Vermont dairy labor advocates seek consumer buy-in for structural change. Lawsuit seeks consistent ‘soy’ beverage label enforcement. Dairy/NFL partnership reviewed. LED lighting negatively impacts milk. This and other U.S. dairy industry news can be found here.

Natzke dave
Editor / Progressive Dairy

‘Got Milk with Dignity’ coming to Vermont

You’ve likely heard of “fair trade” coffee and “cage-free” eggs. Now, three labor advocacy organizations have rolled out a “Got Milk with Dignity” program, enlisting food buyers to support structural changes affecting farm worker wages and working conditions.

Representatives of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), the Fair Food Standards Council and Migrant Justice launched the program in Vermont on May 1.

In mid-June, Vermont’s iconic ice cream maker, Ben & Jerry’s, negotiated an agreement to implement the Milk with Dignity Program in its supply chain, according to the CIW website. Ben & Jerry's sources dairy ingredients from farmer-members of St. Albans Cooperative.

The labor organizations contend consolidation in the food industry means large retailers impose economic pressures on dairy farmers, lowering milk prices and farmer income, resulting in lower wages for farm workers. The program will seek to enlist dairy product retailers to provide economic support for farmers who comply with workers’ rights standards related to wages and working conditions.


A worker-driven social responsibility model will include “fair labor” initiatives and binding, market-based enforcement to leverage compliance. Participating corporations sign a legally binding agreement that defines the program as an enforceable contract.

The groups estimate there are approximately 1,500 migrant workers in Vermont’s dairy industry, including on-farm and processing industry employees.

CWT assists with export sales

Cooperatives Working Together (CWT) export assistance bids accepted for week ending June 20:

• Cheese – 4.21 million pounds

• Whole milk powder – 1.99 million pounds

Bids were accepted from Northwest Dairy Association (Darigold) and Tillamook County Creamery Association.

Year-to-date accepted bids:

• Cheese – 28.1 million pounds

• Butter – 8.6 million pounds

• Whole milk powder – 20.6 million pounds

• Milk equivalent (milk fat basis) – 603.9 million pounds

Source: National Milk Producers Federation

Lawsuit seeks ‘soy milk’ label enforcement

Advocacy group Good Food Institute (GFI) filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), seeking records related to the agency’s treatment of beverages derived from soy and marketed as “soy milk.”

GFI alleges FDA inconsistently enforces the use of “soy milk” or “soymilk” on product labels, warning some companies to drop the word “milk” on its product labels, while letting other companies continue to use the term, according to the Courthouse News Service.

The National Milk Producers Federation has long opposed the use of “milk” on labels on non-dairy products.

There is no 'I' in National Football League dairy partnership team

Publicity surrounding a decision by Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers to cut dairy from his diet has raised questions regarding a dairy promotion partnership between the National Football League (NFL) and the national dairy checkoff program.

The Fuel Up to Play 60 program, a core component of the partnership, contracts with NFL players to serve as program ambassadors. Rodgers is not among those ambassadors.

“The success of the in-school Fuel Up to Play 60 program happens in large part because of the National Dairy Council’s partnership with the NFL,” said Mark Leitner, executive vice president, Fuel Up to Play 60 and youth wellness, Dairy Management Inc. “We’re improving children’s health and wellness through Fuel Up to Play 60 and making a real difference to protect and grow sales and build lifelong dairy consumers.”

“Working with the NFL allows us to reach and engage tens of millions of students in 73,000 schools, and it also brings additional dollars and other resources to local school efforts and community events,” Leitner said. “We leverage the star power of NFL players who serve as Fuel Up to Play 60 ambassadors and get kids excited about nutrition and physical activity. Fuel Up to Play 60 isn’t about individual teams or players; it’s about everyone working together – students, teachers and other adult program advisors, health professionals, local and national dairy council staff, and the NFL teams and players.”

Online dairy sales growing

Online dairy sales are growing faster than dairy sales through traditional channels, according to MyWebGrocer.

In 2015, online dairy sales grew at double-digit rates. In addition, dairy products were included in 93 percent of all online grocery carts, accounting for 15 percent of ecommerce grocery sales in 2015. MyWebGrocer provides ecommerce and digital marketing solutions to the grocery and consumer packaged goods industries.

‘Acres and Avenues’ episode 4 released

Dairy Management Inc., which manages the national dairy checkoff, released a new episode of its “Acres and Avenues” video series. Episode 4, titled “Dairy Family Legacy Puts Social Famer to Work,” pairs Florida dairy farmer Sutton Rucks and his daughter Lindsey with Flula Borg, a comedian/actor who has more than 750,000 YouTube followers.

In the episode, Borg displays his quirky sense of humor in learning about the Rucks’ work ethic and values required to operate a third-generation dairy. Lindsey Rucks matches wits with Borg in displaying her commitment to rearing calves and to her farm.

Acres and Avenues helps advance the conversation to reconnect people with dairy farmers who produce our nation’s milk supply. Episode 3, which launched June 1, already has garnered more than 2.4 million video impressions.

And the survey says … Olympians drink milk

A survey conducted among more than 1,000 current and retired U.S. Olympians and Paralympians and hopefuls finds nearly all (nine out of 10) grew up drinking milk on their road to the world stage. Most say their mom was the one who encouraged their milk drinking habits, according to the Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP).

“U.S. Olympic athletes have always relied on milk to help fuel their journeys to the Olympic Games – from the kitchen table to the training table,” said Julia Kadison, MilkPEP chief executive officer.

MilkPEP’s Milk Life campaign has started a five-year partnership with the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Consumers sour on milk exposed to LED light

Cornell University Department of Food Science researchers found milk exposed to light-emitting diode (LED) sources for even a few hours degrades the perceived quality of fluid milk.

Milk sensory quality and nutritional content are adversely affected by exposure to the sun and artificial light sources. Riboflavin and other photosensitive components in milk are activated when struck by light energy, releasing a cascade of electrons that can degrade proteins and oxidize fats.

LED lighting produces a pattern of wavelength that differs from the fluorescent bulbs used to illuminate display cases in the past. LEDs typically emit in the blue spectrum, around 460 nanometers, and produce a broader emission peak than fluorescents. That peak in LED light is near the narrow band where riboflavin absorbs light, a fact the researchers surmise could be selectively destroying the nutrient and damaging the perceived quality of the milk.

The resulting taste is commonly described as that of cardboard or plastic. The study determined milk remained at high quality for two weeks when shielded from LED exposure, and that consumers overwhelmingly preferred the older milk over fresh milk stored in a typical container that had been exposed to LED light for as little as four hours.

The study, “Exposure of fluid milk to LED light negatively affects consumer perception and alters underlying sensory properties,” was featured in the June edition of the Journal of Dairy Science. Read the full story in the Cornell Chronicle.

Companies and products

News concerning dairy processors and products:

Select Milk Producers Inc. filed a lawsuit against Idaho-based Sorrento Lactalis Inc., alleging breach of contract related to the purchase of organic milk. The lawsuit (Select Milk Producers Inc v. Sorrento Lactalis Inc., Case No. 1:2016cv00208) was filed May 20 in Idaho District Court.

• Massachusetts-based Big Y Foods Inc. and milk processor HP Hood LLC announced an expanded partnership. The agreement means Hood, which supplies Big Y's store-brand milk, will boost milk processing by about 5 million gallons per year, according to The Republican. HP Hood operates in six New England states and New York. Big Y Foods operates supermarkets and convenience stores in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

• Wisconsin-based BelGioioso Cheese is expanding its Green Bay distribution center. The project is expected to be finished by the end of the year.

Organic Valley announced the appointment of Robert Kirchoff to the position of chief of business operations. He was previously the president of Natrel USA, a division of Agropur.

Dean Foods’ TruMoo has joined the Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP) national marketing campaign to support U.S. Olympic athletes. Gallon and one-half gallon bottles of TruMoo chocolate milk will carry the USA Olympic swimming team logo. Consumers can text numbers on the label to enter a contest to win a trip to see the team in New York City.  PD

Dave Natzke