cows. For example, they are not given antibiotics or hormones, and so usually have more space than factory farmed animals where disease spreads more easily prompting the need for antibiotics. At least 60% of a cow’s feed must be grass based and GM free, meaning that they are given access to pasture.

This is undeniably much better when it comes to animal welfare than many non-organic brands.

All Yeo Valley products receive a worst rating in our Animal Rights category, because of the inherent issues involved in using another animal’s body without consent, and the fact nearly all dairy cows will be killed rather than enabled to live out their natural lifespan.

How ethical is Arla (which makes Yeo Valley milk, butter, spreads and cheese)?

If you buy 'Yeo Valley' milk, butter, cheese or spreads, it’s probably more important to look at the ethics of Arla instead of the Yeo Valley Group.

Arla is a global dairy cooperative owned by 12,000 dairy farmers (including 2,500 farmers in the UK). All of Arla’s profits go back to the cooperative's farmer owners, and the owners take part in deciding how the cooperative grows and develops its business. As such it received a positive Company Ethos mark in our ratings system for being a cooperative.

However, Arla received worst ratings in the following categories:

  • Anti-Social Finance
  • Supply Chain Management
  • Human Rights
  • Animal Rights
  • Factory Farming
  • Climate Change

Arla scored a worst rating for Factory Farming, because though it sells a lot of organic produce, it also sells non-organic. It has no policy guaranteeing cows the right to graze outdoors, stating "Some of our cows are kept in barns and some graze on grass during the summer".

It scored middle ratings and lost half a mark in the following:

  • Environmental Reporting
  • Pollution & Toxics
  • Habitats & Resources
  • Palm Oil
  • Controversial Technologies
  • Political Activities
  • Tax Conduct

While Arla does have science-based climate reduction targets and reports on its emissions, the dairy sector is high-impact when it comes to emissions.

In September 2022 protestors from the campaign group Animal Rebellion, stopped the supply of fresh milk at Arla Aylesbury, which processes 10% of the UK milk supply. The campaign group calls on Arla to become plant-based by 2025, and for the government to fund a just transition for workers in the industry to switch to sustainable alternatives.

Arla was also linked to “catastrophic” deforestation in Brazil according to a Greenpeace Unearthed investigation, which showed that Arla was sourcing some animal feed exported by the company Cargill – a company responsible for illegal forest clearing in Brazil.

Arla has a worst rating for Supply Chain Management, and operations in several regimes known for poor legislation when it comes to human rights, including China, Mexico, Nigeria, Philippines, and Saudi Arabia.

Its executive board members appear to have each received over £1m each in compensation in 2021, so it lost a whole mark under Anti-Social Finance for excessive director’s remuneration.

So, should we buy from Yeo Valley?

When it comes to the climate and animal rights, switching to plant-based is the way to go.

For people who want to keep buying dairy, Yeo Valley yoghurt, ice cream, cream and desserts are still independently owned by the Yeo Valley family and so Yeo Valley is probably a relatively good choice.

As all its products are organic, buying Yeo Valley means supporting a more environmentally-sustainable form of production.

It’s worth keeping in mind though, that when you buy Yeo Valley butter, spreads, milk and cheese you’ll also be supporting Arla.

We list a range of organic dairy producers in our guide to milk – if you’re already a subscriber, just check out the top of the score table to see which brands are coming out as most ethical.

And check out our guides to plant milk, butter and spreads, and vegan cheese, if you are looking to reduce your dairy intake and increase plant alternatives.

Two cartons of Yeo Valley milk
  • Ethical Consumer Best Buy: No
  • Boycotts: No

Company information

Company Ethiscore

Company Address:

Yeo Valley HQ
RhodyateBlagdonSomersetBS40 7YEUnited Kingdom

Associated brands

  • Yeo Valley butter, spreads, cheese and milk
  • Yeo Valley ice cream, cream, yoghurt and desserts

Related product guides

Ownership structure

Ethical stories

Pre 2024 ratings