Why does the dairy industry push the U.S. Food and Drug Administration so hard to crack down on raw dairy producers?
The dairy industry seems to be mostly in the background, and any publicly-offered reasoning is always to the effect that illnesses from raw dairy taint the entire dairy industry. Of course, we know that is ridiculous, since fear of raw dairy wouldn’t taint the dairy industry, but rather push more of the market toward pasteurized dairy…if there was a serious risk from raw dairy. The problem with the dairy industry’s rationalizing is that there isn’t a serious public health risk from raw milk.
The owner of a dairy product business explained the realities to me recently. This man owns a company that produces specialty ice cream products that it sells to grocery stores, and the owner has dealt with large dairy processors, regulators, grocery chain managers, and others in the food chain.
He says the real concern of the dairy industry has to do with losing market share. Consumption of pasteurized dairy has been gradually declining over the last decade.
Add to that problem growing consumption of raw milk. (It’s uncertain how many of the consumers who abandon pasteurized milk turn to raw milk.)
But because of the dairy industry’s huge investment in plant and equipment, and the necessity of keeping its big processing plants humming 24/7, it can’t afford to lose customers.
What’s the big concern about a bunch of pasteurizers? It turns out that the processing of dairy products has become increasingly involved and complex as additional processing has been added so as to standardize products and extract as much in the way of additional products as possible. It’s gone way beyond a bunch of pasteurizers.
“Once minimally processed, milk now undergoes a complicated and energy-intensive process before it ends up bottled and shipped to grocery store shelves,” says the Grist author, Kristin Wartman. “There are so many additives and processes involved that buying a gallon of milk or a cup of yogurt at your grocery store essentially guarantees that you’ll get a mixture of substances from all over the country — and possibly the world.”
So important is the challenge of keeping the plants humming that plain pasteurized milk generally sells at near break-even, just to ensure the mass market will keep buying and supply the cash to keep the plants going. “The real money is made on specialty (dairy) products” like flavored milks, low-fat fruity yogurt, ice cream bars, small packages of processed cheese for pizza or snacks.
If market pressures reduce milk sales to such an extent that plants and equipment can’t keep the plants operating at full capacity, the losses mount quickly. Such losses rapidly erode the high profits from the specialty items.
The financial pressures to support the commercial dairy producers are so intense that there can’t be the slightest consideration given over to exploring further the significant benefits being credited to raw milk by European researchers. The latest study involved more than 8,000 children, demonstrating that raw milk helps protect against asthma. That’s a significant study, and if a drug had shown such a correlation, the study would have been ended immediately and the drug been approved…almost regardless of the side effects.
But the more serious side effect for the regulators in exploring raw milk’s benefits is that those dairy processing plants may not continue to hum so smoothly. As a small Chicago appliance retailer once advertised in television commercials promoting its sales aggressiveness: “Money talks and nobody walks.”
Some Wisconsin farmers and consumers have joined to organize an effort to have the Wisconsin Judicial Commission investigate Judge Patrick Fiedler in connection with his recent decision against dairy farmers Wayne Craig and the Zinniker family. They are asking Wisconsin residents, in particular, but also non-residents, to lodge complaints with the commission over the judge’s statements that Wisconsin citizens have no right to the foods of their choice, in particular that he “is trying to take away a dairy farmer’s right to drink the milk from their own cow.” They have posted information on filing complaints.