My view

Plant-based dairy and meat threaten farmers

By ARDEN TEWKSBURY
Posted 1/25/22

It took seven years for this to happen. But finally, the prices paid to local dairy farmers have reached $20 per hundredweight (CWT). The market administrator for Federal Order #1 has announced the …

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My view

Plant-based dairy and meat threaten farmers

Posted

It took seven years for this to happen. But finally, the prices paid to local dairy farmers have reached $20 per hundredweight (CWT). The market administrator for Federal Order #1 has announced the value for milk produced in December 2021 at $20.41 CWT.

Records indicate that the value of milk in December 2014 was $21.02 CWT.

Prices since December 2014 have jumped around like Mexican jumping beans. One might say this new price is a victory for dairy farmers. However, when you consider that the national average for the cost of production is $22.67 CWT (per the USDA), then you realize that dairy famers are still being paid far below the price they need to stay in business.

Everyone must realize that the figure of $22.67, if they got it, would only cover the cost of production. Beyond the cost of production, money is taken out of dairy farmers’ milk checks for marketing costs and hauling costs along with other trivial costs. It is obvious that many dairy farmers are having between $2.50 and $3 CWT taken out of their milk checks for these additional charges. They are getting way below the new $20.41 new rate—they are getting more like $17.

What about a little profit for the dairy farmers?

It is unthinkable that prices paid to dairy farmers are lower than they were in 2014. They are $1.39 lower! It should be no surprise that thousands of dairy farmers have been forced out of business since 2014. Those dairy farmers that went out of business since then have only memories of the good old days.

I remember when oleo-margarine came on the market. Many people said we would not be hurt by the loss of butter sales. But we know what happened. The dairy industry was soft on the threat of oleo-margarine and so now we are witnessing an overwhelming amount of artificial dairy products in the dairy case. Oat milk, almond yogurt, and plant-based butter are just a few. How is it possible to use the word “milk” to describe these plant-based products? Webster’s dictionary clearly says that milk comes from mammals, not from plants.

The same thing is happening with beef. Plant-based products are being sold as hamburger and sausage. Dairy farmers sell beef too. We strongly urge everyone not to purchase plant hamburgers in place of the real thing—real beef.  Are we going to just sit back and allow these plant-based foods to take away from our dairy and meat sales? If we don’t take a strong stance against imitation products, we will witness the same problems that oleo-margarine created for our dairy farmers.

To add insult to injury, the dairy industry itself has started mixing real milk with plant-based products.

In August 2019, according to a release by Dairy Farmers of America, the co-op announced Live Real Farms, a new brand that is combining dairy milk with plant-based alternatives in what it calls the “first-ever blended beverage of its kind,” offering  “the protein-packed goodness of pure dairy milk with the flavors and versatility of alternatives in one great-tasting beverage.”

The current DFA website says that “Live Real Farms Dairy + milk blends have been discontinued,” and they are “working hard on a new and exciting product line.” Really, the flavor of vegetables is better than flavor of real milk?

In conclusion, recently I visited a fast-food restaurant to get a milk shake. I looked at their menu board and the sign said plant hamburgers. I asked, “Are you really selling plant burgers?” The reply was “Yes.” I firmly told them that as long as you sell plant burgers, I will never patronize any of your stores. Did I gain anything by walking out and not buying a hamburger? I don’t know if I did or not, but I sure felt a lot better.

Arden Tewksbury lives in Meshoppen, PA.

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  • brad

    With all due respect to Mr. Tewksbury, the last time I checked plant-based products start with ingredients grown by farmers—just not his kind, I guess.

    I’m a strong supporter of local farmers, being both an early member of a nearby CSA (community-supported agriculture) and, until the pandemic hit, a weekly attendee of my town’s farmers market.

    Although a vegetarian for the past 38 years, I even do my part in keeping in business the area’s dairy farmers who’ve chosen to make some amazing cheeses. But it’ll always be a “plant burger” to which I add a slice of cheese (and tomato, and onion, and lettuce—all also grown by local farmers).

    Sunday, January 30 Report this