In the United States, where they don’t have supply management like the milk marketing boards in Canada, dairy farmers’ survival is typically at the mercy of the market price. Lately that price has been driven down by decreased demand that is reportedly due to increased importation and use of milk protein concentrate, an industrial product intended for uses such as glue, but is now being used as an unapproved food additive to increase profits for big processors because it’s cheaper than buying fluid milk from farmers.
The one bright spot, the one exception to the cloud of gloom that’s settling over dairy in America is the raw milk scene. Is it any surprise that more farmers are latching onto this one chance for economic survival in the face of all that’s arrayed against them? Here’s an excerpt from David E. Gumpert’s thoughtful analysis of the business case for raw milk dairying, from a recent post on the Complete Patient blog:
“…. a new study has just come out from the Northeast Organic Farming Association examining in some detail the economic impact of raw dairies in Massachusetts. What it says is that raw dairies have more economic impact than we generally realize, and that the impact is growing rapidly.
The state’s policy on raw milk is similar in important respects to states like New York and Pennsylvania, in that it allows purchases direct from the farm. Actually, it’s more liberal than New York because it allows buying clubs to deliver raw milk to consumers in the Boston area who can’t or won’t travel to farms, but it’s less liberal than nearby states like Connecticut and Maine, which allow retail sales of raw milk.
The study makes for fascinating reading (at least to this raw milk nut). Here are a few of its revelations:
- Raw milk is produced by 25 of the state’s 189 dairies, or 13% of the total. The number of Massachusetts dairies producing raw milk has more than doubled in the last three years, while the number of dairies has declined dramatically, from 829 in 1980; that means that over nearly thirty years, the number of dairies has declined by more than three-fourths.
- The dairies producing raw milk had total sales of more than $600,000 in 2008. That may not sound like much, but the report notes “that 12 of the 25 dairy farmers reported that raw milk sales were vital to their farm’s survival,” accounting for more than 20% of their farm’s income.
- Money earned from raw milk sales “has a lasting effect on the communities where it is sold,” says the study. Not only does the money contribute to other local businesses and taxes, but, “Some farmers also report that consumers who purchase raw milk from farmers build on that habit by purchasing other products from nearby farms, thus further stimulating the local farm economy.”
- Raw milk revenues are especially helpful in offsetting the costs of maintaining organic standards, since Massachusetts is underserved by organic processors; thus, many are selling organic milk at conventional prices, which are about half organic prices (roughly $1 a gallon versus $2 a gallon).
More about Milk Protein Concentrate (MPC) from FamilyFarmDefenders.org:
What is MPC?
“….Big food processors, like Kraft – the largest U.S. cheese company, owned by tobacco giant Philip-Morris – use MPC in many popular products: cheese, frozen desserts, and high protein sports drinks, energy bars, and nutritional supplements.
But when it comes to explaining what Milk Protein Concentrate is, it’s actually easier to explain what it is not.
MPC is not dry or powdered milk. MPC usually comes in powder form. But unlike dry milk, MPC is what is left after processing to remove more valuable components of milk.
Save for one plant in Portales, NM, MPC is not produced in the U.S. Fluid milk that is not drunk by U.S. consumers, is usually made into milk powder for later use in cheese production. But around the world, the dried leftovers of dairy processing are often mixed together and generically called MPC, in order to exploit a loophole in U.S. trade rules that allows it to be imported with lower tariffs.
MPC is not an approved food ingredient. There is not enough research on MPC to qualify it for the list of food ingredients that the federal government classifies as “Generally Regarded as Safe.” But even though MPC is not an approved food ingredient, it can be found on most grocery store shelves!
MPC has not been defined by the Food and Drug Administration and the agency has no standard for the purity of MPC. The FDA admits that they do “minimal monitoring” of MPC as it enters the U.S. This is important because MPC is imported from around the world – including countries where dairy sanitation and food regulations are less stringent or virtually nonexistent.
So Why Is Anyone Allowed to Use MPC?
When it comes to cheese, technically, no one is allowed to use MPC. The FDA has “standards of identity” for most cheeses, including Pasteurized Processed Cheese Food (like Kraft Singles). MPC is not an approved ingredient under FDA’s standards of identity. Yet the agency has looked the other way as imports of MPC skyrocketed. In 2000 alone, dairy processors like Kraft imported 52,000 metric tons of MPC – that’s the equivalent of 4.6 billion pounds of milk!
Who Benefits from Using MPC?
Big food processing companies save money by buying cheap imported MPC rather than paying a fair price to U.S. dairy farmers. In fact, these companies are so anxious to use cheap imports that last year they petitioned the FDA to change the definition of milk! They want to be able to list the liquid form of MPC as “milk” on product labels. In 2004 alone the dairy giants imported over 34 million metric tons of MPC.
Who Gets Hurt by MPC
Family Farmers – As imports of MPC rise, farmers face even more depressed domestic milk prices and lose options for selling their product. In dairy states like Minnesota and Wisconsin, three to four family farmers go out of business every day due to such unfair business practices.
Consumers – People who think they’re buying a healthy wholesome product need to think again when they buy cheese made with MPC, an un-tested, unregulated dairy waste from other countries….”
Read the post about Kraft Velveeta from Redravine.wordpress.com — source for picture and caption. If some people like it, can it be all bad?