It’s been in all the papers, on all the major media network news: The U.S. dairy industry is in trouble. Farmers are pouring milk down drains and slaughtering their cows for beef. Why? Ostensibly, it’s because a surplus of milk has prices at an all time low.
But why has the demand for milk fallen off a cliff? Is it really that the average consumer is buying less of it?
Nope. Turns out it’s because of a new fake food hitting the market: milk protein concentrates (MPCs).
Okay, so maybe I’m oversimplifying. Last week the National Family Farm Coalition held a press conference outlining the real reasons behind the dairy crisis. John Bunting, the dairy farmer who wrote the press release, also shared his detailed analysis of the true cause of the crisis here.
Not surprisingly, he points the finger first at government policies which artificially inflate the retail cost of dairy products. All you liberty-loving Real Food enthusiasts reading his analysis will be armed with yet more stones to throw at our corrupt and failing federal government.
But the true shock to me came in the second half of his report, where he documented the flood of imported milk protein concentrates (MPCs) hitting the American marketplace since December of 2008.
MPCs are basically a cheaper, foreign alternative to non-fat dry milk (NFDM) usually coming from water buffalos or yaks in places like China, India, Poland, and Ukraine. MPCs are created when milk is ultra-filtered through a process which drains out the lactose and keeps the milk proteins and other large molecules intact. Unbelievably (or believably, depending on the level of your lack of trust in the FDA), MPCs are not in the FDA’s Generally Recognized As Safe category and are therefore not approved as a food ingredient in the US. (source)
But they are in everything.
A quick walk through the grocery store reading dairy labels, and you’ll note that most processed cheeses now contain MPCs, including Kraft Singles.
US dairy manufacturers are no longer relying on US-manufactured milk and NFDM and are instead turning to imported MPCs as a milk substitute.
They’re cheaper. End of story.
In one interesting turn of events after the National Family Farm Coalition’s press conference of March 4th, State Senator Darrel J. Aubertine of NY introduced legislation requiring a product to be made with milk — not MPCs — if it wants to be labled a “dairy product.”
So, what does this mean for you, my Real Food Lovin’ friends?
On the one hand, I feel a sense of relief. At least I don’t buy any of that fake milk. I buy my milk fresh and raw from a local farmer, and I know I’m doing my part to keep that particular small dairy operation in business.
But on the other hand, I feel disheartened by the state of things in the US. I’m saddened that our food supply is so far removed from producing Real Food that a degredation like this can happen. Once again, our insistence on finding the absolutely cheapest way to manufacture “food,” coupled with a healthy dose of government interference in the market, is causing farmers everywhere to watch their already meager incomes fall a dramatic 50% in the last quarter alone!
Now more than ever, we need to Fight Back! Please join me this week for Fight Back Fridays. Let’s make our collective voices known. Last week we had 21 contributors! I want to beat that. If you were thinking of joining in, but couldn’t get around to doing it, I urge you to consider taking the leap this Friday.
Come on, people, let’s change the way America (and the industrialized world) eats! We CAN do it.
(h/t to the Ethicurean for the news, Photo by Essjay)