by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Dairy

May 3 2021

Industry policy influence of the week: meat and dairy vs. climate change

Thanks to Sinead Boylan in Australia for alerting me to this paper about the influence of the meat and dairy industries on climate change policy.  The authors are Environmental Science colleagues at NYU.

The Study: The climate responsibilities of industrial meat and dairy producers.  Oliver Lazarus & Sonali McDermid & Jennifer Jacquet.  Climatic Change (2021) 165:30.

Method: The authors examined the role of 35 of the world’s largest meat and dairy companies in actions related to preventing climate change. But in particular, it investigated “the transparency of emissions reporting, mitigation commitments, and influence on public opinion and politics of the 10 US meat and dairy companies.”

Its overall conclusion: “all 10 US companies have contributed to efforts to undermine climate-related policies.”

Through a questionnaire, it found (these are direct quotes):

  • All 10 US companies have contributed to research that minimizes the link between animal agriculture and climate change (Q11). Three companies—Tyson, Cargill, and Smithfield—have contributed directly to what Brulle (2014) called “climate change countermovement organizations” or organizations that have minimized the link between agriculture and climate change (Q13).
  • Four companies—Tyson, National Beef, Smithfield, and Hormel—have each made statements linking climate change regulation with potentially harming their profitability, either in an SEC form or in an annual report (Q17…).

Through researching OpenSecrets

  • Nine of the 10 companies have spent at least $600,000 on lobbying activities since 2000, with five of those companies spending over $14 million each…Tyson has spent the most on lobbying—$25 million—over the last two decades.
  • Cargill has spent $21.5 million; Smithfield Foods, $21 million; Dean Foods, $16 million; and Dairy Farmers of America, $14 million….
  • Combined, the companies have spent a total of $109 million on lobbying activities since 2000.
  • The other nine US-based companies [the tenth, Koch Foods, did not report] have spent a combined $26 million on political campaigns since 2000.
  • Dairy Farmers of America has spent the most, at $6.3 million since 2000. California Dairies has spent $5 million; Dean Foods, $4.3 million; Cargill, $4 million; and Tyson, $3.2 million.
  • Since 2000, Tyson has spent more on Republican candidates in every election cycle but one, and a similar pattern was observed for most of the companies examined here.
  • US meat and dairy companies act collectively…Together, six of these [trade] groups—the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the National Pork Producers Council, the North American Meat Institute, the National Chicken Council, the International Dairy Foods Association, and the combined expenses of the American Farm Bureau Federation and its state groups—have spent nearly $200 million in lobbying since 2000, lobbying yearly on climate related issues like cap-and-trade, the Clean Air Act, and greenhouse gas regulations and reporting rules.
  • A recent sustainability report published by the US pork industry noted that “pork production contributes just 0.46% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere” (Pork Checkoff 2020).
  • In 2019, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association published a 21-part series, “Tough Questions About Beef Sustainability,” that, among other things, claims US beef production accounted for just 1.9% of total US emissions in 2014 (Beef Research 2019)

Their analysis also suggests: “the level of influence generally corresponded with emissions. Tyson, for example, is the largest emitter of the 10 US companies.  Tyson received the highest total influence score in response to our 20 questions at 15, tied with National Beef Packing Company, the fourth highest emitter.”

Overall: “In the case of the USA, our analysis provides evidence to suggest that the 10 largest meat and dairy companies have worked to frame the conversation, influence climate-related policies, and minimize the link between animal agriculture and climate change.”

Comment: This issue matters because animal agriculture is estimated to contribute 14.5% of greenhouse gas emissions.  This, and industry behavior around this issue, is a reason why sustainability needs to be part of Dietary Guidelines, and “eat less meat” is good dietary advice for people in industrialized economies.

Apr 8 2021

Plant-based: an attempt to keep up

Information pours out about plant-based meat and dairy substitutes.  Here are some recent items, pro and con:

Mar 3 2021

And now, Buttergate? 

I thought I already knew all the issues raised by palm fats, which I’ve written about previously, but also because I did a blurb for Jocelyn Zuckerman’s forthcoming Planet Palm: How Palm Oil Ended Up in Everything—and Endangered the World (New Press).  Nope.  Wrong.

Welcome to “Buttergate,” the latest palm fat scandal.

I thought I knew all the issues raised by palm fats, which I’ve written about previously, but also because I did a blurb for Jocelyn C. Zuckerman.  Planet Palm: How Palm Oil Ended Up in Everything—and Endangered the World (New Press) which is not yet out but coming soon.  How wrong I was.

Welcome to “Buttergate,” the latest palm fat scandal.

This begins with Canadians asking why, all of a sudden, is butter not getting soft at room temperature.

The answer: farmers are feeding cows palm oil, which is high in saturated (hard) fat

Why would they do this?  Because it increases production of milk fat.  And because it makes milk fat more highly saturated, butter gets harder.

The Canadian dairy industry is being asked to stop this practice because it breaches the dairy industry’s “ moral compact with Canadians.

Do dairy foods need to be harder at room temperature?  No.

Do dairy foods need to be higher in saturated fat?  No.

Is this yet another reason to be wary of palm fat?  Could be.

Are American farmers feeding palm oil to cows?  The U.S. dairy industry is strangely quiet on this question.  US journals report research on its use as cow feed.  And Dairy Farmers of Canada says American dairy farmers do this too.

I did a little investigating.  Here’s what Jamie Jonker, Vice President, Sustainability & Scientific Affairs, National Milk Producers Federation, says about the practices of the U.S. dairy industry:

  • Feeding byproducts from other parts of food production to dairy cattle, which recycles ingredients that may otherwise be thrown away, has been a staple of the U.S. dairy industry for decades. Palm oil byproducts fed to dairy cattle in small amounts has been among them.
  • The average daily consumption of palm oil per lactating cow in the U.S. is about 0.2 pounds (unpublished data). A lactating cow eats more than 50 pounds of feed (on a dry matter basis) so this is less than 0.4% of total diet.
  • There is not a legal limit feeding palm oil byproducts in the U.S., but from a practical standpoint there are dietary limits. Too high fat level in the diet will reduce overall feed consumed which will reduce overall nutrients to the cow decreasing productivity.
  • Diet does impact milk composition and dietary fat source can change milk fatty acid profile. There has not been a recent change in use of palm oil byproducts that would cause a discernible difference in butter ‘hardness’ at room temperature.
  • The palmitic acid portion of the weight of total fatty acids in butter is roughly 30 percent. That’s a decades-old industry standard that’s remained consistent throughout the pandemic. Palmitic acid is not just from the palm but can also be produced in other plants and organisms at low levels. For example, the amount in human breast milk averages 20 to 25%.

So for U.S. milk users, there doesn’t seem to be anything new here.  The butter I’ve been buying still softens at room temperature, but the ambient temperature has to be really hot to melt it.  Cow’s milk is a source of saturated fat.  Butter is concentrated cow’s milk fat.  Saturated fatty acids are solid at room temperature and that’s why butter is too.

Nov 23 2020

Industry-funded study of the week: dairy foods and child growth

Growth and Development of Preschool Children (12–60 Months): A Review of the Effect of Dairy Intake.   David C. Clark, Christopher J. Cifelli, Matthew A Pikosky.  Nutrients 202012(11), 3556; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12113556

The study:  A narrative review of studies of dairy intake and child growth, cognitive development, and weight gain.
Results: there is a positive association between dairy intake and linear growth. The impact of milk or dairy products on cognitive development is less clear due to a lack of evidence and is a gap in the literature that should be addressed. Regarding the impact on body weight, the majority of evidence suggests there is either no association or an inverse association between milk intake by preschool children on overweight and obesity later in life.
Funding: “The work involved for this manuscript was funded by National Dairy Council (provided to D.C.C.).”
Conflicts of interest: “C.J.C. and M.A.P. are employees of National Dairy Council.”
Comment: The Dairy Council has a vested interest in demonstrating that dairy foods promote linear growth and cognitive function in young children, but do not promote overweight or obesity. This dairy-funded literature review is remarkable for its cautious interpretation: “the absence of data from studies conducted in low- and middle-income countries is a serious gap, especially given the dual burden of undernutrition and overnutrition that is becoming prevalent in developing countries.”  That’s another reason for this study: sell more dairy foods in middle- and low-income countries.  China, for example, is pushing dairy products as a means to grow taller children; it does so despite widespread lactose intolerance among the Chinese population.
Oct 22 2020

USDA data on dairy products

The USDA destroyed the ability of its Economic Research Service (ERS) to do investigations that might prove inconvenient for this administration (see my most recent post on this topic), but this agency is still producing reports on specific commodities.

Here are the latest dairy reports.  You have to be pretty nerdy to delve into these Excel spreadsheets but if you do, you will get a good idea of what ERS staff are doing these days as well as learn details about dairy production.  TMI?  Maybe.

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Aug 13 2020

Annals of marketing: Lithuanian ice cream flavors

I am indebted to DairyReporter.com for this item, which especially interested me because one set of my grandparents immigrated to the United States from Lithuania in the very early 1900s.  Perhaps this explains why I like ice cream so much.

The item:”12 bizarre ice cream flavors from Lithuania.

It seems plain vanilla ice cream might soon be out of fashion in Lithuania, where chefs are experimenting with natural flavors, including plenty not normally associated with ice cream.”

He’s not kidding.  Try these:

    • Pine needle
    • Peony
    • Carrot
    • Rhubarb
    • Beetroot
    • Lavender
    • Quark and nettle ice cream (I had to look up quark.  No, not a subatomic particle: a curd-type cheese).
    • Linden honey and dill
    • Seaweed and caviar
    • Spinach and tarragon
    • Beer
  • Smoked mackerel
Chacun à son goût seems appropriate here.  
Personally, I’ll take vanilla.
Jul 10 2020

Weekend reading: more reports

CAST [Council for Agricultural Science and Technology: Economic Impacts of COVID-19 on Food and Agricultural Markets:  This is a collection of 16 articles by various experts on the effects of Covid-19 on food, agriculture, and forestry.  The report is here.

IATP (Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy): Milking the Planet: How Big Dairy is Heating Up the Planet and Hollowing Rural Communities: The report is here.

FAIRR (a global network of investors addressing issues in meat production): An Industry Infected: Animal Agriculture in a post-COVID world.  The report is here.

As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds globally, we are presented with a real-time case study into the vulnerability of animal agriculture systems to external shocks. It has reminded us of the vulnerability of human health to disease risks stemming from both wild and domestic animals, and has served as a warning of the role modern animal production systems can play in increasing zoonotic disease risk.

The British Meat Processors Association is not happy with this one, it seems.

 

Mar 10 2020

The heartbreaking decline in American agriculture and especially dairy

Farm bankruptcies rose again in 2019 painting a bleak picture on maps of the U.S.

Dairy farms showed the largest decline in 15 years.

As for dairy consumption, take a look at this collection of charts.

Butter and cheese are up; milk is down.

Even ice cream is down.

That leaves us with yogurt as the one product that was doing well, but then wasn’t.

I like dairy foods and don’t want farms to go under, but dairy products are way overproduced so it’s hard to make a living from them.

On another dairy matter, the International Dairy Federation has just issued new guidelines for the welfare of dairy cattle.   Let’s give this industry credit for trying to do right by dairy cattle.  But the real problem, which nobody wants to address right now, is that there are too many of them in the wrong places.

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