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HERd management: Are antibiotics in my milk? What’s in a food label?

Brenda Hastings for Progressive Dairyman Published on 30 June 2016

On a recent trip to the grocery store, I found the following labels on milk and yogurt packaging: no artificial growth hormones, no rBST, no antibiotics, raised without antibiotics, humanely raised, animal welfare-approved, organic, vegetarian-fed, pasture-raised, grass-fed, sustainable, certified pesticide residue-free, no toxic pesticides, environmentally responsible, all natural, GMO-free, gluten-free, A1 protein-free, from family farms and farm-raised.

It’s exhausting and frustrating to see all the marketing hype, absence claims and misinformation on dairy products today. Purchasing meat, milk and eggs shouldn’t be so complex. What do these labels tell customers?

Do they provide meaningful, science-based information? Are they creating a positive image of dairy products and the farms producing the milk? I don’t think so.

Restaurant menus and food packaging are plastered with labels these days, most of which don’t have anything to do with the quality and value of the product. It’s a marketing tactic used to charge more for a product that isn’t any better, healthier or safer.

These labels by themselves don’t mean animals are better cared for or the farming practice is better for the environment. That’s the perception, not the automatic reality.

The main thing they accomplish is creating confusion and mistrust of dairy products. These statements about what products don’t contain suggest that like-products in the market do contain them. Who wants to purchase “regular” milk without labels?

Customers are led to believe if the claims and statements aren’t on the label, the product is full of antibiotics and hormones from poorly treated cows on mega-corporate farms that are fed junk. These labels undermine customers’ confidence in all dairy products, which eventually leads to a decreased demand for dairy.

We bottle and sell milk at our farm and made the decision not to market our product based on the latest fad or claim. Our milk container doesn’t contain any absence claims or misleading statements. The label simply states what’s in the bottle: grade A, pasteurized, non-homogenized milk.

We believe if you make a quality, good-tasting product, it will speak for itself. American dairy farmers produce the best-quality milk in the world, which should make the job of milk processors and retail stores easier because they are starting with a superior product.

I often hear people say things like, “I buy your milk because I don’t know what’s in grocery store milk.” I’m glad people like the milk we sell at our farm, but I’m concerned they don’t trust milk sold in the grocery store. I want people to love dairy, all dairy. It’s good for every dairy farmer when customers purchase dairy products.

Let’s examine the way two restaurants, Arby’s and Chipotle, market their food. Arby’s slogan is “We have the meats.” They promote their food by displaying images of delicious-looking sandwiches stacked with meat and cheese. They don’t put down any other restaurants or farmers or ingredients. They are confident in what they do and proud of the product they produce.

Chipotle’s slogan is “Food with Integrity.” They focus on promoting their company as morally superior, disparaging other restaurants, ingredients and farmers. They create videos like “The Scarecrow” and “Farmed and Dangerous,” aimed to convince customers that Chipotle alone cares about food quality and animal care. They are insecure fad chasers who create, then capitalize on, food fear.

Which one of these restaurants recently made national headlines because their food made people sick? That’s called karma, Chipotle.

Normand St-Pierre, former Ohio State University professor and extension dairy specialist, recently wrote an excellent article titled “Dairy Scientists Ponder Pseudo-Science, Fear Marketers.” Here are some excerpts:

  • “I still scratch my head over the marketing of dairy products and the hoaxes and urban legends that are associated with certain means of production. Some have portrayed GMO technology as the next plague to annihilate mankind.

    Moving a gene from one species to another has been portrayed as highly unnatural. The problem with this thinking is that nature does this trillions of times every day. The traits that we have in our commercial GMO crops have been extensively studied and have no chance of causing issues to the animals they are being fed to, or to humans.”

  • “The GMO ‘issue’ has been entirely fabricated. Gluten-free is the latest big food craze. It causes illness in genetically predisposed people with celiac disease, which affects one in 100 people worldwide. For the rest of us, the 99 out of 100 people, gluten is just another protein that we digest like most other proteins in our diet.

    But this reality didn’t stop the food alarmists and charlatan marketers. Hence, we now have milk jugs labeled as “gluten-free” in complete disregard with the obvious fact that all milk is gluten-free.

    We now have the emergence of A2 milk, the latest marketing hoax. This is nothing short of a scientific hoax, a so-called ‘finding’ from a New Zealand scientist that nobody else has been able to confirm.”

Thank you, Dr. St-Pierre for injecting science-based facts and common sense.

I don’t participate in misleading marketing tactics or promote fear of food. I only support products and companies who do the same. I will not support companies who use marketing strategies that disparage dairy foods or dairy farmers in any way. I hope you’ll do the same.  PD

Visit The Dairy Mom to see more blogs from Brenda.

Brenda Hastings
  • Brenda Hastings

  • Hastings Dairy and Rowdy Cow Creamery
  • Chardon, Ohio
  • Email Brenda Hastings

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