Land O'Lakes

Land O'Lakes
Type Agricultural cooperative
Founded 1921 (1921)
Headquarters Arden Hills, Minnesota, U.S.
Key people Christopher J. Policinski, President & CEO
Industry Dairy
Products Butter, cheese
Total assets $4.9 billion (2008)

Land O'Lakes is a member-owned agricultural cooperative based in Arden Hills, Minnesota, focusing on the dairy industry. The co-op states that it has about 3200 producer-members, 1000 member-cooperatives, and about 9000 employees who process and distribute products for about 300,000 agricultural producers; handling 12 billion pounds of milk annually.[1] It is ranked second on the National Cooperative Bank Co-op 100 list of mutuals and cooperatives.[2] The co-op is one of the largest producers of butter and cheese in the United States.



Processing plant in Kiel, Wisconsin.

Land O'Lakes was founded on July 8, 1921 in Saint Paul, Minnesota, by representatives from 320 co-op creameries as the Minnesota Cooperative Creameries Association. This organization aimed to improve marketing and quality of butter, and thus increase the profitability of dairying.

The Association developed and implemented the systematic inspection, grading and certification of butter from member creameries, resulting in greater uniformity of product. The improved quality and uniformity, and the reliability of its grading system, were touted in advertising materials. In 1924, the uniformly graded sweet cream butter was given the name "Land O'Lakes" after a contest, and the certificate forms used by the Association included the "Land O Lakes" marketing name (Minnesota's state nickname is "Land of 10,000 Lakes").

The name became so popular that the organization's public identity was often confused with its product name; thus, in 1926, the organization itself adopted the name "Land O' Lakes Creameries, Inc." and became synonymous with its product.

The co-op was often accused of unfair competition and false advertising in its early years[citation needed], and compelled to defend its inspection and certification processes. Eventually, however, the sweet butter marketing strategy drove competitors either to match the quality of butter produced under the Land O' Lakes name or see their sales decline[citation needed]. Many competitors in the dairy products business copied the Land O' Lakes approach, and the certification of quality became a proven marketing technique in other product lines as well. Its butter has won the ChefsBest Award for best taste.

Recent history

The Land O' Lakes co-op has grown through numerous acquisitions, and now has a large business in farm supply in addition to dairy. In 2001, Land O'Lakes acquired Purina Mills, an animal feed business formerly owned by Ralston Purina.[3]

Land O' Lakes was ordered by a federal court to pay $3 million in 2002 for patent infringement to the inventor of a type of dairy creamer.[4]


The co-op conducts six types of business enterprises: dairy foods, animal feed, crop seed, business development services, transport and licensing. Included among its brands are Land O'Lakes, Winfield Solutions, Purina animal feed, Alpine Lace, and Northwest Food Products Transportation.[5]

Butter packaging

The recursive image seen in the Land O' Lakes butter packaging is an example of the Droste effect.

The Land O' Lakes Indian maiden holding the butter box was painted in 1928 by Brown & Bigelow illustrator Arthur C. Hanson, who also painted the original Old Style Lager logo.[citation needed] His original art hangs in the lobby of the Arden Hills office and depicts the maiden in a pastoral scene with lakes, pines, flowers and grazing cows in the background. According to Land O' Lakes, the original Indian maiden was "simplified and modernized" in 1939 by Jess Betlach and has undergone many minor modifications since as the enduring logo of the co-op. Red Lake Ojibwe artist Patrick DesJarlait updated the maiden's image in the 1950s.[6] The package image is an example of the infinite-loop motif or Droste effect, in which the image is repeated, in theory infinitely, within itself.

Allegations of animal mistreatment

In September 2009, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) released an undercover video allegedly depicting animal abuse of dairy cows at a Pennsylvania supplier for Land O’ Lakes, Inc. The video showed unclean conditions in the barn and milking parlor and cows with infections and illness.[7] The supplier’s employee was found not guilty of animal cruelty charges resulting from this incident [8] and an investigation by veterinarians hired by Land O’ Lakes revealed no mistreatment of animals, but the veterinarians suggested that bedding, hygiene, ventilation and animal disposal practices be improved.[9] Land O' Lakes states that it is supportive of the dairy industry’s National Dairy F.A.R.M.: Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) animal care standards.[10]


Dean Foods licenses the Land O' Lakes brand, selling creamers and fluid dairy products under the name.[11]



  • Land O'Lakes Corporate Website.
  • Kenneth D. Ruble. Men to Remember: How 100,000 Neighbors Made History. (Lakeside Press, 1947), a company-sponsored history of the early years of Land O' Lakes (1921–1945). See especially pp. 163–167 and 181-184, concerning the evolution of the name of the product into the company name.

External links

Portal icon Minnesota portal
Portal icon Companies portal
Portal icon Food portal

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