Land O'Lakes, Inc. is a member-owned agricultural cooperative based in the Minneapolis-St. Paul suburb of Arden Hills, Minnesota, focusing on the dairy industry. The co-op states that it has about 3,600 direct producer-members, 1,000 member-cooperatives, and about 10,000 employees who process and distribute products for about 300,000 agricultural producers;[1] handling 12 billion pounds of milk annually.[2] It is ranked third on the National Cooperative Bank Co-op 100 list of mutuals and cooperatives.[3] 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 eponymous 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.

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, it paid $360 million - and assumed $130 million in debt - to take over animal feed producer Purina Mills, once part of Ralston Purina.[4] Purina Mills' new owner planned to merge the company with its Land O'Lakes Farmland Feed division but would keep the Purina name and logo.[5]

In 1978, Land O'Lakes got into the meatpacking business with the purchase of Spencer Beef.[6] It sold Spencer Beef in 1983 to Excel, now Cargill Meat Solutions.[7]

A federal court in 2002 ordered Land O'Lakes to pay $3 million for patent infringement to Dr William Pordy, the inventor of a type of dairy creamer.[8] An appeal court later overturned that ruling.[9]

Land O'Lakes took an ownership stake in egg producer MoArk in 1999; it took full ownership of the company in 2006.[10][11]

In August 2012, Land O'Lakes purchased refrigerated desserts manufacturer Kozy Shack Enterprises for an undisclosed sum.[12][13]

In December, 2013 Land O' Lakes acquired Geosys, an international satellite imagery and remote sensing service provider headquartered in Toulouse, France and having offices in São Paulo, Brazil, Melbourne, Australia, and Plymouth, Minnesota. Geosys continues to work with WinField to develop a web-based decision making tool enabling its members to view remote sensing maps based on Normalized Difference Vegetative Index (NDVI), a measure of green biomass. Users of the web-based platform can see, at the field level, the health of their crop and make decisions regarding crop inputs, as well as the ability to use precision farming (variable rate application) techniques. Geosys offers additional products and services globally.[14]

In June 2016 Land O'Lakes acquired the Thousand Oaks, California-based biofuels firm Ceres, Inc.[15]

Corporate affairs

The company's headquarters is in Arden Hills, Minnesota in suburban Minneapolis-St. Paul.[16] It also has offices in the adjoining suburb of Shoreview, Minnesota.[17]


The core businesses of the co-op are: Dairy Foods, Animal Feed, Seed/Crop Protection Products, Business Development Services and Layers/Eggs.[18]

Dairy foods

  • Land O Lakes (the apostrophe is purposely removed in product branding)
  • Alpine Lace
  • Land O' Lakes Food Service
  • Kozy Shack

Animal feed

  • Purina Animal Nutrition
  • Land O' Lakes Feed

Seed/crop protection

  • WinField United (merged with United Suppliers in Spring 2016)

Northwest Food Products Transportation, L.L.C.

A wholly owned subsidiary of Land O' Lakes based in Hudson, Wisconsin is the transportation arm responsible for the transportation of milk and finished dairy products. The firm manages its own private fleet of nearly 200 tanker trucks, a contract fleet of an additional 600 trucks, and the Land O’Lakes private fleet of nearly 1,700 trucks.[19]

Butter packaging

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

The Land O'Lakes Indian maiden, named Mia holding the butter box was painted in 1928 by Brown & Bigelow illustrator Arthur C. Hanson.[20] His original art hangs in the lobby of the Arden Hills office and depicts the maiden, Mia, in a pastoral scene with lakes, pines, flowers and grazing cows in the background. According to Land O'Lakes, the original Indian maiden, Mia, 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 Mia's image in the 1950s.[20][21] 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 by supplier

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.[22] The supplier’s employee was found not guilty of animal cruelty charges resulting from this incident[23] 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.[24] 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.[25]

In May 2017, the animal rights organization Compassion Over Killing released undercover footage of cruelty to animals at Land O’Lakes supplier Mason Dixon Farms, which documented "cows being kicked in the face, punched in their sensitive udders, excessively shocked with an electric prod, jabbed with a pens andor elbows, and having their tails twisted or bent by workers."[26] The footage resulted in the firing of one employee.[27]


Since August 2012, WhiteWave Foods has licensed the Land O'Lakes name and sold coffee creamers and fluid dairy products under the brand.[28]

See also


  1. ^ Land O' Lakes Annual report
  2. ^ "Welcome to Land O'Lakes, Inc". Retrieved 10 July 2010. 
  3. ^ "2010 NCB Co-op 100" (pdf). National Cooperative Bank. 
  5. ^ Purina Mills Inc. acquired by Land O'Lakes of Arden Hills, Minn., Linda Tucci, St. Louis Business Journal, St Louis, MO, 23 December 2001. Retrieved: 25 February 2012
  6. ^ "Land O'Lakes, Inc. History". Funding Universe. Retrieved 28 August 2016. 
  7. ^ Lucht, Gene (June 20, 1983). "What's next? Spencer Beef sale will bring changes, but not right away". Spencer Daily Reporter. Retrieved June 24, 2016. 
  8. ^ "Land O' Lakes Ordered to Pay Inventor". The New York Times. 3 January 2002. 
  9. ^ "Appeal" (PDF). Retrieved 21 November 2013. 
  10. ^ Markels, Alex (1 September 2002). "A Marketing Cry: Don't Fence Them In". The New York Times. Denver. Retrieved 9 January 2015. 
  11. ^ Winn, Mari (31 January 2006). "Land 'O Lakes now owns 100% of MoArk". Joplin Independent. Retrieved 9 January 2015. 
  12. ^ "Land O'Lakes Closes Kozy Shack Acquisition" (Press release). Land O'Lakes. 1 August 2012. Retrieved 6 August 2013. 
  13. ^ Stych, Ed (18 July 2012). "Land O'Lakes buys dessert maker Kozy Shack". BizJournals.com. Retrieved 6 August 2013. 
  14. ^ "Land O’Lakes, Inc., Acquires Geosys" December 4, 2013. Retrieved 2015-05-14.
  15. ^ "Land O'Lakes Acquires Ag Biotech Developer Ceres Inc". Hay & Forage Grower. June 21, 2016. Retrieved November 17, 2016. 
  16. ^ "Contact Archived 2014-03-31 at the Wayback Machine.". Land O'Lakes. Retrieved on March 20, 2014. "Land O'Lakes, Inc. 4001 Lexington Ave. N Arden Hills, MN 55126-2998" - Directions (Archive)
  17. ^ "Shoreview Office" (Archive) "Land O’Lakes, Inc. Shoreview Office 1080 County Road F West Shoreview, MN 55126 "
  18. ^ "Businesses". Retrieved 9 April 2014. 
  19. ^ Northwest Food Products Transportation Archived 2014-04-13 at the Wayback Machine. at Land O'Lakes
  20. ^ a b Houze, Rebecca (2016). New Mythologies in Design and Culture: Reading Signs and Symbols in the Visual Landscape. London: Bloomsbury. ISBN 9780857855213. p. 93.
  21. ^ Anthes, Bill (2006). Native Moderns: American Indian Painting, 1940–1960. Durham: Duke University Press. ISBN 9780822338666. p 99.
  22. ^ "PETA: Cow Abuse at Land O' Lake Supplier". September 29, 2009. Archived from the original on July 28, 2011. Retrieved 2009-10-14. 
  23. ^ "Pennsylvania Magistrate Judge ruling". March 18, 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-23. [permanent dead link]
  24. ^ "Land O'Lakes Investigation of Dairy Farm Concluded". October 12, 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-14. 
  25. ^ "Land O'Lakes Member Cleared of Animal Cruelty Claims". March 19, 2010. Archived from the original on March 25, 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-23. 
  26. ^ "New COK Video Pours out Painful Truth about Dairy". Compassion Over Killing. Retrieved May 13, 2017. 
  27. ^ Michael Tanenbaum (May 10, 2017). "Undercover video at Pennsylvania dairy farm leads to employee's firing". Philly Voice. Retrieved May 16, 2017. 
  28. ^ Dean Foods, Land O'Lakes expand strategic alliance. Eurofood. 15 Aug. 2002.


  • 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