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 a number of years for a large cooperative, they had long dreamed of producing and bottling their own milk from grassfed cows. In the spring of 2009, they started Pure Éire Dairy, where 150 Jersey cows graze 300 acres of lush pasture.
“Organic doesn’t mean cows are solely grass-fed,” Richard Smith 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 ensure transparency is having Animal Welfare Approved certification. “We don’t have a big publicity machine, so we rely on AWA to shine a light on us to distinguish us from the rest of the dairy industry because AWA is the gold standard,” says Jill. The couple also welcomes visitors to the farm in order 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 is not just the completely 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 have resulted 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 vitamin D because their grassfed cattle provide milk that’s naturally tasty and more nutritious, “just as nature intended.” Unlike modern conventional milk from grainfed 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 be AWA—they can produce milk with the highest standards—and be a viable, profitable business,” says Richard.
Pure Éire Dairy whole milk, 2% milk, skim milk, heavy cream, and raw milk is available throughout the Seattle, Tri-City, Walla-Walla, and Spokane areas. Visit AWA’s Online Directory to find a location. Milk can also be purchased on the farm Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Just call ahead to place an order. For more information about Pure Eire Dairy, visit www.PureEireDairy.com.