Herd About It?
by Ana Grarian
From the newsroom of Sen. Bernie Sanders of VT
AS FARMERS FLOUNDER, DEAN FOODS PROSPERS
August 20, 2009
Let’s take a minute to see how milk gets from the barn to your kitchen.
Raw cow’s milk is gathered in a tank. Then a milk hauler takes the farmer’s milk to a fluid milk plant, where it is pasteurized and bottled. Or, he trucks the raw milk to a different plant that makes it into cheese, butter, yogurt or ice cream.
The processor then wholesales the milk or dairy products to the supermarket, where you buy it.
The place in our cow-to-consumer chain that’s causing the most grief these days is the processor: the middleman.
As businessmen, they want to buy raw milk at the cheapest price from the co-op and sell it at the highest price to the grocery store.
“Dean Foods, which is the largest fluid processor in the U.S., at their last annual meeting said, ‘Hey, we’ve got super profits because we’re buying the milk so cheap,’ ” says Texas dairy farmer Miller.
Dean’s fluid milk profits jumped 35 percent in the first two quarters of this year. In a teleconference with analysts in May, Dean’s CFO bragged that cheap raw milk had created “the perfect sunny day” for the $12 billion corporation. This, at a time when Miller is losing 45 cents on every gallon of milk she sells from her cows, because she’s making less than the cost of production.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose home state of Vermont has lost 32 dairy farms so far this year, has gone on the offensive.
“Dean Foods controls about 90 percent of the milk supply in Michigan, 80 percent in Massachusetts, over 80 percent in Tennessee and 70 percent in northern New Jersey. That’s not a free market.” Sanders says