by Marion Nestle
Oct 19 2010

What do checkoff programs do?

I’m catching up on reading and just ran across a report about the accomplishments of the dairy checkoff.  This, you will no doubt recall, is the USDA-sponsored program that collects a “tax” from dairy producers and uses the funds for generic promotion of dairy products.   What fills the folks running the checkoff with pride?  Among them,

  • Focusing on dairy health and wellness by helping to combat childhood obesity by encouraging schools to implement physical activity and good nutrition, including dairy.
  • Partnering with Domino’s Pizza to develop pizzas using up 40% more cheese than usual.  This worked so well that other pizza chains are doing the same thing.
  • Partnering with McDonald’s to launch McCafe specialty coffees that use up to 80 percent milk, and three new burgers with two slices of cheese per sandwich.  The result?  An additional 6 million pounds of cheese sold.
  • Creating reduced lactose milks in order to bring lapsed consumers back to milk.  The potential result?  An additional 2.5 to 5 billion pounds of milk each year.
  • Partnering with General Mills’ Yoplait to develop yogurt chip technology that requires 8 ounces of milk.
  • Maintaining momentum for single-serve milk by offering white and flavored milk in single-serve, plastic, resealable bottles.

As the person who sent this to me put it, you can’t make this stuff up.

  • Seriously? Are you kidding? Yogurt chip technology? Additional slices of cheese on a McDonald’s Cheeseburger?

    The USDA should think twice about putting this info in the hands of the press. Whoa. I hope every blogger in the US is all over this in the coming days.

  • LindsayB

    There is obviously big money to be made in making people obese.
    Perhaps some appropriate taxation of these products to combat the problem should be considered.

  • Subvert

    There are no limits to the justified promotion of anything and everything, no matter cost to society.

    Domino’s pizzas would taste equally mediocre to the average American with 1/6 the amount of cheese. The enjoyment factor of the pizza with that much bland commodit- grade cheese is not increased at this point, unless to satisfy some sick publicity factor for some narcissistic marketing team.

  • Pete

    How could you leave “reformulating school pizzas” of your highlights!? That’s one of the more disturbing points. “To meet the increasingly restrictive school dietary guidelines” or “how are we going to get around this and add more dairy”.

  • Honestly? And they proudly published this? It’s true I suppose, you couldn’t make all this garbage up!

    While a lot of their highlights are obviously stunning and perhaps laughable to be viewed as accomplishments, the one that intrigues me most is the ‘foster industry collaboration’ line. I’d love to know who the 180 companies are that are in this list of payoffs, er…I mean collaborations.

    A few weeks ago a new client came walking through my door. She had been to see a dietitian who told her, amongst other things, that it doesn’t matter if she’s lactose intolerant and has horrible pain and other symptoms when she consumes dairy because her body requires dairy both for a healthy diet and because she won’t be able to lose weight unless she’s drinking 3+ glasses of milk a day. Told her that if she couldn’t ignore the symptoms, to buy lactase to take every day so she can consume dairy safely. If that wasn’t enough, she also told her to add chocolate syrup to her milk if she didn’t like the taste to make it more palatable. I was stunned at the advice she’d received, and now I have a feeling I know why it was what she was told.

    Instead, she decided to hire me, and now we’re working to develop a healthy diet that will meet her nutritional needs that is dairy (and pain) free.

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  • Tom

    OK, dairy farmers are putting a few percent of their revenues in a program that helps develop demand for what they’re selling. What should they do-use the money to tell people not to consume dairy and put them out of business?

  • Yogurt chip technology? That sounds like a made up thing on Star Trek. I understand why the dairy producers would want to support this program, but the USDA? Really? I have friends who honestly believe that USDA stands for United States Dairy Association, and now I can see why.

  • Jon

    Yogurt chip technology? Really? Allow me to introduce you to the Soylent Soy TVTrope.

    Couldn’t they just tell people to drink their milk? I mean, that would make more sense to me.

  • Subvert

    @ Jon

    There is so much over-production of milk (and soy, corn and other things due to subsidies); way more than people in our country can take in at a reasonable level… So what happens is they have to find ways to process and preserve all this overage into worthless ingredients with “functional” or “nutraceutical” powers (terms coined by the food industry invented…) Then they take that processed ingredient and figure out how to sell it to consumerist rubes – usually by developing some BS marketing spin on the ingredient, and then snowballing the FDA into allowing them to put that BS claim on the product’s label, so that it stands out amongst all the other unnecessary food items in the grocery store. Confused consumers then take their heads out of the sand long enough to go shopping, and purchases unnecessary food items because they are concerned about being healthy. Consumers then get fat trying to eat healthy, and can hardly keep up with all the new products coming there way. But there is never any shortage of new/improved/good for you things to be pushed, and always more money to be made. Corporate food company execs and shareholders then sit back, count money and try to think of more BS food items to make and push to the consumer. Cycle starts over.

    Pretty simple, pretty sad…

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  • Jon

    Agreed about the milk. I mean, it’s bad to see good meals ruined by stupidity.

    Soylent Soy is basically a trope suggesting that simple ingredients are Frankensteinized in various ways. The name comes from the ubiquity of soy, which is in everything from fast food to and a pun on Soylent Green.

    The other side of this is Lite Creme, where fake foods are marketed as the real thing but misspelled for legal reasons.

  • NYFarmer

    Marion Nestle is in a position to dialog with farmers. Unfortunately, sneering comments seem to be so much easier. In Dr. Nestle’s own milkshed, there are thousands of farm families who pay into the checkoff program. Some of us focus on trying to orient checkoff monies towards development of healthful dairy products. However, we see little in the way of dialog, indeed, our efforts are often rebuffed with Nestle-like snark. Really too bad.

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  • animal_voice

    USDA = United States Department of Assholes.

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