Haystack Mountain: Goat Cheese Co. That Gets Its Milk from Prison

Posted by Krissy Howard

Some are outraged after learning that this goat cheese company uses prison labor to produce its goods, but according to some prisoners, the work is welcome. 

When Jim Schott walked away from his job to open his own goat cheese company, it was a slow climb to success. However, when Whole Foods started carrying his goods, things were looking up... that is until one angry activist demanded the store stop carrying Schott's product over his use of prison labor to produce his goods.

According to an NPR report, the company Haystack Mountain, has been using milk supplied from a Colorado prison farm for the last 10 years. Schott felt that he was supporting good prison management practices by using the labor to create his goods, but prison reform activist Michael Allen saw things differently, feeling as if the company was taking advantage of workers making mere cents per hour.

Whole Foods ultimately sided with Allen, and pulled Haystack Mountain from its shelves.

Despite the controversy, the company is still procuring its milk by supporting the same labor practices as before, and according to several current and previous inmates interviewed, they don't see the work as a bad thing.


"It's a great thing," inmate Jeremiah Pate told NPR, when asked how he feels about his job. "It beats the alternative. Rather than sitting in your tiny little cell, you get to come out here."

Despite making little more than a few dollars per week, many reiterated his sentiment, claiming that if they have to work for such little money, they much rather prefer working outside in the company of animals.

READ MORECanada Considers Reopening Prison Farms to Help Rehabilitate Inmates

Duwane Engler, a former inmate who has since been released, looks back on his time farming milk with relatively positive associations.

"Part of the deal, when you're in prison, you have to work anyway," he said.

"If you're in a maximum facility, you're going to do work, you're never going to leave the facility, and you're scrubbing walls with a toothbrush, basically. These guys actually get out, they have a purpose, and they make more than 60 cents a day."

Regardless, Allen and many other like him feel that paying inmates pennies per hour is nothing more than exploitation, and continue to work to ensure better pay for incarcerated workers.

What do you think of Haystack Mountain's milking practices? Tell us in the comments below. 

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Haystack Mountain: Goat Cheese Co. That Gets Its Milk from Prison