The dairy industry has to be about the most boring and pathetic in the food industry. Two events in just the last few days help explain what I mean:
- Dean Foods, the largest milk processor in the country, just alerted something like 100 farmers around the country that it would discontinue buying their milk later in the spring. A Tennessee television station aired a report that a number of that state’s dairy farms would be badly impacted, as in they would no longer have a buyer for their milk.
- At about the same time,a Tennessee radio station reported in the last couple days that the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), which are heavily supported by Dean Foods, “applauded the withdrawal this week of a series of bills in the Tennessee state legislature” that would have expanded the availability of raw milk.
So, if I understand this correctly, Dean Foods just torpedoed a handful of Tennessee dairy farms, and to add insult to injury, it made sure to destroy the few lifeboats that might have provided alternative business options to the torpedo victims.
Now, I’m not suggesting Dean Foods consists of a bunch of sadists. Maybe a bunch of clowns would be more apt. Dean Foods is a multibillion-dollar company that, during a time of tremendous economic growth, has actually experienced a sales decline over the last couple years. From $8.1 billion revenues in 2015 to $7.8 billion last year.
There’s no shortage of short-sighted crazies in this business– on the other side of the fence, you have the downward spiraling Weston A. Price Foundation, which has been a primary outlet for news and information about raw milk over the last decade. Its membership is estimated to have declined by a factor of 50% or more over the last few years (it doesn’t publish membership numbers). A lot of that has to do with the spillover from the conflict over fermented cod liver oil a couple years back. But you have to think some has to do with boredom or nonchalance about raw dairy, and perhaps even a decline of interest in raw milk.
Fortunately, the food arena is full of imaginative and creative new ventures to fill the void. When I’m bored with raw milk, which happens a lot these days, I have been learning about exciting progress being made producing artificial burgers as well as in hydroponics. In Newark, NJ, of all places, an indoor farm is turning out more than a million pounds of fresh produce each year, with 95% less water and land use…..and restaurant chefs are giving it top taste reviews. Watch out, California. Year-round real local produce may become a reality in the East.
It’s tough for forward-looking and safety-conscious producers of raw milk to progress in a larger industry that is stuck in the 1950s. Maybe they need to help educate their traditional dairy farmer brethren. One Tennessee farmer decimated by the Dean Foods cutback was quoted in the article I linked to at the start saying: “It’s a tough situation, and I don’t know the answer for it. I don’t know what all has happened to lead to this point, but I know it’s devastating several family farmers.” Really? Conventional dairy farms have been falling like flies for the last umpteen years and this guy has no idea why his own business is doomed? These guys who berate teen moms for not planning ahead are committing business suicide in droves, and they have a much longer planning horizon.
It’s easy to blame the big multinational corporation for this kind of stupidity, but when are the farmers going to stand up and accept their share of the blame? It’s a fast-changing world out there, and dairy farmers embarrass their brethren when they come across as so pathetic. And you know they’ll never take any share of the responsibility, but will look for others to blame, like the “new world order” or “the globalists” or “the liberals,” or the scapegoat of the month. No, that would be too much like standing up like a responsible individual.