While purchasing milk and eggs at the unique drive-thru market Meadowlark Dairy in Downtown Pleasanton, I thought about the TEDx Talk I watched in which Stacey Mitchell mentions that over 40% of the nation’s milk supply is processed by a single company. Looking at the milk and eggs I purchased, I wondered:
Is Crystal owned by that company?
Who is this single company?
Stacey Mitchell didn’t mention the company responsible for providing 40% of the nation’s food supply. So I turn to Google to reveal who this company is. Before I share who I think it is, could you tell me how many of these brands do you recognize when shopping for dairy products? (Thanks Wiki)
Sun Soy, Horizon Organic, Silk Soy Milk, Horizon Organics, International Delight, Land O’Lakes, Stōk, Alta Dena, Barbe’s, Barber’s, Berkeley Farms, Borden, Broughton Foods Company, Brown’s Dairy, Country Fresh, Creamland, Dairy Ease, Gandy’s, Garelick Farms, Jilbert’s Dairy, Lehigh Valley Dairy Farms, Liberty Dairy, Louis Trauth, Mayfield Dairy, McArthur Dairy, Meadow Brook, Meadow Gold, Model Dairy, Oak Farms, PET Dairy, Price’s, Purity, Reiter, Robinson Dairy, Schenkel’s, Shenandoah’s Pride, Schepps, Swiss Farms (formerly Wengert’s Dairy), T.G. Lee, and Tuscan Dairy Farms.
It turns out all those brands are owned by Dean Foods. Through acquisitions and mergers that began in the early 2000’s and a strategy initiated decades before that, Dean Foods and friends (Dairy Farmer’s of America + wealthy influencers) are taking over the distribution of dairy in the entire nation:
It’s an unfair burden upon our taxpayers, consumers, and school children to allow these White House- friendly hijackers to unduly raise the costs of dairy products … As goes dairy, so may go our nation’s entire food industry. It’s time for citizens to reassert their valid equity in this issue, and we must do so with common strategies!
Pete Hardin is publisher of The Milkweed, a monthly report on dairy marketing and economics. He witnessed the the rise of Big Dairy at the expense of independent family-owned farms. His speech in 2004 mentions the dynamic duo that is monopolizing the dairy market: Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) and Dean Foods.
Five years later, Josh Burnett of npr.org writes the article Independent Farmers Feel Squeezed By Milk Cartel and details how:
Dean came to dominate regional markets, any dairyman who wanted to sell to one of Dean’s 50 brands had to go through DFA, whether they wanted to or not.
As a result, 4,600 dairy farms have been closing each year over the past two decades! The San Francisco Chronicle published an article on October 2012 about California expecting to lose 100 farms. Even more shocking are the farmers who commit suicide after losing their family farm that has been passed down over generations. How can these once sustainable farms suddenly deny farmers a livelihood? The simple answer to my question is that dairy farmers are now paid below their cost of production while Dean Foods reports record profits.
Keep in mind that if four or less firms control 40% of a market, that market no longer functions as a competitive market.
The control of dairy distribution by few big corporations doesn’t just exist in America. Nestlé (main shareholders of
L’Oréal as well) and Danone (known as Dannon in the U.S.) are doing their best to control the international dairy market and get rid of People’s Milk: farmers who own a few dairy animals and sell milk to small-scale vendors that deliver directly to low-income families.
People’s milk is an engine of poverty alleviation and health. It provides livelihoods and safe, affordable, nutritious foods. The revenues earned are distributed evenly and consistently throughout the sector. Everyone wins with people’s milk, except for big business, and this is why there is such pressure to destroy it.
Big diary corporations are teaming up with governments for marketing campaigns to educate school children on the importance of drinking processed and packaged milk instead of people’s milk. Looking at the history of these big corporations, there’s just no shame. Especially when you attempt to convince mothers that their breast milk could be replaced by infant formula.
The war against Big Dairy has existed for many years. Looking at today’s landscape, I’m sad to say we’re losing many battles. If we as consumers don’t make an effort to recognize this problem now, eventually Big Dairy will have the power to determine what we can feed our children. Let’s make an effort to support our local dairy farmers who are fighting big corporations who want to take over our lives.