Richard and Jill Smith established Pure Éire Dairy (pronounced “air-uh”) in Othello, Washington, in the heart of the Columbia Basin. Jill grew up in Othello on a farm raising row crops, while Richard was raised on a dairy and has continued to work in dairy operations his entire career. Although the couple produced organic milk for several years for a large cooperative, they had long dreamed of producing and bottling their own milk from cows raised on pasture. In the spring of 2009, they started Pure Éire Dairy, grazing 150 Jersey cows on 300 acres of lush pasture.
“Organic doesn’t mean cows are solely grassfed,” Richard laments. “Messaging and the reality of organic dairy are not necessarily consistent. We wanted to be transparent and show our customers how their milk was being made and how the cows were being handled.” One of the ways they communicate their farming practices—and ensure transparency—is through their Certified Animal Welfare Approved by A Greener World (AGW) and Certified Grassfed by AGW certifications.
Pure Éire Dairy is the first farm to be Certified Grassfed by AGW for dairy cows. “We don’t have a big publicity machine, so we rely on our AGW certifications to shine a light on us to distinguish us from the rest of the dairy industry because Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW is the gold standard,” says Jill. The couple also welcomes visitors to the farm to allow people to see for themselves what the cows eat and how they are treated.
What really sets Pure Éire Dairy apart from other producers, however, is not the 100 percent grassfed dairy herd, but a practice that is otherwise unheard of in the dairy industry: “We leave calves with their mothers, milking only once a day, until they are several months of age,” says Richard. “Most dairies—conventional or otherwise—will take calves early and milk multiple times.” This choice to focus on quality and welfare, rather than quantity, may result in less overall milk production, but it has led to many loyal customers: “Every visitor who comes to the farm leaves thanking us for keeping calves on their mothers.”
As Richard explains, Pure Éire Dairy milk is naturally higher in vitamin D because their grassfed cattle provide milk that’s tasty and more nutritious, “just as nature intended.” Unlike modern conventional milk from grain fed cattle that is ultra-pasteurized and homogenized, Pure Éire Dairy milk has a cream top and three to five times the levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a good fat that scientists believe may be vital in fighting cancer.
Jill and Richard’s superior methods are uncommon now, but they hope that won’t always be the case. “We want to set an example, so others can look at us and see that they can also be Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW and Certified Grassfed by AGW. They can produce milk with the highest standards and be a viable, profitable business,” says Richard.
Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW, Certified Grassfed by AGW whole milk, 2 percent milk, skim milk and heavy cream from Pure Éire Dairy is available throughout the Seattle, Tri-City, Walla-Walla and Spokane areas, including all PCC stores. Milk is also available from the farm, Monday through Friday, 8 AM – 5 PM, just call ahead to place an order. For more information about Pure Éire Dairy, visit pureeiredairy.com and reach Jill and Richard at firstname.lastname@example.org and 509-301-9512. Follow the farm on Facebook and Twitter.