The Truth Behind the Whole Foods Cheese “Made by Prisoners”

A sampling of the goat cheese made by Haystack Mountain, that the company contends is made by artisans not prisoners.

Colorado-based artisan goat cheese brand Haystack Mountain has come under scrutiny recently after multiple articles published in the last few days alleged that the small cheese company is outsourcing their cheesemaking labor to Colorado Correctional Industries, where prisoners make the Whole Foods cheese for 60 cents per day. As it turns out, the buzz had very little backup. Haystack Mountain representative John Scaggs contends that the cheese is made by artisan cheese-makers at their facilities in Colorado, and that the only work sourced out to the prison is the care of their goats.

“The cheese isn’t made at the prison, and that’s an insult to the work that our cheesemakers put into making our cheese,” Scaggs told The Daily Meal. “The articles out there purposefully obfuscated the facts. We don’t have a culture of dairy farms in Colorado and we needed a good, consistent, high-quality source of dairy. We knew that CCI has had a dairy farm there for years, so we contacted them.”

It is true that the prisoners are only getting 60 cents per day, but Scaggs has maintained that according to Colorado Corrections officers, this wage practice is standard for Colorado prison jobs, and that most prisoners actually earn closer to $300 or $400 per month for their labors, a pretty good deal considering the fact that these are not free men and women. Scaggs has also said that the dairy portion of their products is all bought at market price, and that Haystack Mountain is not getting any sort of “special deal” from using cheap labor.  

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Joanna Fantozzi is an Associate Editor with The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter@JoannaFantozzi