Ornua seeks to have Kerrygold butter lawsuit in US dismissed
Ornua - formerly the Irish Dairy Board - has moved to have a case against it dismissed in the United States where it's been accused of falsely advertising its Kerrygold butter brand.
San Diego-based property executive Dyami Myers-Taylor launched a lawsuit against Ornua during the summer.
He alleges that the Irish co-op has been promoting its Kerrygold butter in the United States as having been produced using milk from cows that have been solely grass-fed.
He has claimed that Irish cows are not exclusively fed grass, and that, as such, Kerrygold's advertising was false and misleading.
Mr Myers-Taylor has alleged that marketing slogans used by Kerrygold were intended to convey the "false impression that the Kerrygold products are derived from cows that are 100pc grass-fed".
He also alleged that at certain times of the year, "Kerrygold feeds its cows genetically modified and other grains - not grass".
Ornua has told the court that the milk used to make its butter generally comes from cows in Ireland that spend an average of 305 days a year grazing on fresh grass, and that between 90pc and 95pc of their diet comes from fresh grass.
"Nothing about the way the butter products are packaged or marketed would lead a reasonable consumer to believe that the cows are exclusively grass-fed," it told the US court.
The co-op pointed out that Irish law prohibits the use of growth hormones, including rBST, on dairy cows.
The rBST hormone is given in other countries to boost milk production in dairy cows. It is banned across the EU.
Therefore, there can be no real dispute that the cows supplying milk for the products are "grass fed" and "not treated with rBST or other grown hormones," Ornua has told the US court.
It added: "Plaintiff's idiosyncratic interpretation that 'Milk From Grass-fed Cows' and 'Natural' means milk from cows that only consume grass, and never grains, defies common sense."
Ornua expects global sales from its Kerrygold branded products to reach €1bn this year. That compares to about €900m in sales last year.
The co-op reported record revenues of €2.1bn last year.
It has diversified the Kerrygold brand to include products such as Kerrygold cheese, garlic bread and cream liqueur, and more recently, the introduction of Kerrygold shortbread biscuits.
Mr Myers-Taylor is attempting to make his legal challenge a class action suit. Ornua has insisted in court documents that he should be precluded from doing so.
Next month, Ornua said it will seek to have the case against it dismissed.
"Each of Plaintiff's causes of action requires him to allege a false or misleading statement that is likely to deceive a reasonable consumer," it told the court.
Ornua's lawyers have argued that the case should be dismissed with prejudice, claiming that Mr Myers-Taylor's "inherent defects in his claims" cannot be cured by an amended complaint.
Ornua expects to make its case for dismissal on December 17 in San Diego.