by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Dairy

May 7 2019

The sad state of the US dairy industry: sensible policies needed

The New York Times writes about the tragedy of Wisconsin dairy farms.

Over the past two years, nearly 1,200 of the state’s dairy farms have stopped milking cows and so far this year, another 212 have disappeared, with many shifting production to beef or vegetables. The total number of herds in Wisconsin is now below 8,000 — about half as many as 15 years ago. In 2018, 49 Wisconsin farms filed for bankruptcy — the highest of any state in the country, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

It explains this as the result of “The rise of corporate farms and more efficient milking processes have led to an oversupply as consumption of milk has waned nationally.”

What’s going on with dairy farming is astonishingly poor policy, especially for small farmers who are now a deeply endangered species.

How to explain?  Bad policy.

In what other industry would you find producers continuing to ramp up production while demand slides, and then stuffing the growing pile of surplus into warehouses, hoping the federal government will buy some of it?

The result: The government is now stockpiling 1.4 billion pounds of cheese.

Should dairy farmers go back to a system of restricting production the way they do in Canada?

One thing is for sure.  If we want local dairy farms to survive, we have to find a way to pay dairy farmers as much or more than it costs them to produce.

Serious policy thinking, anyone?

Tags:
Apr 23 2019

What’s up with cheese in China?

I was in Beijing last week, reading the English-language, government-issued China Daily in my hotel, and ran across this article about China’s “growing appetite for cheese,”

Cheese has never been part of traditional Chinese cuisines, and the Chinese still do not eat much.

Currently, annual per capita consumption of cheese in China is only 0.1 kilogram, far below 2.4 kg in Japan, 2.8 kg in South Korea, 15 kg in the United States and 18.6 kg in Europe where France, Germany and the Netherlands take the top three spots, according to the China Dairy Industry Association.

But there is a big push to encourage dairy consumption.  Chinese dietary guidelines advise adults to consume 300 grams of dairy a day.

The annual per capita consumption of dairy products in China has reached 36 kg now, much higher than the 6 kg recorded two decades ago, but the volume is still less than half that of Asia and less than a third of the world average.

This all seems odd to me.  Asian populations tend to be lactose intolerant, making dairy products difficult to digest.  But dairy foods are believed to promote faster growth and taller heights in children, which the government deems desirable.  Many people can handle dairy foods, especially yogurt and other fermented varieties.

I went to a large supermarket in an area where many foreign embassies are located and was impressed by the size of the dairy aisle.

But on an Untour Food Tour to Beijing’s lower income alleys (hutongs), I was taken to a tiny store devoted exclusively to dairy products.

Most of the products were milk or yogurt.  The cheese in both places was mostly slices, Kraft and the like.

But in an indoor farmers’ market, I visited Le Fromager de Pekin stall and did some tasting.  At the moment, French cheese makers (or American, for that matter) have nothing to fear from Chinese competition.   I will be interested to see how cheesemaking progresses.

In the meantime, I’m not the only one fascinated by the very thought of cheese in China.  DairyReporter.com notes:

Three decades after most consumers had tried their first cheese slice or milk shake, fortunes have changed dramatically for dairy in China.The country is now the world’s biggest importer of dairy products, with a younger, more mobile generation ravenous for cheeses from overseas. With a market value of US$12bn today, cheese sales are expected to grow by US$4bn over the next year, according to Mintel. In just two years the number of Chinese cheese-eaters has grown from 15% to 17% in 2017, with the market researcher anticipating further rises of 13% annually until 2021.

As for dairy use, the unanticipated consequences are already emerging, not least the environmental impact of the transition from sheep to dairy cows in New Zealand.

A massive rise in the country’s dairy herd over the last 20 years has had a devastating impact on the country’s freshwater quality, a key area being targeted by the government for improvement….groundwater failed standards at 59% of wells owing to the presence of E coli, and at 13% of the wells owing to nitrates. Some 57% of monitored lakes registered poor water quality, and 76% of native freshwater fish are at risk of or threatened with extinction…the main culprits for worsening freshwater quality were the intensive use of fertilisers, irrigation and cows.

And much of this is driven by China’s purchases of New Zealand’s dairy production.

Kiwi companies sold $4b worth of dairy products in China. Milk powder, butter and cheese mainly. The success of dairy companies Fonterra and A2 is largely underpinned by exports to China. Fonterra [a New Zealand company] accounts for 36 per cent of all dairy imports into China…11 per cent of China’s total dairy consumption was produced by Fonterra, and 26 per cent of Fonterra’s output was shipped to China.

It’s hard to believe that any of this is good for the health of people or the envirornment.

Tags:
Apr 8 2019

Industry-funded study of the week: dairy and chronic disease

This is one of my ongoing updates of industry-funded studies such as those discussed in my most recent book, Unsavory Truth.

Here’s this week’s example:

Funding sources and outcomes of dairy consumption research – a meta-analysis of cohort studies: The case of type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.  Moshe Mishali, Mirit Kisner,Tova Avrech.  International Dairy Journal, accepted and in press 2019.

The study: The authors asked whether the source of funding was associated with the results of studies examining the association of dairy food intake with the risk of type 2 diabetes or heart disease.

Conclusion:  “This meta-analysis found that the funding source (i.e., food industry sponsorship versus neutral organisations sponsorship) did not affect the findings of studies in terms of the association between dairy consumption and the risk of developing type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases…This meta-analysis suggests that research funded by the dairy industry might not deserve the same dismissive treatment that other industry-funded studies might merit.”

Funder: “This work was supported by the Israel Dairy Board Research – Fund (DBRF). Declaration of interest Moshe Mishali is a consultant for the Israel Dairy Board; Mirit Kisner was paid for her work by the Israel Dairy Board; Tova Avrech is Chief Health Officer at the Israel Dairy Board.”

Comment: This study was commissioned by the Israel Dairy Board specifically to address “The radicalised discourse that emerged in recent years [which] sees industry-funded research as inherently biased due to the obvious vested interests of any industry that initiates and funds certain studies…We sought to check if the suspicion is warranted when it comes to the dairy industry.”

These conclusions are consistent with those of Wilde et al (2012), although that study found that independently funded research included the only studies with results unfavorable to dairy (3 out of 16), whereas the industry-funded research came out 100% in favor of dairy products.

I would find the arguments about the benefits of dairy food more convincing if they were funded and conducted by investigators with no skin in the game.

Apr 1 2019

Industry-funded study of the week: chocolate milk for teenage athletes

After the debacle over Fifth Quarter Fresh that I wrote about in Unsavory Truth, you might think that sellers of chocolate milk would stop trying to prove it anything other than a sugary milk drink.  But no, here’s another one.

Chocolate Milk versus carbohydrate supplements in adolescent athletes: a field based study.  Katelyn A. Born, Erin E. Dooley, P. Andy Cheshire, Lauren E. McGill, Jonathon M. Cosgrove, John L. Ivy and John B. Bartholomew.  Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (2019) 16:6.

Method: “Participants were randomly-assigned to receive either CM [chocolate milk] or CHO [carbohydrate] immediately post-exercise.”

Conclusion: “CM had a more positive effect on strength development and should be considered an appropriate post-exercise recovery supplement for adolescents.”

Funder: Dairy MAX [“nonprofit dairy council representing more than 900 dairy farm families across seven states”].

Comment: The premise of this study is that drinks containing a combination of carbohydrate and protein have been shown to provide better recovery from vigorous exercise than drinks containing carbohydrate or protein alone.  Chocolate milk contains both.  This study compared it to a carbohydrate-only sports drink, making this an excellent example of how to design a study to give you the desired result.

Feb 13 2019

Another casualty of trade disputes: Cheese

The Wall Street Journal reports this mind-boggling statistic:  Cheese producers have put 1.4 billion pounds in cold storage in the hope that the market will improve and prices will rise.

Compared to other countries, Americans do not eat much cheese—35 pounds or so per capita per year.

That may be a lot less that the amount consumed in Denmark and other cheese-loving countries, but watch out for the calories: pound of cheese is 1100-1800 calories or more, depending on type.

Jan 7 2019

Industry-funded study of the week: Mediterranean diet plus dairy foods

Christopher Gardner, the Stanford scientist who studies the ways various dietary patterns affect body weight, sent me this study to add to my post-book collection (I wrote about such things in Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat, just out).

Soon after Dr. Gardner sent this to me, I read about this study in DairyReporter.com.  Its account had this headline: “Mediterranean diet with added dairy shown to improve heart health in Australia.”  It said nothing about funding source (it should have).

The study:

Title: A Mediterranean diet supplemented with dairy foods improves markers of cardiovascular risk: results from the MedDairy randomized controlled trial.  Alexandra T Wade, Courtney R Davis, Kathryn A Dyer, Jonathan M Hodgson, Richard J Woodman, and Karen J Murphy.  Am J Clin Nutr 2018;108:1166–1182.

Rationale: The Mediterranean diet (MedDiet) “may not meet Western recommendations for calcium and dairy intake.”  Translation: Australians don’t eat enough dairy foods.

Objective: Determine the effect of a MedDiet supplemented with dairy foods (MedDairy) on blood pressure and other risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Design:  The study compared the effects of consuming two different diets, (1) a MedDiet with 3–4 daily servings of dairy (MedDairy) versus (2) a lowfat control diet (LowFat).

Results: Participants on MedDairy reduced their blood pressure and other CVD risk factors.

Conclusion:  “The MedDiet supplemented with dairy may be appropriate for an improvement in cardiovascular risk factors in a population at risk of CVD.”

Funding: “Supported by a Dairy Australia Research Grant.”

Dr. Gardner’s comments: the study does not compare the MedDiet to MedDairy.  Instead, it compares MedDairy to LowFat—whatever people habitually eat, but restricted in fat.

In this study, compared to the LowFat group, the MedDairy group ate:

  •  More fat
  •  Less refined grain
  •  More legumes
  •  Less red meat
  •  More meat substitutes
  •  More nuts and seeds
  •  And, yes, more dairy (mostly yogurt)

Even so, the LowFat group lost more fat mass and gained more lean body mass than did the MedDairy group, but the authors do not mention that in the abstract and don’t make a big deal about it.

But they do say this in their discussion:

However, the use of an LF [LowFat] control diet may limit the generalizability of our results, as well as our capacity to evaluate the benefits of adding dairy to a traditional MedDiet.

Precisely.

Jan 3 2019

FoodNavigator.com on what’s happening in the dairy industry

I think this collection of articles from FoodNavigator on the dairy industry is especially clear in revealing three notable trends: (1) the ongoing decline in milk consumption, (2) a more recent decline in yogurt consumption, and (3) an increase in production, availability, and marketing of dairy products high in fat.  Take a look:

 Special Edition: Dairy innovation

It’s been a challenging year for many dairy brands, with continued weakness in fluid milk and yogurt categories and growing competition from dairy-free alternatives. But there has been no shortage of innovation, spanning everything from ‘intentionally less sweet’ high protein yogurt launches to  whole milk and even ‘triple cream’ offerings as fat roars back in some parts of the category.

Tags:
Nov 19 2018

A2 milk: still making claims based on industry-funded research

I haven’t said anything about A2 milk—milk from cows producing a different form of casein protein than cows producing regular A1 casein—since coming across it in Australia nearly three years ago.

Then, I was impressed that the manufacturer’s claims for A2 milk’s better digestibility were based entirely on studies paid for by—surprise!—the manufacturer (as I explain in my latest book, Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eatfood industry funding of nutrition research produces highly predictable results and, therefore, is not good for science, public health, or trust).

Now those companies are trying to sell A2 milk here (at a higher price, of course).

According to FoodNavigator-USA, the US dairy industry is not happy about these claims and brought them up before the National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureau, which referred the matter to the Federal Trade Commission.

At issue is the quality of the industry-funded research.

It’s easy to understand the dairy industry’s view that A2 milk will take market share away from conventional milk at a time when milk sales have been declining for years.

As for the benefits of A2 milk?  As with so many health claims, I’m betting that this one is more about marketing than health.

Caveat emptor.