create solutions until we identify the real problems.
lacteal secretion of domesticated dairy cows, populations distributed
worldwide) is an agricultural commodity, which is either consumed in its
natural “fluid” state or separated by its components into various manufactured
food products, either sold as such or used within the packaged/processed food
sector. The labelling of any milk
product for consumer consumption follows standardized nutrition formats and
product definitions determined by USDA, a federal agency that overlooks and
advises and regulates all of production agriculture since 1933.
production of milk in the western world is generally regulated by a “permitting”
process in which the facilities must meet water and sanitation standards, the
cows must be monitored for infectious diseases, and the manure handling system
must insure proper recycling of the waste nutrients into the soils producing
the feed for the animals so that ground water is protected.
of inspection – federal and state government, and milk marketing procurers –
have authority to suspend permits at any time they believe their statutes or
their membership rules have been violated.
More recently, “animal care and comfort” protocols have been added to
the basic sanitation and milk quality regulations, a response to consumer
grocery store and consumer, “Milk” implies cows’ milk. There
are two parallel labels for cows’ milk, representing the defined production
processes of (a) “conventional” milk [meeting basic “Grade A” rules] and (b)
“organic” milk [produced under standards determined by USDA]. At this time, 90% of all jug milk is
“conventional” produced and 10% of all milk is “organically” produced. In manufactured products, 95% draw from
conventional supplies, 5% from organic supplies.
from any other source it will have a prefix identifying the source: “Goats’” milk,
“Soy” milk, “Almond” milk (in ethnic communities you may see “horse”, “sheep”
or “camel” milk). In recent years milk
products other than cows’ milk have gained traction due to misinformation on
dairy cows’ contribution to atmospheric gases, or from basic health concerns to
which the dairy industry has not responded in any coherent way.
you have the soda industry (including cola drinks), the brewing industry (beer
and wine), and the expanding fruit and vegetable juice industries. You have the proliferating tea and coffee
industries (which includes some products with milk or cream added) served both
hot or cold. You also have some
hybrids, for example, fruit smoothies and drinkable yogurts flavored with fruit
juice (as well as traditional fermented milk products). Reconstituted milk beverages designed as
“lactose free” (for those diagnosed as lactose intolerant) have expanded into
the category of “sport” drinks as consumers increasingly struggle with weight
the controversial Ultra-High-Temp pasteurized category of milk, refrigeration
is required for dairy products, and all dairy labels will have a stated “sell
by” date (limited shelf life)—in the case of bottled milk, this usually is a
three-week expiration. Much
Federal law encourages pasteurization of all animal, vegetable and fruit
beverages, and most USA State governments enforce this with a prohibition of
“raw milk” sales [a few states still have “certified milk” permits, which
require twice annual TB tests of all animals in production, and removal of any
suspects from the edible supply]. The
companion Listeria infection has been added to the threat of Tuberculosis
in the raw milk supply to enforce pasterization for any commercial sales.
is “legal” milk?
administers a system of FMMOs [Federal Milk Market Orders] in which the prices
paid by handlers to farmers or farm marketing cooperatives are averaged to
provide a standard price for milk at the farm gate. Regional dairy consumption trends determine
the pricing formula farmers are to be paid, under either Fluid +Butterfat
(southern orders) or Multiple Component
(northern orders) pricing.
MCP orders determine a “market value” for each fraction of milk
composition: Butterfat, Protein,
Lactose, Minerals, and Fluid carrier.
These are based on an analysis of the various sales dollars for each
product form. FBF orders basically
consider the percentage of milk utilized for bottling, and then establish
prices for each manufacturing class of milk (cream products, cultured products,
nonfat milk powders, cheese) as if bottled milk was the “highest use” class of
milk, cheese the “lowest use” for milk surplus to bottling or culturing.
farmer-member milk cooperatives are also processors producing retail dairy
packages. Others just strive to find
private handlers to process and retail milk.
Private handlers must pay the FMMO stated price for milk received, but
cooperatives can “underpay” as part of the supply “balancing” function (as when
they may sell milk below wholesale into another FMMO than in which it was
produced) (or when they have to dump milk as unsold production).
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gets into the business by defining labels
for milk, and has defined categories as “skim” milk, “1%” milk, “2%” milk, and
“whole” milk. All of this is based on
butterfat content, ie, skim = 0% BF, 1% BF, 2% BF, and whole = 3.25% BF. Milk on store shelves is subject to
inspection and a dairy processor can be fined if the butterfat (and total
solids) content of any jug product differs from its label definition. Back in the 1970s-80s when the “Dairy
Lobby” in Congress was throwing money about, as butterfat% content was an issue
related to more bad health science [thinking it was animal fats causing our
obesity, rather than what we now know refined sugar is the culprit] – lobbyists
got it written into the FDA rules that any butterfat removed must be replaced
by non-fat milk solids (protein, lactose) so that all milk jugs would contain the
same total milk-derived solids content.
This made milk protein of more value in the market, butterfat of less
value, for the next 30 years (the time it took human nutrition research to
catch up to reality).
production industry expanded greatly in the 1970s as USDA invented subsidies
for the fluid milk production, and the processing industry followed with a
period of consolidation.
retire, their routes consolidated onto bigger trucks. Due
to the greater overhead, against a system in which rates are set by pounds
shipped, smaller farms are originally told they must pay stop charges—then may
later be told the hauler will no longer come (he can fill up his tanker from
fewer, bigger farms and save some time off his work day). The distance from the route area to the
receiving plant gets greater as obsolete plants close, the times waiting in
line to be unloaded at the remaining locations also get longer. While expansion dairy farms got a lower
hauling rate for “volume” the traditional farms got to make up the difference.
still in operation from the era before the 1970s fluid expansion, are now
facing an obsolescence and are being closed, with processing consolidated into
newer, expanded plants. Any
direct-ship farmers dependent on those local plants have found themselves
without a place to sell their milk, given the modernized dairies were already
aligned to receive milk from bigger expansion dairies. The larger national-brand processors
(such as Dean Foods and Bordens) facing competition from national-chain
supermarkets that have built their own dairies to cut out a wholesale
middleman, have lost a significant market share, and closing their smaller and
older plants became a reaction to lost market share. Government requirements for access to
water treatment facilities for dairy plant wastes contributed to location
allowed itself to become the poster child for States that did not adequately
regulate the permitting process to ensure that dairy expansions had a market
for their milk (this is done in many other states, for example Colorado). In a seven year period, Michigan expanded
its dairy “herd” by 100,000 cows (a 33% increase) without any increase in
processing capacity in FMMO #33.
”Distress” milk started crossing state lines seeking a home, and much of
unsold milk ended up being dumped (skim milk on fields, whole milk into manure
lagoons). In the face of flat overall
demand for dairy products and a decline in fluid “skim milk” sales, it soon
caused farm gate prices to drop nationwide (100,000 cows means 7,000,000 pounds
daily, or 823,500 gallons daily, at average Michigan Holstein cow
production levels.) The lack of new
processing capacity meant that exportable (nonfat milk powder, butter, cheese)
milk forms could not be made fast enough to entice foreign buyers. In the face of this disaster farm and
processor lobbies both argued against any form of supply management. Overproduction
has an economic side effect of further “dumbing down” this production to its
lowest, commodity, generic forms, given the design of the milk procuring system
is to “pool” milk supplies.
problem with pooling
of “pooling” has been to force all the milk produced in any area onto the same
milk truck. Any unique differences
between farms, in their feeding and production program as it affects milk
flavor and shelf life, in genetic choices affecting milk compositional quality
and any potential fits for specialty marketing – all got “dumbed down” to the
lowest quality of milk on that tanker. Market premiums were spread over all farms,
whether they earned them or not.
(as breed specialty bottling was forced out of business by competition from
various consolidating national labels) (as those breeds other than Holstein
began to disappear) no one gave this any thought: after all, at the receiving plant, milk could
be separated into its various
components. Homogenization (to force butterfat
particles smaller and harder so they would stay in suspension) became a popular
selling point with two-income households, saving time over traditional
“creamline” milk bottles as doctors began promoting lower fat diets.
milk produced a change in genetic selection in favor of “one size fits all”
ranking indexes that aligned with what could be marketed from a pooled milk
supply. Milk became generic—“milk is
just milk” whether cows pastured or were confined, whether they ate fresh or
fermented feeds, whether they were able to produce cheese curds or not, whether
they had any added vitamins and minerals in their milk or not, whether they
caused digestive upsets (from mutated A1 Beta Casein) or not. Marketable breed differences became
neutralized and lost to the God of the single milk truck, and the smaller
dairies who specialized in marketing all those advantages were bankrupted by
price competition from generic plastic milk jugs.
milk as it is today
as it leaves its farm of origin, onto a semi-trailer tanker, commingled at each
stop until it reaches a receiving plant.
It may travel all day before unloaded into refrigerated silos to be
(first) flash pasteurized, then separated (to remove the cream), leaving the
nonfat milk components to be powdered (which may require further separation
between casein-protein and lactose) while the cream goes into churns to produce
butter. Your typical cooperative
“balancing” plant is a separator, a churn, and a dryer. Its products are designed and will be
packaged in quantities that are standardized to the wholesale industry (as in
40-lb blocks of butter and 50-lb plastic-lined paper bags of nonfat milk
cooperatives, the balancing plant may simply be a cheese plant, churning out
40-lb barrels of cheddar, again to be sold at wholesale for use in food
If the plant
is receiving more milk than its processing capacity, milk will be reloaded onto
an over-the-road tandem tanker and be routed to another handler. This might be in Florida so add on a couple
more days in transit from the time the cows were milked. In the case of any milk the cooperative is
selling to a local dairy, typically milk routes are scored on the Federal
inspection system, and it will go directly from the farm route to the retail
processing dairy. But not
always—sometimes dairy orders are filled from pumping over milk at a receiving
difficulty of economics in a “matured’ industry
bottling off the farm began with brewery dairies in big cities in the
1880s. Things ran along pretty
independently until the Great Depression, at which point farm products began to
turn into commodities by USDA definition.
Once you have a fully commoditized product, the only profits fall to
“least cost” producers, but consolidation leads to “volume” preferences. The dairy subsidies of the 1970s overheated
production as soon as technologies for volume production came into place. More was better became the “one
size fits all” solution to any trouble we had along the way. Milk cooperatives got confused in their
mission, thinking the market was the government, providing subsidies – not the
consumer, providing consumption. “Volume”
– “pooling” -- bigger is better, and we
lost sight of the basics of milk’s values.
means in the jug of milk at the store
You have a
product that has been “reconstituted”.
Farm-tank milk is first pasteurized, then skimmed to remove all cream;
that cream is homogenized, then the required percentage added back to the vat
to be bottled. To make up any
deficiency in total solids content, a bag or two of powdered nonfat milk
protein or lactose can be dumped in and agitated to mix it back into
suspension. As the vitamins in milk
are fat solubles (removed when the cream is separated) some supplemental
vitamins (in liquid form) will be added in to “fortify” the milk. Note that if the price of nonfat milk
powder is rising the proportion of casein-protein to lactose may end up in
favor of an elevated lactose content (compared to natural milk). The law does not state a required
proportion of lactose to nonfat powder in the reconstitution process.
it is this added lactose fraction combined with lower fat content that now
makes the skim milk packages a bigger source of obesity, while “whole” milk is
now shown to be an aid to weight control.
But the dairy industry (stuck in the 1970s) still will price skim, 1%,
2% and whole milk at the same price—sending a confusing signal to the milk
buying consumer, while lowering the component price recovery to the dairyman.
“whole” milk, except in areas where expansion mega-dairies already produce a
“skim” milk level of butterfat and protein, the typical blended milk marketed
through cooperatives arrived with 3.75% butterfat (.50% higher than the Federal standard for “whole”).
three levels of contention as to the digestibility of a commercial jug milk
product. First, there is the difference
between “flash” (continuous flow) and “batch” pasteurization.
used to heat the milk can on the stove and had us watch the thermometer afloat
in it, the needed temperature for pasteurization was only 165 F for two minutes
to kill pathogens. In this time and at
that temperature, the natural enzymes in the milk that are there to assist us
in digesting the lactose remain alive and viable. In a balancing plant, to insure
pasteurization as milk flows through superheated tubes as a continuous flow
process, the temperature is above that used for batch pasteurizing, high enough
to damage those enzymes.
there is the chemical changes wrought by homogenization. The screens through which cream (or milk,
in a bottling plant) is forced to pulverize the butterfat into very small
particles are at 600 F. At this
temperature, any remaining enzymes are killed, and the fat globules are
transformed into hardened little nuggets that are more difficult to digest.
medical view of dairy products and our industry
heart doctor believes the plaque that forms in arteries could be started from
the hard little nuggets of superheated butterfat floating around in a
homogenized jug of milk that pass our stomachs undigested into the bloodstream.
is the relatively recent discovery of a mutant form of Beta Casein that only
occurs in bovine milk (not in goats, not in water buffalo, not in sheep or
horses or humans). Called A1 beta
casein, the molecular form has substituted a “histamine” molecule for the
benign enzyme (called A2 beta casein) that is part of the method by which milk
is digestible to humans. It is now
tentatively confirmed by recent studies in Germany and Oregon that much of the
“lactose intolerance” diagnosed may actually be an allergic reaction to A1 Beta
and second aspects of milk digestibility are manageable in a pooled milk supply
just by changing milk processing design.
The third, however, requires genetic segregation of cattle to produce an
A2A2 Beta Casein milk that is kept separate (not “pooled”) all the way to the
major milk cooperative lost a lucrative supply contract to a significant size
cheese plant for repeatedly shipping them milk that would produce quality
cheese curds and in the expected economic yield of cheese. This was a milk cooperative that in its
earlier days had assisted its major handlers in running local cheese production
companies out of business who had the bad habit of procuring their milk
directly from farms (cutting out the local cooperative “pooled” milk
supply). In spite of going through the
1990 to 2010 era, when protein earned twice the price of butterfat (a result of
growth in cheese consumption) the management of this cooperative still thought
of cheese as a use for “surplus” milk (the old “Class IV” category).
can degrade milk in its ability to set firm cheese curds: (1)
Proportion of fresh or field-dried to fermented and oilseed sourced
feed; (2) Level of the “B” and “E” Kappa Casein genes
and “B” Lacto-Globulin in the milk supply.
Casein genes, the A gene is “average” curd formation, the B gene is “enhanced”
curd formation, and the E gene (also a more recent mutation) inhibits curd
formation. The B form of
Lacto-Globulin affects the speed at which curds form, which can also have
importance in a large-scale cheese production facility. Prior to the shifts in genetic evaluation
favoring the indexing of component yield volumes, there were major breed
differences in Kappa Casein: 80% of Jerseys had the B gene, 50% of Brown Swiss
had the B gene, but only 20% of Holsteins.
The E gene was recently discovered within a very popular Genomic ranking
sire who has sold over one million straws of semen by seven years of age and
had 250 sons (1000 grandsons) sampled in AI.
pooling milk onto a single milk tanker dilutes any possibility of enhancing
cheese yield. Milk produced from dry
hay, pasture, seasonal baleage and dry grain rations will produce better cheese
than milk produced from silage, oilseed proteins, straw and high-moisture grain
perceive a future in which milk trucks do NOT “pool” milk with such different
quality, but instead assist in keeping milk segregated until delivered to its
point of highest and best use? Can we
tolerate politically a pricing system in which the “market” qualities of milk
determines the price, instead of distributing the premiums from high quality
milk to producers of lower product recovery milk (as the current Milk
cooperative/ FMMO system forces)?
over “raw” (activists call it “real”) milk’s desirability and the legal
restrictions put in place to deny consumers the right of choice to follow their
conscience in choosing to consume milk in its “Paleo” (natural, unprocessed)
form for all the digestive and health benefits possible, has been a lightning
rod for food activists. They might
buy “local” milk if available, but they are part of the market that has
switched to “Soy” or “Almond” milk as a protest. The prior dairy system that licensed
“certified” dairies was lobbied out of existence by a partnership of
national-scale milk handlers and their subservient milk cooperative
definition, “certified” dairies were on-farm bottlers, because the certification
was a farm-specific system. Farm
bottlers have a bad habit of finding ways to differentiate their milk in its
promotion and labelling to emphasize comparative flaws of commercial jug milk:
compare selling points between “organic” and all the other possible labels an
on-farm bottler may use:
organic (no pesticides, herbicides or
synthetic hormones used)
bottles (no dioxin bleed-through from plastic to milk)
Opaque plastic jugs (no
degradation of milk from UV lighting)
“Bottled the same day milked”
(enhanced shelf life, has not travelled 2000 miles)
Batch pasteurized (digestive
enzymes still intact)
Cream line milk (never
separated or homogenized)
Non GMO certified (no feeds
grown from GMO seeds, including carcinogens implied)
A2A2 certified (all cows verified A2A2 by Genome test or by
mating in pedigree after)
Grassfed (no grain) Cows (better
percentage of beneficial fats and proteins)
“Jersey Queen” (All-Jersey)
(higher calcium and phosphorus, consistent with Jersey milk)
“Golden Guernsey” (higher
carotene content, which adds the yellow fat color)
available, many of these packages are outselling generic “organic” milk because
the specifics of the product benefit are relevant to the thinking of more
sophisticated consumers. A big part of
this is the combination in thinking that “local” source food is also
“fresh”. The current Organic Valley
and Horizon Dairy combines cannot make the same claim given their consolidated
processing at locations at opposite ends of the country.
our milk cooperatives and our national level handlers are resisting any or all
of the specialty labelling options, which consigns their labels to the basic
generic commodity milk definition, and thus their farmers to a commodity milk
price. Is this product satisfying
a dairy product consumer, and are the prices generated passing any profit back
to the dairy farmer?
government standard or consumer desires?
break out of its current miasma, and within it, traditional size farms
well-managed can compete profitably, if we get out of the way and let the
marketing of milk evolve along all the possible premium market niches. Quit pooling milk, start redefining quality
alongside an ability to produce a premium value product, let monetary rewards
flow from the consumer instead of by fiat redistribution and government
restriction and subsidy. The need to
qualify for an individual market would serve as a defacto “quota” system, more
in line with what has worked in other industries without government
years ago, the Sierra Club in Michigan polled farmers to determine what they
could do to assist the ‘family farm” in surviving economically. What came out of a lot of interviews was
that farms of CAFO size had the potential to degrade the environment—all it
took was failure of a manure lagoon during a wet season with excessive rain.
of MSU ag engineering and Michigan Farm Bureau, assisted by MMPA and DFA did
intense lobbying to prevent any actual enforcement of Federal CAFO
guidelines. The thought that a
mega-dairy on limited acreage (for example, 500 cows on 40 acres, totally
dependent on farming neighbors to recycle manure) could actually be an
environmental time bomb was like a heresy to the “progressive dairy industry
sector”. Nothing changed.
actually what did change was a recognition among monolithic monocultural
dairymen that Michigan was the place to go—produce all the milk you want, no
one was going to get in your way. We
added 100,000 cows, and the entire industry nearly collapsed in its inability
to deal with that fast a growth in the milk supply.
Club suggestion was elegant in its simplicity: if you want to put 5000 cows on
40 acres, you need a manure processing facility, the equivalent of a wastewater
treatment plant as any village in Michigan with over 1500 residents already
has. Bring consistency in the rules
between human populations and cow populations where density has been
created. On the other hand, if you are
truly a dairy “farmer” (owning or controlling 3-4 acres per cow, which can
utilize the manure produced from 3-4 acres of feed utilized per cow) the existing
rules work and still apply and should continue to apply. It was a simple question of, “what can
soil biology handle”? and design to its unchangeable specifications.
logical environmental rules which already exist could work to control the rate
of future dairy expansion. If you
can’t pay for it, you are not as “efficient” as the experts say. Match cows milked to dairy products
consumed, produce products consumers want, and get paid for that
collaboration. Quit acting like we
have the right to do what we want without consequences. Put some restraints on greed and allow
creativity to be rewarded. Farming
properly done is the solution to environmental degradation, and if we make
friends with our consumers again, we can have that dialogue. Otherwise, stay on this road and the
climate change lobby will put animal agriculture out of business, if we do not
bankrupt ourselves first by preserving infrastructure that no longer serves our
Current breeding consultant