You’re not getting what you pay for in the dairy aisle these days. While shoppers are led to believe that the milk they purchase comes from tranquil pastures, where farmers watch over happy milk cows grazing on green fields, the reality is not so idyllic. There are some good options in the dairy case, but consumers need to know what to look for.
Over the last 20 years, the dairy industry has been transformed at all levels, from the cows that produce its raw materials to the cooperatives that secure its prices and the processors that turn milk into finished products for consumers. Massive mega-dairies, whose herds may receive antibiotics and growth hormones to boost production, ship milk across the country to be mechanically separated and resold as everything from ice cream to industrial protein concentrates.
Consumers no longer know where their milk comes from‚ or what is actually in many of the dairy products they consume. Today’s dairy industry doesn’t work for consumers or for small- and mid-sized family farmers. These men and women‚ the ones who spend their time with herds and in pastures, who milk their cows twice daily, help them calve and ensure they receive proper veterinary care‚ receive subsistence-level prices or less for their milk and their labor. At the same time, consumers are paying higher prices at the grocery store. It seems like everyone is losing, except for the corporate middlemen and speculators who skim off all the cream.