March 12, 2009

Elsie Burgers and Dried Yak’s Milk!?

Ralph Loglisci

Ralph Loglisci

Food and Health Policy Writer

rookie joe/flickr

Courtesy: rookie joe/flickr

The folks over at The Ethicurean put a spotlight on a “sneaky” business practice that many U.S. dairy farmers might say stinks more than a block of limburger cheese. According to the Associated Press, “Hundreds of thousands of America’s dairy cows are being turned into hamburgers because milk prices have dropped so low that farmers can no longer afford to feed the animals.”

Many Ag economists say the reason for the plummeting milk prices is rather simple, thanks to the recession, demand has drastically decreased while supply has reached record heights. However, the National Family Farm Coalition has a different theory. In a news release sent out last week, an NFFC member said “Those Ag economists and others who are falsely accusing dairy farmers of overproducing milk and stating we have too large a supply of dairy products as a way to justify these ruinous low prices couldn’t be more wrong. Until we deal with the reality of a broken pricing system, massive imports and corruption in our dairy cooperatives, we will never be able to obtain fair prices for farmers that cover our cost of production.”

Ethicurean contributor Elanor was intrigued with NFFC’s “massive imports” claims. If we have a milk glut in this country why would we be importing massive amounts of milk products? Turns out, Elanor explains, those products are called Milk Protein Concentrates (MPCs) which often come from water buffalo and yaks from China, India, Poland and the Ukraine. The answer to my question appears to be, foreign MPCs are much cheaper than American milk products and according to Elanor go unregulated.

It’s an interesting read. It seems to me, this has the potential to turn into another melamine debacle, let’s hope without any illnesses. Regarding the NFFC’s claims that dairy farmers are not “overproducing”, I wish I knew the answer. I do, however, believe that we depend too much on mega-dairy farms to produce milk in the U.S.

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