Corporate greed is harming milk: Say no to ‘milk protein concentrates’

March 29, 2008

Consumers think they are buying wholesome dairy products when milk protein concentrates in reality are an illegal, untested, unregulated, dairy ingredient from foreign countries that is displacing American dairy farmers’ local, quality milk.

by Brenda Cochran

As a dairy farmer, I’m proud to provide nutritious and quality products for “nature’s most perfect food,” milk. But now, I’m gravely concerned American food sovereignty is in jeopardy because of the greed of a few corporations. Nowhere is this trend more apparent and rampant than in the dairy industry.

As companies look for and encourage the cheapest, lowest quality product, consumers have responded with newfound concern for knowing what is in their food and how it is being made.

Sadly, agribusiness is targeting right-to-know labels in two egregious cases regarding milk:
1. Banning “rBST-free” labels.
2. Redefining milk to allow “ultrafiltered milk” to be labeled as “milk” even though it lacks so many vital nutrients that come from the real thing.

Recently, several states, led by my own Pennsylvania (and I believe with Monsanto’s blessing), have attempted to ban “rBST-free” labels that let consumers know if milk comes from cows treated with artificial growth hormones. I believe we need to preserve the image of milk by respecting consumer wishes.

Some dairy farmers are angry they have been forced to give up rBST use without compensation in their milk prices. However, that anger seems misplaced, especially because 85 percent of dairy farmers do not use rBST, myself included.

Dairy farmers should be more outraged by unfair prices they have been receiving for decades on their raw milk. Such depressed rates are what drove some farmers to use Monsanto’s Posilac (rBST).

Buyers of our product have manipulated the pricing system that has put so many of us out of business with their greed and corruption.

What dairy farmers and consumers ultimately need is a fairer raw milk pricing system that allows farmers to be paid for their cost of production.

Consumers and farmers should be infuriated by attempts by agribusiness to redefine “milk.” The FDA is considering a request by dairy corporations to allow ultrafiltered milk to be labeled as simply “milk” in cheese.

Ultrafiltered milk is a process that strips many of the vital nutrients out of “real milk” using a filtration process. The resulting cheap imitation product can be shipped cheaper for longer distances across the country, making it ideal for cheese processors such as Kraft or big industrial users like Pizza Hut.

Ultrafiltered milk is not nutritionally equivalent to real milk and offers an inferior product to consumers. The FDA comment period to redefine milk ends April 11, but I believe it represents just the first step by dairy food corporations such as Nestle and Kraft (working with our corporation-friendly cooperatives including Dairy Farmers of America) to destroy the integrity of our product while fattening agribusiness profits.

The dry form of ultrafiltered milk is called milk protein concentrates. Concentrates have never been recognized by the Food and Drug Administration as a “generally regarded as safe” ingredient.

But now, milk protein concentrates are used in Kraft Cheese slices, Velveeta, energy bars and numerous other products foisted on an unsuspecting public. The corporations get away with this by labeling it not as “cheese” but as a “cheese food product.”

Concentrates are mostly imported from countries such as Russia and India which sometimes have questionable safety standards. Already, agribusiness has tried thru the Farm Bill and other FDA petitions to allow the definition of milk to include “MPCs.”

Consumers think they are buying wholesome dairy products when milk protein concentrates in reality are an illegal, untested, unregulated, dairy ingredient from foreign countries that is displacing American dairy farmers’ local, quality milk.

I am one of fewer than 60,000 remaining dairy farmers in the U.S. Since 1992, we’ve lost more than half our farms. Farmers and consumers need to take back our democracy from our avaricious, corrupt cooperatives and the few corporations who control our industry.

We desperately need consumers, parents and anyone else interested in preserving the integrity of our products and the survival of a local food system to join in our cause for food sovereignty. We seek to guarantee the rights of our communities to choose where and how our food is produced and what food we choose to consume.

-Brenda Cochran is a member of the National Family Farm Coalition (http://www.nffc.net/index.html) dairy subcommittee and Pennsylvania Progressive Agriculture.

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