ChewsWise Blog

ChewsWise Blog

Milking Time

As expected, the exclusive we broke Thursday on Dean Foods got a bit of attention, raising questions about where cloning is headed.

Tom Philpot over at Grist opined that Dean's decision showed the power of consumer choice: "If Dean holds to its promise, the whole cloned-cow thing could die an ignominious death, rejected by increasingly aware consumers. Similar consumer outrage is also convincing big dairy users to stop buying milk from cows treated with Monsanto's odious bovine growth hormones."

Karen Robinson-Jacobs, giving Chews Wise credit for breaking the story at The Dallas Morning News, also raised the question of what this means for cloning. She called it "a decision from the nation's largest dairy producer that could put a damper on the commercial viability of such products in the United States."

Meanwhile, The Ethicurean noted that "the parts of Dean Foods’ official statement that Fromartz quotes do not mention whether the company will take a position on dairy products from the progeny of cloned cows." This is a very important point, but also a complicated one that I will take up in a later post. It's especially muddy when it comes to organic milk, because of other loopholes in the regulations regarding the source of organic livestock. But it's complicated so needs a story on its own.

As for the AP, Libby Quaid blasted the news through the nation, but failed to give credit to the news source that broke it (as is customary in the news biz). We wonder if the AP would have done the same had the New York Times, Wall Street Journal or Washington Post broke the story. We broke it. Quaid confirmed it and should have noted where it originated.

Addendum: AP apologies in this email from Quaid

Congrats on your Dean Foods scoop. We've updated the latest version of our Dean Foods story to include that your blog was first to report the company's policy. My apologies ... Was rushed trying to match your story late yesterday.

EXCLUSIVE - Top U.S. Dairy Bans Milk From Clones

The top U.S. dairy company, Dean Foods, has adopted a policy statment banning milk from cloned cows, a copy obtained by Chews Wise shows.

This is a potentially significant step, since the Food and Drug Administration in December released its recommendation to allow food from cloned animals. The FDA has an open comment period on this issue that runs through April 2.

Dean Foods, with more than $10 billion in sales, is by far the largest dairy company in the nation. So even if the FDA allows cloning to go ahead, this policy may put the brakes on the development of clones, at least in the dairy industry.

The company also owns Horizon Organic, the top organic milk company. Other organic milk companies, such as Stonyfield Farms, Organic Valley, and Straus Family Creamery, have pledged not to take milk from any cloned cows. Non-profit organizations, such as the Center for Food Safety, have also been waging a campaign against cloning.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski, the Maryland Democrat, has introduced legislation to require labeling on packages of cloned foods: "This product is from a cloned animal or its progeny.''

Dean Foods "Position Statement: Milk From Cloned Cows" reads:

Based on the desire of our customers and consumers, Dean Foods will not accept milk from cows that have been cloned. If the FDA does approve the sale of milk from cloned cows, we will work with our dairy farmers to implement protocols to ensure that the milk they supply to Dean Foods does not come from cloned cows.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to conclude that milk from cloned cows is safe. Our decision not to accept this milk is based on meeting our consumers’ expectations. We see no consumer benefit from this technology.

Numerous surveys have shown that Americans are not interested in buying dairy products that contain milk from cloned cows and Dean Foods is responding to the needs of our consumers.

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Organic Sexuality

"PASA includes farmers who see the growing of nutritious food as an end in itself, not just a way to eke a living from a patch of dirt." - Kim Miller, PASA president 2000-2007

This past weekend, I was in State College, Pennsylvania, for the annual Farming for the Future Conference, the largest sustainable agriculture gathering on the East Coast and among the biggest in the country, with about 1,700 attending.

The conference was organized by the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture and drew all sorts of farmers and artisans out of the hills and gulleys: from Amish draft-horsesmen to biodiesel proponents, from grass-fed beef ranchers to organic herb farmers, from bee keepers and mushroom culitvators to back-woods denizens of hand hoes and makers of tomato sauce, organic flour and artisanal cheese.

There wasn't an agribusinesses in sight.

I participated in a couple of panels, on the growth of organics and where this movement is headed. As might be expected, there were misgivings about the onward corporatization of organics and concern that the label would be devalued. At the same time, farmers expressed a strong desire to protect the "meaning" of organic, fight to maintain the integrity of the organic label, and welcome corporate players, if they played by the rules. Well, that last point might be overstating it - there was a clear distrust of the mainstream food companies.

One of the more enlighting talks of the conference came from Michael Ableman,who delivered a keynote on the need to elevate the recognition of farmers and draw new ones into the fold. He also talked about ways to better faciliate the farmer & consumer connection (one thing this blog aims to do as well).

His solution - don't hit people over the head with a sense of all that's gone wrong, rather entice them with what can go right. For consumers, that might come through the food and an understanding of how it was grown and who grew it.

He also talked about the need to attract younger farmers to the land, perhaps with a sexual enticement. Ummm, not actual, but building on the idea - as one bumper sticker from the 60's put it - that "organic farmers are more fertile." Sexuality is humming through the farm, not just among the animals, but among the bugs, the seeds, in the soil itself at a microbrial level. He drew out this metaphore to many laughs, but made the point that there was a richness, even, at the extreme, an eroticism in this relationship with the land. Isn't this what marketers have known all along? Sell the sizzle? Actually, I've met quite a lot of young farm interns who matched up during their apprentice years and went on to start farms of their own.

The other interesting thing - aside from the workshops on how to butcher an animal, make your own sauerkraut, start a farmers' market - was the absolute buzz around biodiesel.

Recall, this meeting is the epitome of the do-it-yourself set and finally, in energy, biodiesel gives these farmers one more opportunity to cut their ties with The Man - Big Oil. Long live the french fry!

One farmer, though, who picks up gallons of the stuff every week, said he's around the fry oil so much, belching out of his tractors and trucks, that he has sworn off fries. "I won't eat 'em," he said. But that's probably not a bad thing.

I suggested, for variety, he try fry oil from a Chinese restaurant.

"That's a good idea, except when you get frying oil from a Chinese restaurant the trucks never seem to get full," he replied.


This kind of summed up the ethos of the conference: a "Buy Fresh, Buy Local" Toyota Prius.-