From DMI to NZI to DS4G: Harper, McCloskey explain how scale will drive dairy to net zero

Author’s Note: This is part one in a multi-part series about DMI’s Dairy Scale for Good piece of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy’s Net Zero Initiative.

By Sherry Bunting, updated from publication in Farmshine, April 23, 2021

ROSEMONT, Ill. — “Looking at the past 50 years of impressive achievement, everything ladders up to milk efficiency. It’s less land. It’s less manure. It’s less water and less carbon, but it’s all about that milk,” said Caleb Harper, executive director of the Dairy Scale for Good (DS4G) piece of the DMI Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy’s Net-Zero Initiative (NZI).

“For the next 50 years, what if it was all about everything other than the milk. As we continue to advance toward yield of milk… you’ll start to see a rise in the importance of everything else,” said Harper, posing a “value proposition” for the dairy industry.

Harper, along with Dr. Mike McCloskey, of Fair Oaks Farm, Fairlife and Select Milk Producers, talked about NZI and DS4G in an online Balchem ‘real science lecture series’ earlier this month. McCloskey is an officer on the board of National Milk Producers Federation and has chaired the DMI Innovation Center’s Sustainability Initiative since inception.

The future being created, according to Harper and McCloskey, is one of dairy being recognized as an “irreplaceable ecosystem asset — an environmental solution — inside a comprehensive management plan for emissions reduction inside of animal ag livestock.”

Citing the Nestle and Starbucks sponsorships and others coming on near term, Harper said the pilot projects associated with each company will be located in separate supply chains. The sponsorships are being made, he said, because these companies have made big commitments to reducing carbon.

“As checkoff, one of our limitations is the ability to do on-farm work, especially around technology acquisition or measurement, so we need these third-party dollars to come in and be the catalyst to get living laboratories set up,” Harper explained.

Before Harper’s presentation about how the Net Zero Initiative builds-out the ‘everything else’ pieces, McCloskey gave historical context about the birth of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy in 2007.

“The trajectory (since 1940) is just phenomenal when you lay out the statistics,” said McCloskey. “We came together – National Milk, DMI, USDEC – and had a great meeting of the minds (in 2007). We said this natural sustainability progress will continue, but we need to accelerate it and be catalytic in how we can become the organization to drive this at a faster speed to net-zero.”

According to McCloskey, 80% of the nation’s milk is represented at this NZI table, and the dairy industry is the one to “really come out of the gate on this.”

The whole value chain from distributors to processors to retailers and companies that create packaging (are represented), so we have a really good understanding of the entire value chain and can focus on how to eliminate carbon footprint to bring it to net-zero,” he said.

The baseline life-cycle assessments (LCA) were the first steps 10 to 13 years ago to figure out “exactly where” the carbon was coming from, and the April lecture discussion focused field to farm, noting that the processors have a separate working group looking post-farm through consumption.

McCloskey said the LCA categorized carbon in 4 areas:

1) Farming (feed production) practices
2) Manure management
3) Enteric emissions from cows
4) Energy intensity of the operation (including renewables)

“Once we knew where the carbon was coming from, we started initiatives to find processes and technologies to innovate and accelerate the process to net-zero even faster,” said McCloskey, explaining the heavy participation from companies serving on committees and through initiatives these past 13 years.

Then, a year and a half ago, “we committed to the term net-zero,” he said. “That was a big jump.”

This bit of history set the stage for Harper to talk about the part of the Net Zero Initiative he heads up: Dairy Scale for Good (DS4G).

Harper was hired by DMI last May for the DS4G position just weeks after exiting M.I.T.’s Media Lab April 30th, after his OpenAg Initiative there came under scrutiny and was quietly closed.

“Caleb is looking at the four areas and how we can take technologies and processes and innovate them into DS4G,” said McCloskey.

Harper noted that dairy and agriculture are not operating in a vacuum. He said the first “bold commitments” to net-zero time frames between now and 2050 were made by big tech companies like Facebook, Amazon, Google, followed by food brands, companies across the food value chain, and then the agricultural input sector.

Throughout his presentation, Harper referenced the Biden administration policies the work hinges on, using much of the same coordinated language that surfaces via the World Economic Forum Great Reset and United Nations Food Systems Summit and what is called “The Fourth Industrial Revolution” in which technology is already rapidly accelerating.

“We’re seeing a shift in philosophy and it’s being driven by all of these commitments,” said Harper, insisting that, “It’s being driven, of course, by consumers.”

He showed pre-Covid poll statistics from the Hartman group. One in particular noted that 88% of consumers surveyed “would like brands to help them be more environmentally friendly and ethical in their daily lives.”

“Dairy has made the commitment to being an environmental solution,” said Harper, which means becoming carbon neutral or better, optimizing water use while maximizing recycling, and improving water quality by optimizing utilization of manure and nutrients.

Three working groups or initiatives were formed within the field-to-farm Net Zero Initiative: 1) Research, analysis and modeling; 2) Viability study, which is DS4G headed by Harper; and 3) Adoption for collective impact.

The Adoption piece will distill and disseminate across the industry what is learned through research, modeling and Harper’s DS4G work.

It is all about driving consumer choices under this net-zero mantra. Industry consolidation also figures into this equation to “scale the process and drive out the risk,” said Harper.

Many of the numbers in Harper’s presentation were taken directly from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) white paper An Environmental and Economic Path Toward Net Zero Dairy Farm Emission.”

Harper cited environmental pressure and animal activism pressure on the U.S. dairy industry. He said: “This program (Dairy Net-Zero) is being supported by the World Wildlife Fund and others in the environmental space as a path towards a solution on all of these issues.”

Insisting that the Net Zero Initiative and DS4G operate with a “counter-balance” of environment and economics, the examples discussed by Harper included estimates for what producers may expect as returns for various environmental products and services.

Illustrating carbon footprint for a gallon of milk across all sectors from field to consumer, Harper and WWF maintain that the field-to-farm portion represents the largest potential (70%) for reducing CO2 equivalent emissions more than retail, consumption, processing and distribution combined. Harper said he sees this as work and opportunity. McCloskey had noted earlier that the processors have their own working group looking at emissions from farm to consumption.

The WWF white paper lays out the “business case” for the Net Zero Initiative, based on a 3500 cow dairy (a Fair Oaks site with 3000 milking and 500 dry). In fact, Harper’s DS4G work will exclusively pilot and model on dairies of this size.

“This is to make maximum impact on the supply of milk in the short-term,” he said. “If we look at the kind of consolidation going on in the industry, the herd sizes above 1000 cows are a small percentage of the total herd; however, (they account for) 55% of the milk production.”

Harper explained the DS4G concept this way:

“The idea is to use scale to address these (net-zero) issues so we can drive down the risk of adoption, the risk of market-building, the risk of technology… to bring that down to a level and spread it across the industry, across the milk.”

Walking through the technologies and processes that the checkoff-funded DS4G is “thinking about,” Harper indicated that this is “evolving”, and all revenue potential figures are “approximate”.

He mentioned a billion dollars of investment in digesters over the last few years from private equity funds, pension funds, and venture investors, with digesters representing — “rule of thumb” — one-third of the revenue potential of net-zero going forward. The new market opportunities driving that revenue potential, he said, are natural gas prices and the increasing value of the low-carbon renewable fuel credit price. The combination is what is attracting investors, according to Harper.

Harper said he has visited 100 dairy farms in 17 states in his first 11 months as the dairy-checkoff employee heading up DS4G. Of the dairies he has visited with more than 2500 cows, he said not one did not either have a digester or was breaking ground for a digester or in the process of planning a partnership around one.

He also talked about feed additives to address enteric emissions, cropping practices, and manure management technology, including ultrafiltration of manure as part of a “technology train” for the future. To be continued

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(Author’s Notes: The WWF Markets Institute released its dairy white paper Jan. 27, 2021. A mid-February Farmshine report revealed the WWF mathematical error that had inflated the magnitude of CO2 equivalent pounds contributed by all U.S. milk production. WWF on Feb. 25, 2021, corrected this baseline to show the much smaller collective impact of 268 billion pounds CO2 equivalent (not 2.3 trillion pounds). Both Harper and McCloskey serve on the WWF Market Institute’s Thought Leadership Group. Harper also served as a board member of New Harvest 2017-19, a global nonprofit building the field of cellular agriculture, funding startups to make milk, meat and eggs without animals. DMI confirms that dairy checkoff had an MOU with WWF from the inception of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy around 2008 through 2019. McCloskey has chaired the Innovation Center’s Sustainability Initiative since 2008. In 2008-09, two MOU’s were signed between DMI and USDA via former U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack — the Sustainability Initiative and GENYOUth. At the end of the Obama administration, Vilsack was hired by DMI dairy checkoff to serve as president and CEO of USDEC 2016-2021, and earlier this year he became Secretary of Agriculture again after President Joe Biden said Vilsack ‘practically wrote his rural platform and now he can implement it.” McCloskey and Harper also have another connection. According to the Sept. 2019 Chronicles of Higher Education, Caleb Harper’s father, Steve Harper, was a grocery executive. He was senior vice-president of marketing and fresh product development, procurement and merchandising from 1993 to 2010 for the H-E-B supermarket chain based in Texas. According to a 2020 presentation by Sue McCloskey, H-E-B was their first partner in the fluid milk business in the 1990s, followed by Kroger. According to the Houston Chronicle, the McCloskeys also partnered with H-E-B in 1996 to produce Mootopia ultrafiltered milk, an H-E-B brand. This was the pre-cursor to fairlife, the ultrafiltered milk beverage line in which DMI invested checkoff funds through the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy partnering with the McCloskeys, Select, and Coca Cola.)

2021 WWF / DMI ‘Net Zero’ report inflated GHG baseline for total U.S. milk production

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, Feb. 26, 2021

EAST EARL, Pa. – At a time when dairy producers are in the fight of their lives to prove how sustainable they already are in providing nutrient-dense milk and beef from the much-maligned bovine, they can ill-afford publication of overblown climate data on total U.S. milk production. And yet…

Dairy producers have unknowingly paid to applaud, promote and contribute to inflated baseline greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions data via their own national dairy checkoff.

The Jan. 27 report, produced by DMI’s former MOU partner World Wildlife Fund (WWF), established a GHG baseline that has been confirmed and admitted as being mathematically wrong by an order of magnitude — 10 times greater than reality.

So egregious is the mathematical error inflating dairy’s baseline GHG emissions, that the entire WWF / DMI Net Zero Initiative ‘Dairy Scale for Good’ case study is now questionable in the significance of its reductions because the significance of the starting-point — the ‘problem’ — is overblown.

Since receiving the DMI press release and copy of the 14-page white paper on Feb. 1, we have been reviewing it. The WWF Markets Institute ‘white paper’ entitled An Environmental and Economic Path Toward Net Zero Dairy Farm Emission” has been widely promoted by DMI. 

Its case-study model was concerning to us initially because of its narrow representation of comparable dairy farms and grand claims about what is needed for large farms to be “net zero in five years” and selecting pilot farms for the industry to prove-out the model.

Yes, the report was produced by WWF, but in a recent Pa. Dairy Summit breakout session on “What dairy checkoff has done for you lately,” DMI president Barb O’Brien confirmed that the WWF report is being promoted because it supports the Net Zero Initiative launched by DMI’s Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy.

More importantly, she said the report is a “spreadsheet exercise” that will now be piloted on large farms by Dairy Scale for Good executive director Caleb Harper to see if the exercise can be “proved out.” An exercise, mind you, that has inflated the significance of the problem it is purporting to solve. 

In the same “What has dairy checkoff done for you lately” session at Dairy Summit, O’Brien said the data for the WWF white paper came from DMI input!

This emperor has no clothes. This dog doesn’t walk. This math does not “add up.” 

We are talking about the math that established the baseline GHG for all U.S. milk production used to determine the significance of the reduction from the ‘Net Zero’ dairy case study, a 3000-cow Fair Oaks-style dairy, that does not represent reality for many large and small dairies in various geographies. But at the same time overblows the level of the problem everyone else contributes to.

We weren’t the only ones struggling to make sense of the WWF / DMI white paper. A Pennsylvania dairy producer did the math using his bulk tank calibration conversions and brought the “immense blunder” to Farmshine’s attention. 

He was concerned about what this means for all dairy farms, stating in an email: “Why would anyone set a specific reduction amount when it can be demonstrated that the starting amount is wrong? DMI may wish to partner with someone with better math skills.”

The producer who wished to remain anonymous pointed out to us in his email – and we agree – that DMI may want to get their facts straight with a Net Zero Initiative that shows this level of baseline blunder. In fact, as the producer observes: “If the objective (as indicated in the WWF report) is for a 10% reduction from the inflated number, then hallelujah! The EPA numbers show a 90% reduction (already — across all milk production).”

Could the inflated GHG baseline have been intentional? After all, that inflated number is instrumental in bolstering the significance of a prescribed ‘case study’ reduction for which pilot farms are being selected to ‘prove out’.

An inflated baseline harms all dairy farms because it does not reflect the truth about how small the GHG emissions really are – already — for all milk produced on all U.S. dairy farms, under sustainable dairy farm conditions, right now!

In fact, when the Pa. dairy farmer who alerted us to the math error supplied his figuring for the CO2 equivalent (CO2e), his figures put the inflation error at 8.6 times greater than reality.

We sent a media inquiry asking GHG expert Dr. Frank Mitloehner of University of California-Davis CLEAR Center to review the WWF report and let us know what we might be missing in our calculations.

Dr. Mitloehner agreed that the starting point for GHG emissions in the WWF / DMI report was off by “an order of magnitude”. 

We asked him for his expert review and on Wednesday, we received a copy of a letter Dr. Mitloehner sent to WWF. In it, Mitloehner references the white paper’s value of 2.3T pounds (trillion pounds) of GHGs as the emissions from total U.S. milk production (page 7 of the WWF white paper).

“When I went over your calculations, I noticed some potential errors. My own estimate arrived at GHG emissions that are about 10 times lower than the number you reported,” Mitloehner wrote in his letter to WWF.

“Assuming the conversion of the annual milk production in 2018, using Thoma’s equation, into kg fat-and-protein corrected milk (FPCM) and then changing to gallons of FPMC, my calculated values come out to be 287,453,374,279 (287 billion) pounds (not 2.3 trillion pounds),” 

GHG expert Dr. Mitloehner writes. “Using GHG emissions of 10.6 lb CO2e per gallon FPCM, the total GHG come out to 2.87453E+11 lbs CO2e. To simplify the number using the Tera unit prefix, the GHG would be 0.287T pounds CO2e, which differs significantly from the aforementioned value (in the WWF white paper) of 2.3T pounds.”

In his letter, Mitloehner emphasized that the WWF / DMI report was “very informative and points toward solutions that are attainable and scalable, both of which are considerations desperately needed as we look at feeding people in a sustainable manner.”

However, he adds, “I do worry that if the calculations are incorrect, it could lead to misinformation and confusion.”

Along with a copy of his letter to WWF, Dr. Mitloehner included in his email reply to Farmshine the WWF response thanking him for bringing it to their attention. 

“There is indeed an error and we are in the process of fixing it and will have an updated PDF soon and will share it with you, and we will fix the links on the website,” wrote Katherine Devine, director of business case development for WWF Markets Institute.

Once again, a climate-focused NGO with global goals against animal agriculture overblows GHG emissions from cattle, in this case dairy cattle. But this time, it happened within the full purview of mandatory producer-funded dairy checkoff.

 The reason this is a big deal is that it is being used to set policy. The DMI and WWF press releases point to this report as being based on “stakeholder” data that can “demonstrate what is possible with the right practices, incentives and policies within five years.”

For the four weeks, this WWF report has been applauded and promoted by DMI, using case study data that was contributed by DMI. 

The question now is how did this happen and what will the retraction look like? 

Will anyone stand up for the sustainability of dairy farms as they are – today – for an accurate baseline of their real contribution to GHG emissions, especially per unit of nutrition provided? Where is logic in the overall equation?

Dr. Mitloehner indicated in his email reply that the overblown GHG baseline does not completely jeopardize the paper’s ideas about strategies that can position dairy as a climate solution. However, when the starting math is off by a factor of 10, it becomes obvious the larger truth is that dairy is a small emitter and should already be paid for so-called ‘ecosystem services.’ Why is checkoff not pounding that message?

While dairy farms across the U.S. should be applauded and promoted for the reality of how small their emissions are while producing nutritious food for all of us – already – every day, DMI got its focus set on spreadsheet modeling to tell one story when the truth is they could have used accurate numbers to tell a better story.

Instead, the baseline GHG math error undermines the current sustainable performance of all dairy production while putting on a pedestal the Net Zero model based on a 3000-cow Fair Oaks-style dairy with no heifers on site, 80% of forages grown on site, a ration that is 70% forage, and a methane digester mix made up of more than 50% co-digestion of other waste streams.

In fact, some producers of similar size who have inquired about this model, have hit brick walls in having their sustainable practices even considered to  show levels of reduction. No wonder! The starting math for the WWF / DMI model is inflated and banks on that inflation to achieve the “significant” reduction in farmgate pounds of CO2 equivalent (CO2e).

While the math is muddy, the problem here is clear. Cattle as contributors to climate change continue to get a black eye by those inside and outside the industry overblowing the problem to push a marketing agenda that fits a global transformation narrative.

(POSTCRIPT NOTE: Just this morning after Farmshine went to press, we notice the PDF file at the WWF link (previously called ‘version 9’) has been quietly replaced with a file noted in its name as ‘v.10’. In it, on page 7, the total U.S. milk production GHG baseline of 268 billion pounds CO2e now appears where 2.3 trillion pounds once stood. No other change or discussion. We’ll be following up to do comparisons of how the smaller baseline impacts the significance of sweeping transformation, including calculations per unit of nutrition vs. other foods in next week’s Farmshine.)

Connecting dots:

— The January 27, 2021 WWF white paper uses a Fair Oaks-style 3000-cow Net Zero dairy case study. The WWF report was produced by the WWF Markets Institute and was written by WWF Markets Institute senior vice president Jason Clay, Ph.D.

— Clay heads the WWF Markets Institute Thought Leader group. According to the WWF Markets Institute website, the Thought Leader group members include DMI Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy Sustainability Alliance chairman Mike McCloskey of Fair Oaks fame, along with May 2020 DMI hire Caleb Harper serving as Dairy Scale for Good executive director.

— Harper started with DMI a few weeks after his departure from the MIT Media Lab under a cloud of press reports raising questions about aspects of donations, performance and environmental compliance within his digital food research project at MIT. For three years prior to being hired by DMI, Harper served on the board of directors for New Harvest, an organization that supports research and promotion of cell-cultured fake animal protein with the tagline ‘meat, milk and eggs without animals.’

— According to a Sept. 2019 Chronicles of Higher Education article, Harper’s father Steve was a grocery executive, senior vice-president of marketing and fresh product development and procurement from 1993 to 2010 for the H-E-B supermarket chain in Texas and northern Mexico and stayed on part-time through 2012 before retiring.

— During that time, H-E-B became the first and longstanding partner of Mike and Sue McCloskey when they were dairying in New Mexico and founded Select Milk Producers. Sue explained this in her presentation at the 2020 Pennsylvania Dairy Summit, that the H-E-B alliance was instrumental and painted a picture of how it progressed to dairy’s future as seen by DMI’s Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and its food industry partners, with Mike serving as chair of the Sustainability Alliance.

— According to a June 15, 2014 Houston Chronicle article, the McCloskeys worked with H-E-B, supplying their milk and in 1996 producing Mootopia, the ultrafiltered milk H-E-B store brand and pre-cursor to fairlife, now solely owned by Coca Cola.

— During a February 2021 zoom presentation at the 2021 Pa. Dairy Summit, DMI’s vice president of sustainability Karen Scanlon confirmed that DMI had an MOU partnership with WWF from the inception of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy in 2008-09 and that this partnership opened doors with companies on shared priorities over the past decade. The MOU between DMI and WWF expired in 2019 and was not renewed, but Scanlon confirmed that a close relationship and exchange of information continues.

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Smoke and mirrors

Oatly CEO Toni Petersson sings ‘Wow, wow, no cow’ in the 30-second ad spot during the Super Bowl Sunday evening. It was filmed in 2014 in Sweden where the commercial is legally banned from airing. Screenshot

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, Feb. 12, 2021

EAST EARL, Pa. – Some are calling it the worst commercial of this year’s Super Bowl, others say it was so bad, it could be the most memorable. The 30-second ad aired over most of the nation in the second quarter of the game. It was filmed in Sweden in 2014 and ultimately banned from airing in Sweden, where the Oatly brand of fake-milk beverage originated.

The ad seen by millions during the Super Bowl depicted Oatly CEO Toni Petersson singing in the middle of a field of oats (some believe the crop looked more like soybeans but that is beside the point). 

Donning a T-shirt with the words “No artificial badness,” Petersson played an electric piano with a carton of Oatly and a poured glass of the oat beverage atop, singing: “It’s like milk, but made for humans. Wow, wow, no cow. No, no, no. Wow, wow, no cow.”

At another point in the Super Bowl, TurboTax ran its #taxfacts ad showing a man on a computer screen atop a rolling desk going from one scene and tax-related question to another. As the singing computer face atop the desk rolls through a herd of beef cows, we hear the words: “In some places they tax flatulence, like the kind that comes from cows,” (followed by the sound of a fart). Just a couple seconds of the 30-second spot completely unrelated to cows and reality subtly reinforces and normalizes the myth that cow flatulence is taxable because it’s a climate-thing, when it is actually, factually and mathematically insignificant as a climate thing.

Seriously, stop the madness. And, as always, the lack of a television presence for milk and dairy farmers leaves silence as the answer.

One thing is clear: Dairy farmers once again find themselves on the losing end of a long-term ‘partnership’ with the National Football League.

By his own admission, DMI CEO Tom Gallagher says the checkoff has been working through its partnerships over the past 12 to 13 years on the sustainability plan and Net Zero Initiative. Now the rollout dove tails in content and timing with the malarkey coming out of the World Economic Forum Great Reset and its food transformation stalwart the World Wildlife Fund (also known as Worldwide Fund for Nature, WWF).

DMI integrates the industry through its unified marketing plan and the various nonprofit organizations, alliances, committees and initiatives — beginning with the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, formed in 2008-09, launching the industry’s structural drivers beginning with the globalization initiative (Bain Study 2008), then social responsibility (FARM program 2015) and now ‘sustainability’ (Net Zero Initiative 2020). Graphic by Sherry Bunting, source USdairy.com

Over those past 12 to 13 years, the direction of promotion has moved off-radar through partnerships. This began with DMI’s creation of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy (known officially to the IRS as the Dairy Center for Strategic Innovation and Collaboration). Within the Innovation Center is the Sustainability Initiative headed by Mike McCloskey over the past 12 to 13 years and known officially as listed on IRS 990 forms as Global Dairy Platform.

Yes, it is all so very confusing. An entire new structure for the dairy industry and its farm-to-table supply chain has been created, along with sustainability parameters and promotion partnerships, within these non-profits under the DMI umbrella.

DMI’s umbrella of tax-exempt organizations where checkoff dollars flow and bring partners into the picture to “work on shared priorities.”

Cutting through to the point here is this: Dairy farmers have continually asked their dairy checkoff leaders over the past 12 to 13 years why television ads are seldom, if ever, seen; why those that are seen air at off hours; why the NFL’s reference to Play 60 never includes the “Fuel up” part. The milk is always absent from the promotion on the NFL side.

Whenever these questions are asked at meetings or on conference calls, dairy checkoff leaders say – in unison – “television ads don’t work” and “the NFL owns Play 60, but we own the Fuel Up and can use the Fuel Up to Play 60. Yes, the flagship program of GENYOUth.

Meanwhile, milk’s competitors are using television ads. All the beverage competition is using television ads. Granted, the checkoff budget is not large enough to put all of its eggs into the television ad basket, but surely a few well-placed prime time ads – like in the Super Bowl – would generate ongoing exposure. Those ads get rated, replayed and talked about for weeks.

Here’s the thing: Each year, DMI lists the NFL among its top five independent contractors on its IRS 990 form showing $4 to $6 million annually in checkoff funds is paid to NFL Properties for “promotion.”

In the recently acquired 2019 IRS 990 form, DMI listed just over $6 million to NFL Properties.

By comparison, the cost of a 30-second television spot during the prime-time Super Bowl for 2021 was $5.5 million. Perhaps the over $6 million handed over to the NFL would have been better spent buying 30 seconds of airtime to promote milk and dairy.

After all, DMI can’t even answer the question asked by farmers or media who have inquired about what the money paid to the NFL is actually for. This question was asked face-to-face last March at a Q&A meeting on a farm with DMI chair Marilyn Hershey and UDIA executive vice president Lucas Lentsch. They did not answer it. They scratched their heads and acted as though they didn’t know that kind of money was paid to the NFL. They said they would ask. This reporter has also asked the question. No answers have been forthcoming.

Here’s the other deal. It was 12 to 13 years ago that GENYOUth was created with the official name as it appears on tax forms: Youth Improved Incorporated. That saga began with a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by then USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, the NFL and the National Dairy Council, along with GENYOUth CEO Alexis Glick. She was suggested for the spot by worldwide communications firm Edelman. (Edelman does the PR work for Oatly, is engaged with the NFL and also with PepsiCo. Edelman also received over $16 million for promotion from DMI in 2019 and similar amounts in each of the previous four years as DMI’s all-in-one PR firm, creator of Undeniably Dairy.)

Since that 2009 MOU signing, we have seen fancy New York City Gala events explained as a way for GENYOUth to raise funds for school breakfast carts and to give dairy farm checkoff leaders the chance to rub elbows and talk with ‘thought leaders.’ Meanwhile, GENYOUth is the vehicle to make students ‘agents of change’ for ‘planetary diets’.

We have seen PepsiCo – the NFL’s real long-term beverage partner – come on-board the GENYOUth bus, even receiving a major GENYOUth award in 2018, with just a $1 million one-off investment next to the over $4 million spent every year since inception by DMI to keep the GENYOUth vehicle running — not to mention salaries and other soft costs not parsed-out on tax forms. We have seen a proliferation of PepsiCo branded products on breakfast carts and in school cafeterias next to fat-free and low-fat milk and dairy offerings.

And at this year’s Super Bowl pre-game festivities, DMI excitedly reported that GENYOUth would have the honor of hosting the “Taste of NFL” in the virtual pandemic environment and using the event to “raise money for children to get their school meals.”

Throughout the Taste of NFL pre-game session last week, GENYOUth CEO Alexis Glick was promoting the PepsiCo-product-filled thank you boxes for donators. In one video appearance, she stated, offhand, that she’ll have to go get her milk, but never did. There was no milk in the scene, just a small plate of cheese and fruit off to the side and a large zoom lens focused on the PepsiCo Super Bowl box.

Promotion time – and money — wasted.

But checkoff leaders say it’s okay because all of this is for a good cause! The GENYOUth bus full of boarders focused on one thing, raising money for hungry children.

While it’s true that the NFL ran an ad this football season talking about partnering with America’s dairy farmers to raise money to feed hungry kids. Those commercials were only seen by this reporter during pre-game interviews, not during actual games and nothing of the sort ran on Super Bowl night. The closest thing to it was the NFL’s celebration of essential workers at the start of the game, where glimpses of farmers, truckers, and store staff stocking shelves were included among the photos and videos of medical personel.

As for NFL’s big beverage partner, PepsiCo, the CEO of its North American division, Albert Carey, was presented with the GENYOUth Vanguard award at the 2018 Gala, he stated that the company had long admired the Play 60 program of the NFL and wanted to be part of it. — Now PepsiCo has a new joint venture with Beyond Meat to produce and market ‘alternative protein’ snacks and beverages.

Yes, the cross-purposes and proprietary partnerships make the whole scene confusing.

Dairy farmers are good hearted people. Of course, they want to be part of efforts to feed hungry children and to help America’s youth be well and have access to good nutrition. But even this worthy goal has been wrestled right out of their hands by the other ‘partner’ in the three-way MOU – the USDA and its flawed Dietary Guidelines that inform regulations that smile on Mountain Dew Kickstart offerings in schools and prohibit whole milk.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Dairy transformation has been in the works for 12 to 13 years through the proprietary partnerships working ‘pre-competitively’ within the vehicles constructed with mandatory farmer funds under the DMI umbrella.

It is all smoke and mirrors. So much of what has gone on for these 12 to 13 years is just now becoming evident as the smoke clears, and producers can see they have indeed been funding their own demise.

Time to get back to the drawing board.

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Net Zero Initiative will ‘shape future of dairy,’ say leaders

Editor’s Note: Part one provided some details on the “official” launch of the Net Zero Initiative, which according to DMI’s Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, “signals bold climate action” as “an industry-wide effort that will help U.S. dairy farms of all sizes and geographies implement new technologies and adopt economically viable practices.”

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, October 27, 2021

CHICAGO, Ill. — The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy — formed in 2008-09 by the national dairy checkoff via Dairy Management Inc (DMI) — unveiled the Net Zero Initiative earlier this month along with Nestlé’s announcement pledging up to $10 million over five years as the first ‘legacy partner’ to fund research, pilot farms and provide expertise to scale technologies and practices to achieve carbon neutrality, optimized water usage and improved water quality by 2050.

Innovation Center chairman Mike Haddad noted in a DMI media call Oct. 14 that the Environmental Sustainability Committee “has been in place a very long time – many, many years.

‘Mature effort’

“Mike McCloskey has always chaired this committee. This is quite a mature effort for us,” Haddad explained, adding that the committee decided a couple years ago that dairy can become carbon neutral, and many dairies can sequester carbon.

“We felt like there was enough evidence already with existing technology and practices, that by scaling them, we can achieve this over time, and we have been working for years to build out this framework,” he said.

As chairman of Schreiber Foods, Haddad said suppliers, companies like Schreiber, “already see this requirement from our customers who want to have our sustainability efforts feed into their sustainability efforts. They want to know that we are taking care of the earth in making our dairy products, and we have to prove it to them with our measurements along the way.”

Environmental ‘mapping’

In 2007-08, just as the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy was being formed, the mapping of dairy’s environmental footprint began.

“We were the very first ag sector to establish life cycle measurement of greenhouse gas emissions, showing U.S. Dairy at 2%,” said Krysta Harden, DMI executive vice president of global environmental strategy and former USDA undersecretary of Tom Vilsack when he was ag secretary.

“Through modernization and innovation, the environmental impact of producing milk uses 30% less water, 21% less land and manure, and has a 19% smaller carbon footprint today than in 2007,” she said. “It’s amazing where we have come since 2007.”

Harden explained that Net Zero Initiative (NZI) was started as “a dairy organization that represents farmers, cooperatives, processors, and includes DMI and the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, NMPF, IDFA, U.S. Dairy Export Center and Newtrient.

“All of these groups came together to establish NZI,” she said. “This really is the pathway for how to get there, how to break down barriers and make it more accessible and affordable for dairy farms of all sizes and all places.”

‘Piloting’ underway

Pilot farms are already being identified throughout the country, and 2021 is set as the year to move them forward.

Next, the constant focus will be on “scaling up to accelerate progress over time to our 2050 goals,” Haddad said.

“Largely these technologies already exist but need operational improvement,” Harden added. “We can see how we can get there, but the barrier is the significant investment needed by farmers to get there. We want to knock this out by scaling, to lower the investment by farmers and generate new revenue streams for farmers. This will be critical to a self-sustaining future.”

Bottom line, said Harden: “Dairy is committed to being an environmental solution.” She said the key, at the heart of it, is the dairy farmers.

According to the Innovation Center’s official statement, the 27 dairy companies that make up its board, represent 70% of the nation’s milk production and have voluntarily adopted the U.S. Dairy Stewardship Commitment and contribute to the industry’s ability to track, aggregate and report on progress.

“We know dairy farmers are leaders, and they care about what they are producing and how they are producing it,” said Harden. “They are passionate first-adopters, embracing how the world is changing.”

Sustainable profit?

DMI vice president and California dairy producer Steve Maddox shared his thoughts from the producer perspective.

“When we first started talking about sustainability efforts by the Innovation Center, most dairy farmers viewed this with a jaded eye because it often means requiring more of them, and not of others,” said Maddox. “But this effort focuses on improving profitability and efficiency that is also environmentally sound.”

He said farmers know the importance of being as efficient as possible. Early-on, Maddox said the Innovation Center started down the road of environmental sustainability to fight claims by anti-animal-ag groups by doing the scientific measurements in 2008, to show how dairy has reduced its footprint since 1944.

“That is a significant date near the end of World War II when some of America’s greatest generation went to college, and extension — through our land grant universities — taught us to maximize production and take better care of the land,” said Maddox. “That led us to continue improving.”

As that generation retired, and with government budget cuts to research and extension, a dropoff in improvement was seen, according to Maddox. He said this signals the need for the industry to pick things up to “shape the continuous improvement of the industry at the farm level.”

During media questions, Harden stated that the $10 million from Nestlé is specifically geared toward on-farm improvement — not changes in processing or new dairy products.

However, the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy is also looking at the processing and transportation aspects of achieving the NZI goals.

In fact, the climate impact of transportation and refrigeration of milk and dairy products is already a big part of the entire shaping process through innovations such as ultrafiltration, microfiltration, and aseptic packaging for shelf stable beverages and products. These are other pieces that come from precompetitive Innovation Center collaborations.

As for the farm-level impacts of NZI, Maddox stressed how the 2007-08 life cycle analysis on milk and cheese showed that the industry reduced its use of feed, land and water through collaboration on animal care, improved genetics and the FARM program.

Shaping dairy

In other words, through FARM and NZI, companies will shape dairy’s “continuous improvement” instead of relying on extension education for those gains — mainly because, they say, the industry is at a point where these future gains will cost money. Since farms will need to invest in those gains, NZI is banking on industry and government to step up and help pay for it.

Something that often gets lost in discussions about climate change and sustainability, said Maddox is: “Cows, being ruminants, are miracles onto themselves. They convert byproduct to nature’s most perfect food.”

At his California dairy, over 50% of the cow feed on a dry matter basis is byproduct that would have gone into landfills.

“This, too, is a major part of it. We can feed all sorts of things, bakery waste, Doritos, sunflower meal… There are 400 different commercial crops grown in California, and all of them can be fed to cattle,” said Maddox.

He painted a picture of farmers learning from each other within the NZI framework.

Maddox observed that cow care and breeding to have more efficient cows is a big part of reducing dairy’s environmental impact to meet the ambitious new industrywide goals. 

“All of these sustainability practices will have a bottom-line impact,” he said.

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DMI’s NZI fits globalist agenda; How are ‘life cycle assessments’ developed? What do they value?

As Stewardship Commitments and Net Zero Initiative flow through to the FARM program’s Environmental Stewardship module, a user guide developed by NMPF covers what has already begun in terms of data collection. A farm’s cattle inventory of various classes and milk production, component production, feed ingredients, crop inputs and other data will be used to figure the farm’s GHG emissions relative to a regional average and relative to a national average. The guide can be read here, and additional information is available here 

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, December 4, 2020

Where do the life cycle assessments come from that are being used to benchmark progress on U.S. dairy’s impact on climate and environment? How might this “collective” method of measurement affect dairy diversity and geography in the future?

When dairy leaders talk about the Net Zero Initiative goals, they are using analysis by well-known animal scientists comparing data over time to benchmark industrywide collective progress using a determined scope of collective measurement that fits the controlling globalist view.

The idea is to peg dairy’s progress at one value that the global supply chain can then plug into their own brand impact measurements. Yes, this is both simple and complicated.

DMI leaders are quick to point out that this pathway was decided upon by dairy farmers, dairy cooperatives, and dairy processors and that dairy checkoff is simply providing the science. But it is also clear that DMI provides the staff and structure for implementation. The national dairy farmer checkoff organizations provide the science, the staff and the structure so that the entire dairy industry can be described as one unit – not multiple units competing with each other on the aspect of ‘sustainability.’ That’s the point, they say.

Along with the Net Zero carbon neutrality goal by 2050, DMI’s Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy offers this report on a decade of progress:  “The effects of improved performance in the U.S. dairy cattle industry on environmental impacts between 2007 and 2017,” was published in the January 2020 edition of the Journal of Animal Science

This report showed dairy used 30% less water, 21% less land, produced 21% less manure nutrients and produced 19% less greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions — referred to in press statements as carbon footprint — per metric ton of energy-corrected milk over the decade of 2007 to 2017.

The research by Jude Capper and Roger Cady, along with other animal scientists, observed that, “As dairy systems become more productive, efficiency improves via the dilution of maintenance effect (Bauman, VandeHaar, St. Pierre) and both resource use and GHG emissions are reduced per unit of milk.”

The researchers indicated that monitoring changes in food production processes, yields, and environmental impacts is a time-consuming and expensive undertaking, which they took to a higher level in this study as compared to 2006 and 2009 studies that looked at how efficiency gains reduced the environmental footprint of dairy from 1944 to 2007 based completely on animal productivity gains.

In the 2007 to 2017 study, researchers only looked at dairy’s impact from the manufacture and transport of crop inputs to milk at the farm gate. Excluded from the scope of collective farm progress are the impacts of milk transportation, processing and retail.

Dairy systems were modeled using typical management practices, herd population dynamics and production data from U.S. dairy farms (USDA NASS and Dairy Records Management System-DRMS). Crop data were sourced from national databases, including NASS. Modeling and training ration formulation software was used as well as a host of data from public sources to determine water recycling, electricity and other energy usage, for example.

“The U.S. dairy industry has made remarkable productivity gains and environmental progress over time,” write Capper and Cady. “To maintain this culture of continuous improvement, dairy must build on gains and demonstrate commitment to reducing environmental impacts while improving both economic viability and social acceptability.”

At the same time, Dr. Frank Mitloehner of University of California-Davis CLEAR center has been instrumental, mainly in evaluating – and putting into perspective – accurate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for dairy and livestock as well as participating in research on how various technologies could further reduce U.S. dairy’s current contribution of just 2% of total GHG emissions.

Progress to reduce GHGs is measured per unit of milk production, but as Dr. Mitloehner frequently points out, a better way to pinpoint it would be to incorporate the nutrient density of milk and meat in calculating the impact of dairy and livestock industries per nutritive value.

For example, almond beverage might have a smaller footprint, the experts say, but what is the nutritive value of selling water with the equivalent of two almonds per serving? Much of the climate impact discussion around food is not an apples to apples comparison in terms of nutrition and calories delivered.

The FARM program’s Environmental Stewardship guide prepares dairy farmers for collection of energy use data to compare a farm to a regional and national average for energy use as a part of its carbon footprint per unit of milk production. The guide can be read here, and additional information is available here.

There are other positive aspects of “environmental impact” at local levels that fall outside of the collective global method of impact measurement. How far food travels within local or regional food systems versus national and global supply chains is not part of the farm-level Net Zero Initiative.

Meanwhile, the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy is working on product innovations at the processing level from a centralized or global supply chain perspective to reduce environmental impacts on a global scale. How do these ‘global’ vs. ‘local’ pathways intersect in the future in terms of a farm’s real contribution to the surrounding community vs. its contribution to a global impact model?

Where do the 2007 to 2017 gains from this research come from? First off, milk production increased 16% over that decade, and the number of dairy cows increased 2.2%.

Researchers explain the environmental impact was assessed using “a deterministic model based on animal nutrition, metabolism, and herd population parameters founded on life cycle assessment (LCA) principles.”

Those principles first establish the scope (in this case the scope was from crop input to milk output and did not include processing and distribution to consumers). Then inventory is established (input and output). Then the impact is established (input versus unit of output). Then the relative change is figured (improvement or reduction).

The researchers attributed a large portion of the gains to the continued dilution of ‘maintenance’ requirements per head of cattle and milk volume via these measurements: 

1) A 22.3% increase in energy-corrected milk production per cow as the 12% increase in fat yield and 10% increase in protein yield were factored in, 

2) Lifetime milk yield was figured to have increased 18.7% as a combination of shorter calving interval, shorter dry periods, increased replacement of mature cows with heifers, shortened days of life, and earlier calving age, 

3) increased productive-animal-days across the cattle population, 

4) reduced SCC as a proxy for reduced milk waste, 

5) How animals are fed, how water is used, and how inputs factor into the land and carbon footprint equation, collectively.

The research showed that even though total cattle numbers have increased slightly from 2007 to 2017, the number of productive-animal-days and lifetime milk increased by more during that time due to the way all of these factors combine to show reductions in environmental impact by reducing the inputs for non-productive cattle that are counted against the productive cattle population at points in time.

Life cycle assessment of environmental impact is all about data modeling and allocation. The age at first calving is a prime example. Until a dairy animal calves, she is using resources without delivering a product. Growth rates can improve these impacts in the modeling by getting cattle to production, faster. Once the animal has a calf and begins producing milk, she is now contributing to reducing carbon footprint by supplying milk yield and component yield in the national figures against the resources she is consuming. Length of dry period, calving interval, and other reproductive efficiency also affect this. Longevity, oddly enough, has less of an effect because of how the data are assembled and used.

As for land use and manure production, researchers looked at dairy rations without full consideration of the wide range of commodity byproducts. They included some common byproduct feeds like distillers grain for both 2007 and 2017. More could be done to show the relative feed value vs. environmental impact of many byproduct commodity feedstuffs, particularly if credit could be given for keeping fiber and carbohydrate from the food processing sector out of landfills.

Double-cropping (cover crop forages) are common practice on dairy farms today, which reduce environmental impact of milk production, but are not really quantified in this life cycle assessment research at this point.

In pasture systems, the intensive rotational grazing methods used today reduce the land to milk ratio within the context of grazing-based production, but may have a smaller positive impact on the industrywide collective figure if production per cow is below benchmark. That will need to be considered because there are clear sustainability benefits to these grazing systems that fall outside of this collective model.

All of these factors being analyzed and allocated to one U.S. dairy figure are calculated to paint one picture of reduced environmental footprint. This includes water recycling. Water that is used to cool milk is also used to wash down parlors and milking equipment and in some cases, a third time in manure flush systems before being recaptured as nutrient-rich effluent to irrigate crops. In some regions and some management styles, water recycling is not measured, but natural. Take grazing operations in rainfed rolling hills. Their recycling isn’t measured, but it’s happening.

Unfortunately, when it comes to all of these measurables, including the impact of productive-animal-days vs. animal population vs. energy-corrected milk volume, it is the increased consolidation of milk production to fewer and larger farms from 2007 to 2017 that has had, perhaps, the most significant positive impact on the collective industrywide dairy environmental footprint calculations.

Why? Because as more milk production is brought into heavily controlled confinement environments, it becomes easier to measure to directly influence the model. On the other hand, pasture and drylot systems offer other sustainability and animal care positives that consumers care about but are not as easily measured by this global supply chain model of environmental footprint.

The elite globalist view seeks to control every aspect of food, agriculture, and energy. It’s important to keep sight of other sides of the ‘sustainability’ equation. Local and regional food systems provide benefits to local economies, local land use and local ecosystems that are not reflected when we measure a national or global model.

As the industry moves toward controlled environments where inputs and outputs can be precisely measured, smaller less concentrated dairy farms may not be fully appreciated for what they contribute to a community’s environmental footprint in terms of how far food travels or how local economies and ecosystems are affected. This divergence needs to be addressed.

Remember, Net Zero Initiative fits the globalist view and aligns with World Economic Forum’s Great Reset. It also aligns with language in the Green New Deal.

Viewing footprint progress on a national or global scale across all cattle and all milk volume brings positive messages but also the aforementioned concerns.

It’s important to see ‘industry’ progress, and most dairy farmers welcome the opportunity to talk to consumers about what their industry has done collectively to be good stewards. However, when the dairy leaders at DMI and all of its organized underlings tell us that food safety, sustainability and animal care are NOT areas in which brands should compete, what they are really telling us is that these are areas that will be controlled by one message using their one collective measurement method in scope and calculation.

Farm size and geography will be considered, and they say diversity is a strength, but the bottom line is measurement toward a national model seeking to meet a global goal.

By their own admission, the dairy checkoff has pursued globalization since 2008, implemented FARM to keep animal care from being a marketing factor, and they admit they are implementing Net Zero to be sure dairy comes completely into alignment with the globalist view having collective measurement that fits the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, while discouraging other forms of ‘sustainability’ marketing between brands.

Case in point, cattle longevity has little if any positive bearing on the life cycle assessment for water use, land use, manure produced and greenhouse gas emissions in the context of total-industry-collective measurement of inventory input vs. output.

In fact, the research cited in this article that is the basis for the DMI Innovation Center life cycle assessment actually shows a benefit for continual throughput of cattle with faster growth rates for calves and earlier age at first calving being more significant on the front end than the age of the cattle on the back end when applied to a collective industrywide measurement.

That’s because the total inventory of cattle in the dairy industry at any given time includes non-productive animals. Research models focus on the collective data about productive animal days vs. total cow numbers vs. milk production for input and output at given points in time — not over the lifetime of animals in the herd. Logic doesn’t always apply in this scenario.

In short, the way the industry looks at collective industrywide progress on environmental impact may differ from how an individual dairy producer or community of producers view their contribution by other equally valid measurements.  

Both methods can be supported by sound scientific data, but the industrywide collective method fits the global supply chain perspective. Thus, it is the approach for the Net Zero Initiative embraced by DMI’s Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and the 27 companies that represent its board and the over 320 companies that are part of its Sustainability Alliance. 

The companies at the forefront are the largest global dairy companies and food retailers. They are also positioned as leaders and drivers of the World Economic Forum’s Great Reset, seeking to have food, technology, finance and energy sectors of the global economy work together to transform food, farming, energy, and our lives.

It will be important for individual dairy producer ideas, regional food systems, and their positive impacts on a more local scale to have a voice in how they are measured and evaluated within this truly global agenda. Speak up and stay tuned.

This document composed by the DMI Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy in November 2019 shows the “Stewardship Commitment” at a glance for each sector of the dairy supply chain involved in the Sustainability Alliance. Interestingly, under processing, there is a line item to quantify gallons of water captured from milk for use within the facility per pound of production output. 

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Preposterous ‘preponderance’

While left hand says it’s busy building ‘mountain’ of evidence, right hand has already moved the nutrition definition goal post

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, Dec. 23, 2020

BROWNSTOWN, Pa. — Preponderance of the evidence. We hear that phrase over and over when it comes to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) and the effort to reverse 40 years of increasingly strict rules on dietary fat affecting children in schools and daycares, the military, seniors in nursing care or retirement villages, food-insecure families relying on government feeding programs like WIC, and countless other insidious prohibitions on healthy choices when it comes to whole milk, butter, full-fat cheese, dairy products like sour cream and cream cheese as well as other animal protein foods containing fat.

But the whole concept of ‘preponderance’ is really preposterous when applying the legal definition.

Let’s review.

Last March at a DMI forum on a Chester County dairy farm, DMI chair Marilyn Hershey and executive vice president Lucas Lentsch described the ‘preponderance of evidence’ standard as “building a mountain of evidence.” They said the National Dairy Council is building that mountain, but it takes time to keep pushing more evidence forward “until we have enough.”

When former Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack gave the 2015-20 Dietary Guidelines his stamp of approval, a Congressional hearing took the USDA and HHS secretaries to task, grilling them on science that was not considered then (nor is it now in the 2020 version of the DGAs). Remember, former Ag Sec. Vilsack promptly became the current top-paid dairy checkoff executive for four years (Jan. 2017 to present) and is now poised (again) as President-Elect Biden’s Ag Secretary pick 2021 forward.

During that 2015 congressional grilling, then Secretary Vilsack said “It’s the preponderance of the evidence that is the standard, and we know stuff is always changing so there has to be a cutoff.”

On whole milk (which he helped remove from schools in 2010), then Secretary Vilsack, when confronted in 2015 with what he called “emerging” science on saturated fat — said “the preponderance of evidence still favors the recommendation for fat-free and low-fat dairy.”

Much of the saturated fat discussion during the 2020 DGA Committee work used the 2015 DGA’s body of science, that was one of the screening criteria. The cutoff bar didn’t move.

In 2015, then Secretary Vilsack explained the ‘science’ of the DGAs this way:

“Well, the process starts with a series of questions that are formulated and then information is accumulated and it goes through a process of evaluation,” he said.

Answering a charge by then Congressman Benishek, a physician from Michigan who was concerned about the 52% of Americans who are diabetic, pre-diabetic and carbohydrate intolerant as regards the fat caps and the exclusion of science available — even in 2015 — on low carb, higher fat diets, then Sec. Vilsack stated in 2015:

“The review process goes through a series of mechanisms to try to provide an understanding of what the best science is, what the best available science is and what the least biased science is, and it’s a series of things: the Cochrane Collaboration, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the aging for health care equality, data quality, all part of the Data Quality Act (2001 under Clinton Admin). That’s another parameter that we have to work under, Congress has given us direction under the Data Quality Act as to how this is to be managed.”

On a further point of contention in 2015, Vilsack stated the following as a definition of how “preponderance” works.

Vilsack said (2015): “In some circumstances, you have competing studies, which is why it’s important to understand that this is really about well-informed opinion. I wish there were scientific facts. But the reality is stuff changes. The key here is taking a look at the preponderance. The greater weight of the evidence. If you have one study on one side and you have 15 on another side, the evidence may be on this side with the 15 studies. That’s a challenge. That’s why we do this every five years to give an opportunity for that quality study to be further enhanced so that five years from now maybe there are 15 studies on this side and 15 studies on this side. It’s an evolving process.”

During a recent dairy checkoff yearend news conference with reporters, DMI CEO Tom Gallagher answered a question about consumer health attitudes and checkoff research targets for 2021. Whole milk was never mentioned in the question, but here is Gallagher’s answer as he, too, cites the “preponderance” criteria:

Gallagher said (2020): “Our research plan (for 2021) is very robust at our centers. The primary research that we focus on is whole milk because we are, number one, the only group to be pushing the research on whole milk and taking it to the scientific community so the scientific community does more research because the Dietary Guidelines will never change until the preponderance – not the best – evidence, but the preponderance of the research is in favor of whole milk. We’re helping to move that needle to that point.”

I looked up the legal definition of this ‘preponderance of the evidence’ phrase, this standard for the DGAs as determined by Congressional statute. It is clear that DMI’s assertion of building a mountain of evidence is not needed to achieve a preponderance, according to the legal definition.

According to the law.com legal dictionary, ‘preponderance of the evidence’ is a lower burden of proof than other evidentiary burdens. It only requires a better than 50% chance that it’s true! 

In fact, the law.com definition states “Preponderance of the evidence is based on what is the more convincing evidence and its probable truth or accuracy NOT on the amount of evidence.” An example is given where one credible witness outweighs a pile of other evidence! It’s not the amount of research, then, it is the more convincing in terms of probable truth.

The word preponderance itself means “quality or fact of being greater in number, quantity, OR importance.” Yes, importance and quality can trump quantity to achieve preponderance!

Mountain-building is a stalling tactic by the left hand of industry and government, while their combined right hand is moving the goal post. (In fact, mountain-building is futile because the USDA structure on Dietary Guidelines has not allowed new evidence to be considered on certain dietary fiction it deems as settled science. There are fancy ‘mechanisms’ that have kept credible science out of the equation in 2015 and again in 2020).

Who are the attorneys advising USDA and dairy checkoff as to the meaning of “preponderance of the evidence?” Could it be Mr. Vilsack, an attorney by trade, going from USDA Secretary to top-paid DMI executive and back again potentially as the next Ag Secretary? 

Clearly, Mr. Vilsack and his colleagues at DMI are fond of citing “preponderance” as a stalling tactic for fat flexibility in the DGAs. But contrary to Gallagher’s point during this yearend news conference, the legal definition of “preponderance of evidence,” really does mean the BEST evidence can trump the MOST evidence.

It’s not about which theory has the most evidence, but which one has the best and most convincing evidence. This definition suggests that you don’t need 15 studies on one side to match 15 studies on the other side. To add flexibility on school milk choice or to reverse the saturated fat caps set at 10% of calories, a mountain of evidence is NOT needed, and a lot of good and convincing evidence keeps getting excluded from the process anyway.

The saturated fat question and the casting aside of research feels like being forced to doggy paddle in an olympic swimming competition.

The problem is agenda and bias. Who is standing up for producers and consumers?

Ahead of the 2015 DGA cycle, scientists and investigative journalists, like Nina Teicholz, exposed the weak scientific basis for Dr. Ancel Keys’ diet-heart hypothesis that these DGAs have been built on for over 40 years. Not to mention the many studies back then that were buried, once Keys became the dietary darling, and not to mention all of the newer studies that show saturated fat is not the health demon it has been made out to be, and in fact is necessary in diets to prevent chronic diet-related illness.

Here’s a look at where nutrition science is going next.

Yes, they have moved the goal post via climate change. And yes, they are telling us that consumers are more concerned about climate change after Covid-19.

Basing DMI’s 2021 plan assertions on a Kearney report (April 2020), Gallagher said: “Covid-19 has made people more hyper-sensitive to things, like the environment. 58% of consumers are more concerned about the environment since Covid, and 50% want companies to respond to climate change with the same level of urgency as responding to the pandemic.”

When asked where consumers ranked health in that particular survey — given a recent report on CNBC business news about corporations trying to get consumer ‘buy-in’ on sustainability benchmarks and finding the only way to achieve it is to link sustainability to health.

You guessed it. Gallagher was ready with the answer.

“Sustainable nutrition is the phrase you’re going to hear going forward. You’re going to see those two things inextricably tied,” he replied during the yearend and look ahead news conference by phone.

We recall in October 2019, Gallagher telegraphed a message during the 53rd World Dairy Expo that the dairy checkoff simply accepts waiting another five years until 2025 (not the current cycle) as the year that the saturated fat caps could be reversed. The 2020 DGA committee was only just partway into the process back in Oct. 2019 with a whole year of work ahead — and already the head of dairy checkoff was being quoted in the Oct. 14, 2019 Hoard’s article broadcasting that the fat issue could likely happen by the NEXT DGA cycle (2025), not this one (2020).

Gallagher further indicated in that Oct. 2019 Hoards article that the “forest” must be “populated with more trees.” (Again this idea that preponderance is based on the amount of studies, not the importance or reliability of the studies and not acknowledging that half the trees in that so-called forest are being ignored by USDA and the DGA committee — screened out of consideration at the outset. Not one of the checkoff or ag commodity group was standing up for producers and consumers on this score at the START of the 2020 DGA cycle, nor the finish).

However, we now know that the new goal post will be entrenched by 2025: ‘Sustainable nutrition’ will be the new phrase, the new goal post, according to Gallagher’s response during the December 2020 news conference.

Make no mistake about this: As much as the sustainability overlords talk about farmers being paid to plant cover crops (most already plant cover crops after corn harvest) or to recover nutrients and methane through other practices and technologies, paying for offsets and dilution of animal foods in diets are two strategies already on deck. We heard a little of this also during the December 2020 news conference as Gallagher and DMI president Barb O’Brien talked about how their partners are getting into ‘competitors’ (fake dairy lookalikes) because when a family of four comes in to eat, one may want a new taste experience, and DMI partners have to provide that ‘new experience’ to keep from losing the entire family.

DMI is working for its corporate partners like Nestle and Starbucks, both giving the DMI Innovation Center’s Net Zero Initiative up to $10 million over multiple years to pilot sustainable technologies and practices on dairy farms.

Gallagher described the situation this way: “Health, taste, price – those things are still important, but as more and more companies are offering things that are competitive, what we’re seeing people saying is ‘Well, I’m going to look at sustainability as a difference maker in who I purchase from and what I purchase,’” he said.

“The days of 10 to 15 years ago — where things like sustainability were believed to be made up by retailers for marketing — are over,” Gallagher added.

“Everyone gets it. We are past that. The beautiful part is the U.S. dairy industry has the best sustainability story in the world to tell, and we’re telling it,” he said.

As promised, a follow up email provided more details on Gallagher’s whole milk research assertion, stating: “Dairy farmers have been funding research led by National Dairy Council on the role of whole milk dairy foods and wellness for over a decade. In fact, around 70 studies have been published, adding to the growing body of evidence indicating that consuming dairy foods, regardless of fat content, as part of healthy eating patterns is not linked with risk of heart disease or type 2 diabetes. The paradigm shift to more fat flexibility in the dairy group is already happening in the real world as demonstrated through the many actions of consumers and thought leaders.”

Three research items were specifically mentioned in the email — all published within the past 6 to 24 months:

1) A Science Brief: Whole and reduced-fat dairy foods and cardiovascular disease. Upon following the link published January 17, 2019, we find it begins as a regurgitation of 2015-20 Dietary Guidelines with all references to dairy qualified as ‘low-fat and fat-free’, but then goes on to discuss: “Emerging research also indicates that saturated fat intake on its own may be a poor metric for identifying healthy foods or diets.” A downloadable PDF summarizes this “emerging” research on dairy fat at: Science Brief: Whole and Reduced-Fat Dairy Foods and CVD | U.S. Dairy

2) Posted in Sept. 2019 is this resource where National Dairy Council’s Dr. Greg Miller talks about “landmark shifts” and states that, “As the research continues to grow, a preponderance of evidence (exists linking milk, cheese and yogurt, regardless of fat level, with lower risk of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. This one is found at: Ask Dr. Dairy: Can Whole Milk-Based Dairy Foods Be Part of Healthy Eating Patterns? | U.S. Dairy

3) The third item posted June 2020 in connection with DMI’s Dietary Guidelines comment talks about dairy consumption lowering risk of high blood pressure and diabetes and cites a study that, “indicates there may be room for fat flexibility in peoples’ dairy group choices to include dairy foods like milk, cheese and yogurt – at a variety of fat levels – as part of healthy eating patterns in the U.S. and worldwide.”

We can see the tight rope being walked, hinging everything on this idea of slowly building a mountain of evidence as though this is the definition of what is needed to fulfill the “preponderance” standard. But as we know from the legal definition, the amount of evidence is not what’s important, but rather what is credible and convincing. The available evidence is already preponderant. Whole milk, at 41% of market share, has grown by leaps and bounds over the past two years, and is now the largest selling product in the milk category because consumers are convinced. In the past two years, they have moved toward choosing health instead of allowing the government to choose for them — at least when they CAN choose.

Thinking on the many topics that were part of the fairy checkoff yearend news conference, some clear themes take us into the new year in terms of the 2021 dairy checkoff plans.

Gallagher, O’Brien and Hershey talked about “moving milk” differently because of Covid, of working in Emergency Action Teams to unify the supply chain with these top priorities in mind: 

1) Feeding food insecure people, 

2) Responding to climate change

3) Developing a deeper and closer relationship with Amazon into e-commerce and milk portability, and 

4) Developing tools and promotions for corporate partners.

On the latter, Gallagher was proud to give the example of DMI’s funding for Domino’s “contactless delivery” in Japan during the early days of Covid. He said this partner (named as Leprino, DFA and Domino’s) would not have been in a position to move so much pizza cheese when the pandemic hit the U.S. had it not been for DMI’s funding of that contactless delivery innovation first in Japan and then used here.

(Contactless delivery is used by almost every restaurant doing takeout today in the Covid era. It simply means ordering and paying online, texting when arriving, and having your food placed in your car. Not rocket science.)

Since 2008, DMI and USDA — through Vilsack-era Memorandums of Understanding — have a hand-in-glove relationship on GENYOUth and Sustainability. DMI works for its partners and has adopted a role for itself as global supply-chain integrator — the prime mover of milk.

Increasingly, there is the sense that the dairy checkoff bus has morphed into a ride for its key partners, while rank-and-file producers keep paying the fare, just hoping for a lift.

Look for more yearend checkoff review in a future edition of Farmshine.

DMI-led, DFA-made: ‘siips’ is new ‘teen milk’, but…

But… when given the opportunity, teens choose regular fresh whole milk

siips: Siimply Perfect. Real Milk. Real Good. You Be You. These are the descriptive taglines for SIIPS, a shelf-stable, aseptically-packaged, ultrapasteurized, lowfat milk packaged by DFA in an 8-oz. aluminum can as a new “teen milk” based on DMI’s research of what it takes to make milk relevant to teens again. And DMI says more ‘innovations’ or ‘reinventions’ or ‘relevant products’ are on the way from other partners. All of this money and time spent to answer a question teens and pre-teens and elementary-aged students could have told us quickly, cheaply and easily, given the opportunity to choose whole milk – without the fancy packaging and processing that puts it neatly into a global supply chain instead of a local or regional fresh food system.

By Sherry Bunting (Farmshine, Nov. 13, 2020)

HARRISBURG, Pa. – On one hand they say they are not involved in reinventing school milk and then, well, they say they are.

Siips is the new low-fat, shelf-stable grab-and-go “teen milk” from Dairy Farmers of America (DFA). According to Dairy Management Inc (DMI), checkoff led the way on the innovation and test launch in selected locations over summer.  

Siips is a result of DMI’s fluid milk revitalization efforts and is targeted to improving the youth milk experience with relevant packaging and flavors,” according to a recent edition of Your Checkoff News.

During last week’s Center for Dairy Excellence industry conference call, a portion of the hour was devoted to questions and answers with DMI leaders, and we learned more about revitalization, innovation, and reinvention.

According to Paul Ziemnisky, executive vice president for global innovation partnerships at Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), DMI has been working since last summer to “understand perceptions of milk in schools.”

He said products like siips represent what DMI has learned from students in a variety of demographics so that milk can compete again.

Siips is grab-and-go milk in an aluminum 8-oz. can in the flavors of caramel, mocha and chocolate,” he explained. “Products like this will make milk competitive in the school ala carte area, and we are working with other partners for other ala carte grab and go products.”

Ziemnisky noted that DMI is also working with processors and technology companies to develop dispensers like those used in foodservice where students can choose their milk ‘formula’ or ‘flavors’. He said Covid set the test launch back for those, but they are coming.

The bottom line is, he said: “We are looking at new packaging systems… aseptic sustainable packaging, all in the process of starting up. We are working with the industry to line up 6 to 7 tests in key systems to create a catalytic effect across the whole industry.”

A dairy producer submitted this question: “We are seeing grants from checkoff to develop a ‘kids milk’ at Cornell. We already have a ‘kids milk.’ It is called whole milk. We are frustrated. Why would our checkoff spend money on this rather than spending money to get whole milk back in schools?”

DMI president Barb O’Brien replied that she is “not familiar with the ‘kids milk’ project. We are not involved in specialized formulation for school milk,” she said. “But we can tell you about the research programs we have invested in.”

Ziemnisky picked up from there to explain that, “Everything we do has to start with consumers to make sure what we do is relevant.”

He said DMI’s partners, including MilkPEP, are the experts in marketing and advertising while DMI is the expert on consumer research and insights.

O’Brien and Ziemnisky explained that what DMI does is “back-end strategy with brands to advance U.S. Dairy’s priorities.”

They said the brand partners spend “10 to 20 times our investment in bringing to market these innovations.”

“Three years ago, the milk revitalization alliance was formed,” said Ziemnisky. “By partnering with brands, we unlock new platforms and then leverage that to access their customers.”

O’Brien said that’s how DMI has managed what is essentially a $300 million state and national budget to become the equivalent of $3 billion in consumer access and increased per capita dairy sales.

Ziemnisky reported that whole milk sales grew by $1.8 billion on a value basis over the past five years to 41% of net sales at retail. He owed this to what he said were DMI’s “57 whole milk studies.”

(We can’t find any whole milk studies on the list of 57 studies, just a few studies related to full-fat cheese.)

The problem with 40 years of declining overall fluid milk sales, said Ziemnisky is that “the sector has gone 40 years without innovation.”

(The sector has also gone 40 years under what have become increasingly fat-restrictive USDA enforcement of its Dietary Guidelines, but that wasn’t mentioned.)

Ziemnisky pointed out that the gains made in whole milk sales have come at the expense of fat-free milk sales.

“We have a fix for that too,” he said. “Our goal is to make milk relevant again with high protein, low carb, portability, as well as reinvention at schools, foodservice and e-commerce to fit changing consumer lifestyles.”

As for the simple choice of whole milk in schools? DMI leaders were asked if they would fund and support a research trial like the one done last year at one middle/high school in Pennsylvania showing 65% gains in milk sales and sustainable reductions in waste of 95%.

O’Brien was “thrilled” to hear about that study and said exceptions can be granted for research, but quickly turned the conversation over to Ziemnisky to talk about the research and innovation of school milk DMI is already investing in.

Look for more in the next edition on DMI’s partnership with DFA on plant-based blends – why and how and other topics.

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‘Kids Milk’ project receives checkoff funding, researchers look to remove lactose and whey, add sugar

Does milk need reinventing for kids? USDA and dairy checkoff say yes. Meanwhile kids, parents and experts who’ve studied the issue say… not so fast… just allow the schools to provide whole milk as a choice. Istock photo by Aaron Amat

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, October 16, 2020

ALBANY, N.Y. – As part of the 2021 checkoff funds for Cornell dairy research approved recently by the New York State Dairy Promotion Advisory Board is the first phase (2021-22) of a two-year project to develop and build a “Kids Milk” for schools, foodservice and retail. The first phase is to complete the successful multi-step innovation process (remove lactose and add sugar), and the second phase will be to implement the “future view” (remove whey to improve shelf-stable flavor and reduce transportation cost and refrigeration).

The project was one of 12 presented by Cornell, which is one of five universities that are part of DMI’s Dairy Research Institute (DRI). The DRI was formed as a 501 c 3 non-profit by DMI’s Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy a decade ago in August of 2010.

Reading through this project’s innovation process and vision, in essence, by year two, ‘Kids Milk’ (aka ‘school milk’) could be compositionally the same as the ultrafiltered / microfiltered cheese starter milk that has the lactose and whey removed. In essence large-scale-cheese-vat-ready-milk would be positioned as ‘Kids Milk’ tested and touted as beneficial for children’s taste, tolerance and nutritional reasons, of course. (Think about this within the context of the large-scale cheese processing shifts now occurring in the dairy industry.)

According to the researchers’ slides presented to the NY Board in September, the ‘Kids Milk’ will be stripped of lactose, but then have sucrose (sugar) added in order to “achieve a higher sweetness intensity and achieve higher liking scores without increasing calories from carbohydrates in 1% fat chocolate milk,” for example. A copy of the Cornell researchers’ presentation is available online with the NY Board’s minutes at https://agriculture.ny.gov/dairy/dairy-promotion-order

The ‘Kids Milk’ would also be a high-heat pasteurized, extended shelf-life product, and the second phase talks about making it shelf-stable. In concert with this, another NY checkoff-funded Cornell project, in its second year of research, is determining how to solve off-flavors in extended shelf-life and aseptically-packaged shelf-stable milk products by removing the ‘offending’ whey — with an eye to the school foodservice applications in terms of transport and refrigeration.

The ‘Kids Milk’ research project is jointly sponsored by the NY State Dairy Promotion Advisory Board (checkoff) approving $76,269 per year for the portion conducted at Cornell, along with H.P. Hood and Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) funding the portion being conducted at North Carolina State University’s dairy research center. Hood’s contribution is $50,000 per year and DMI’s checkoff contribution is $20,000 to $30,000 per year.

In their presentation of the two-year research and innovation phase (2021-22), the Cornell researchers explained that they have proof of concept as of August 2020 for the first step in the two-step process of removing lactose and adding sugar to replace it. They explain in a power point slide that once they achieve success in the innovation research, they will move to the “view into the future” for ‘Kids Milk,’ using the microfiltration whey-removal research being done simultaneously at North Carolina State.

The “view of the future” for ‘Kids Milk’ is revealing and was described by researchers as follows:

Step 3 – “Increase the protein content by ultrafiltration to have 1% fat and 6 to 7% protein to build mouthfeel, achieve a calcium and protein per serving higher than regular milk, and bring the product to a milk solids-not-fat that would allow it to comply with standard of identity for milk and to be labeled lactose-free ultrafiltered milk.”

Step 4 – “Increase the protein content by ultrafiltration by a combination of ultrafiltration and microfiltration. Microfiltration removes milk derived whey proteins from milk. The milk derived whey proteins have been identified in our research as the ones that cause the objectionable cooked sulfur flavors in the UHT (extended shelf-life) milks. Our goal is to remove these proteins to build a milk that will taste good to children and meet nutrition guidelines while being shelf-stable. This will reduce shipping and distribution costs for milk by reducing the number of deliveries and the need to separate refrigerated delivery to schools.”

Back on August 5, 2020, DMI CEO Tom Gallagher in an ‘open mic’ call addressed the grassroots push to get whole milk back as a choice in U.S. schools. He stated to the farmers, board members and media on that Aug. 5 call that, “Farmers are great, and our product is great… but even if whole milk is eventually recommended for kids, we still need innovation to get it to the kids in a style that they like.”

Voila: ‘Kids Milk.’

Meanwhile, as reported in the August 7, 2020 edition of Farmshine, a simple trial at a middle and high school in Pennsylvania was conducted without fanfare — and anonymously due to USDA ‘milk rules’. It found that teenagers like milk the way it is, without the reinvention. 

In fact, this anonymous 2019-20 trial simply offered all fat percentages of milk, and within the first month, found students choosing whole milk 3 to 1 over the lower fat options. Five months later, students responded favorably to the surveys.

But what was really significant was this: the trial resulted in middle and high school aged students – teenagers! – choosing milk over less healthful competing beverages as revealed by a 65% increase in milk consumption and a 95% decrease in the amount of milk being discarded. Instead of taking the ‘served’ low-fat and fat-free milk (per USDA), throwing it away and buying something else, the students were choosing milk and drinking it!

Whole milk is also shown to be tolerated by many who claim to be lactose-intolerant as the amount of lactose is slightly less when more of the fat is retained, and the fat slows the rate of absorption of the lactose carbohydrate. This finding is both anecdotal and referenced in an official USDA Dietary Guidelines comment by Dr. Richard Theurer, adjunct professor in the Dept. of Nutrition Sciences at North Carolina State University. In his comment (2018 and 2020-25) to the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, he supports a reversal of the DGA’s misguided recommendation that children over age 2 be offered only fat-free and low-fat milk (now required at schools and daycares) instead of the healthy choice of whole milk.

Does milk need to be reinvented with farmer checkoff funds in order to “get it to the kids in a style that they like” as DMI CEO Gallagher suggested during the Aug. 5 open mic call?

Or do students simply need the option of whole milk at school so they can choose what tastes good and is good for them?

Looking at year two of the checkoff-funded Cornell ‘Kids Milk’ project, the presenters own words offer a clue. They described a successful outcome “will reduce shipping and distribution costs for milk by reducing the number of deliveries and the need to separate refrigerated delivery to schools.” 

This look into the ‘Kids Milk’ future reveals the bottom line is the disassembly and extrusion of milk at finer and finer molecular levels to reinvent and build a beverage that fits the increasingly concentrated globalized supply chain of food transformation.

It’s really not about the kids, at all.

Author’s postscript: Think about this in the context of Coca Cola now owning 100% of the fairlife ultrafiltered milk brand and the potential for reducing school milk (‘kids milk’) to the equivalent of milk protein concentrate (MPC) added to sucrose or high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) for shelf-stable concentrate reconstituted in soda-style — ‘just add water’ — beverage dispensers. Get the picture?

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‘One plan marching forward’

DMI leaders give Net Zero, ‘sustainability’ overview

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, September 11, 2020

CHICAGO, Ill. – A month ago, after Farmshine revealed the background of DMI’s new Vice President of Dairy Scale for Good, questions and concerns voiced by dairy farmers led DMI to announce it would have one of its monthly “open mic” calls specifically on the topic of Sustainability and Net Zero Initiative (NZI).

That was Sept. 2, but unlike previous calls, Farmshine was not included among trade media.

This is not surprising because Farmshine has obtained a copy of a communication sent to dairy checkoff board members stating in print that the DMI board has agreed not to engage with Farmshine, stating that Farmshine articles misrepresent their facts.

This position came after two well-sourced articles were published in Farmshine about Caleb Harper, of Vice President Dairy Scale for Good, who was hired by DMI to work with large farms to scale sustainability practices as part of the Net Zero Initiative. The articles revealed concerns about his background in science, funding and future of food philosophy.

Farmshine has obtained a link to the recording of the Sept. 2 open mic call on sustainability that was part of a DMI e-newsletter. However, only 35 minutes of the hour-long call were shared with farmers. The recording was cut at the end of presentations by DMI CEO Tom Gallagher, President Barb O’Brien and Vice President of Sustainability Karen Scanlon.

Thus the recording excluded the 25 minutes of questions and answers, despite Gallagher’s assertion that he would “make sure to get this information into the trade media to communicate with producers and clear up misperceptions that have been perpetrated.”

During the recorded presentations, Gallagher stated that, “The industry — as an industry — has recently made commitments to be carbon-neutral by 2050.”

While he did not get into specifics, he said he wanted dairy farmers to understand the big picture.

He said the dairy checkoff has been involved in this effort 13 years in the role of science, research, and outreach to the supply chain.

Gallagher sought to assure farmers that the first order of business is to “recognize and promote how dairy farmers have been and continue to be stewards of the environment.”

He said the next thing is to make sure consumers and thought leaders understand that sustainability must be profitable for farmers.

He said that the NZI does not mean every dairy plant or every dairy farm will achieve carbon-neutrality. “We want to say that as an industry we are carbon-neutral. That’s our perch,” said Gallagher.

Lastly, he said, “We want to avoid having farms and companies and co-ops use sustainability as a marketing advantage (in competition with each other).

“We should stick together on this, because our competition is others — cell based ag and plant-based beverages — so let’s not beat each other up on this,” said Gallagher.

(Yet DMI hired a key Net Zero employee with ties to cellular agriculture and digital agriculture and funded a new product “innovation” that is half milk and half almond or oat beverage made by DFA in pretty cardboard cartons using buzz terms like “purely perfect blend.”)

“When we went into this 12 to 13 years ago, it was still emerging what sustainability is — and it is still sometimes vague — but from a consumer standpoint, they are focused on sustainability,” said Gallagher.

Later in the call, he stressed the importance of sustainability saying 80% of consumers are focused on it, but then confirmed a bit to the contrary what various consumer surveys show for actual decision-making factors: Number One is still ‘taste,’ followed by number two ‘price,’ and even Gallagher states that nutrition and sustainability are “tied for third.”

He was vague on that nutrition and sustainability distinction and took issue with anyone claiming consumers need more education on dairy nutrition.

“We have these two great components to our story: nutrition and sustainability,” he said, “I don’t care what others are telling you, we have the data and people already do understand the nutritional value of dairy. Sure, we can remind them, but they know it.

“The piece they are not aware of is the sustainable nature of the dairy industry and dairy farming. They don’t get it, and they’ll buy into the notion that plant-based is more environmentally sound because the consumer – especially millennials and Gen-Z – have made their decision… 80% of them expect companies to invest in sustainability in the next year.”

(Or are 80% of consumers being pushed in this direction by top-down supply chain transformation?)

In fact, even though DMI’s sustainability partner World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has been scrambling to come up with new ways to tie the globalized ‘sustainability’ agenda to pandemic prevention as a hook that gets to the “health” and “economic” concerns consumers really have…. Gallagher went so far as to say: “Covid has had an interesting impact on millennials, Gen-Z and the next generation because the majority feel that Covid is an example of why we need global, big-picture solutions with companies leading the way.

“Covid is not distracting consumers, it is heightening the stakes,” said Gallagher, right out of the most recent WWF and global re-set playbook seeking to get everything back on their track.

O’Brien mentioned the dynamics that are more at play: large global companies like Nestle, Unilever, Danone and Starbucks making sustainability even more important as a priority.

“We at checkoff are positioning U.S. Dairy as a solution to drive a unified approach,” she said. “The good news is we know dairy is and can be a solution with the growing body of research and practice-based proof and an industry-wide plan. We are ready to re-set what people think they know about dairy.”

O’Brien painted a picture of the global landscape in which U.S. dairy will have less access if it is not unified to show industry-wide measurements of sustainable impacts.

Then it became clear. O’Brien said “This is not just about consumers, but also investor groups. They are setting the criteria for measuring sustainable impacts, and they expect companies to more fully disclose impacts that are tied to their businesses.”

She said trillions of dollars are being invested in businesses that can do that, and she said many countries are making legally-binding country-wide commitments to accelerate, and they emphasize the need for the U.S. to voluntarily report its impacts.

“We see our dairy customers like Unilever, Danone, Nestle and Starbucks working to meet these global goals on carbon neutrality, water use, zero waste and hunger initiatives,” said O’Brien. “They need to know where we are at to help them meet their goals against these sustainability metrics.”

(The World Resources Institute, which is inextricably linked to WWF, along with UN benchmarks, are formulating these metrics – a work in progress since 2009 when DMI’s Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy first established its sustainability partnership with WWF, according to the WWF website.)

Gallagher said farmers have been at the table on this, and he presented an overview of the “the plan.” He took issue with dairy farmers who are “against globalization” and with strong words, stated: “My answer to that is we did not create globalization, but those are the rules, and it’s the world we are living in… with very powerful forces that are very much against dairy at play here in the U.S.”

(There is a difference between international trade and ‘globalization.’ Globalization is a more centralized order of things affecting aspects of life, health, resources and economies at an international scale.)

Gallagher confirmed that companies will drive this, and he said that consumers want corporations to drive this. He and O’Brien both talked about DMI’s sustainability partnerships began with Walmart in 2007.

Where the plan meets the farm, Gallagher said the Net Zero Initiative has three categories: Large farms, medium sized farms, and small farms.

“We’re doing something for each of those. Some staff (Caleb Harper) are focused solely on large farms looking at technologies to see if they are financially sustainable,” said Gallagher. “And we have folks working on mid-sized and small farms too. Our focus is the research, and some of our efforts will be foundational to support all farms.”

He introduced Karen Scanlon, DMI’s vice president of sustainability who said dairy’s diversity is a key in the Net Zero Initiative.

“There is no one right way, no prescription on how to achieve our environmental outcomes along with profitability,” said Scanlon. “We are focusing right now on learning what farmers are already doing, and helping to share that with more farmers, so farmers can learn from each other.

“We also want to work with farmers and supply chain partners on demonstration projects to highlight successful technologies, practices and approaches,” said Scanlon.

She mentioned two examples – one in Wisconsin and one in southeastern Pennsylvania as well as talks with producer organizations in Idaho and the Pacific Northwest – where farmers and their cooperatives and other supply chain partners are already doing things that DMI can come in and be part of to find ways to cost-share the ideas to increase adoption among more farms.

“Founded by dairy farmers 12 years ago through checkoff, the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy put us at the table and we find common ground and set a common set of principles that is a difference maker in the supply chain,” said O’Brien.

She went back to a summit with Walmart in 2007, which led to a deepening of the relationship over time. More recently, in 2018, DMI had a similar ‘summit’ with Amazon and that partnership is underway with DMI as category captain.

“Today Walmart proactively uses the FARM program’s animal care and environmental modules. They are using our programs with farms they contract directly,” said O’Brien, adding that DMI starts with relationships and brings in other companies to align with that. She and Gallagher stressed that dairy checkoff now has a “unified Net Zero plan in place and is coordinating with other industry organizations.”

“There is one plan marching forward with each industry organization playing their own unique role,” said O’Brien. She explained that DMI is engaged in science and outreach to the supply chain and telling the dairy story; NMPF is focused on legislative and regulatory as well as on-farm environmental stewardship; Newtrient is focused on viable technologies and practices to produce new revenue streams; and US Dairy Export Council is focused on export markets and aligning targets with DMI’s thinking on measurement and progress.

“What we have created for dairy farmers over the last decade is ready as sustainability increasingly becomes a requirement for doing business,” said O’Brien. “We must continue to lead in this.”

Before opening it up to questions for the last 25 minutes of the call – which were not shared in the DMI newsletter recording – Gallagher told everyone on the open mic call that this was a 30,000-foot view and if they want more details, DMI could do another open mic call on the topic or find other ways to communicate.

How data analytics, supply chain ‘ecosystems’ fit DMI’s global strategy for U.S. Dairy

DMI CEO Tom Gallagher shared this slide with August ‘open mic’ call participants as consumer data confirm a current focuse on health and economics — even though global supply chain transformation is pursued on an accelerating scale.

By Sherry Bunting, excerpts summarized from Farmshine, August 21 and 28, 2020

CHICAGO, Ill. — Early in the pandemic, consumers were initially focused on health drivers in food purchases and then began moving toward economics. But with the resurgence of Covid cases across the country, data insights show “consumers are now back to a focus on health again,” said Tom Gallagher, CEO of Dairy Management Inc. (DMI).

Consumer insights and purchasing patterns pre- and post-Covid were discussed in an early August DMI ‘open mic’ call with Gallagher, as well as DMI president Barb O’Brien, board chair Marilyn Hershey and Inmar Intelligence CEO David Mounts.

Health and value were expressed as big opportunities for dairy. But the underlying message of food transformation was also clear in the discussion of how consumer data analytics and supply chain ‘ecosystems’ are integrated and streamlined to fit the dairy checkoff’s global strategy for the future of ‘U.S. Dairy’ — including new product innovation and the relationship DMI now has as Amazon’s dairy ‘category captain’.

Gallagher sent graphs indicating the percentage of change in fluid milk sales rising during the Coronavirus pandemic corresponds with increased sales of cereal.

“We think this is important, showing there are multiple reasons — no one reason why — during ‘panic buying’ consumers bought what they bought,” he said. “Cereal and milk have historically been tied. Cereal has been on a decline for years.”

Gallagher noted that as more people eat breakfast at home, new opportunities are presented beyond cereal and milk.

“This is an opportunity for us for innovation and marketing,” said Gallagher. “One of the reasons we lost fluid milk consumers is that their spending away from home was a big percentage on breakfast, and the white gallon is not suited to that.”

He said new breakfast ideas are coming out. For example, Kraft is getting into the breakfast game with new “breakfast mac and cheese.”

Gallagher also stressed a statistic he looks at, which is the “velocity” of money.

“This is simply the rate of spending and saving. Americans are at the lowest rate of spending since the 1950s and 60s,” he said, explaining that savings rates show a second reason for opportunity as Americans are on more of a savings trend since the pandemic.

“If we can get into the ‘right product’ and the ‘right positioning’ and the ‘right marketing’, people will want our product, and we’ve got that, but innovation needs to be done too,” said Gallagher. “As the unemployment rates ease, the money will be there for people to pay a little more (for innovative products).”

Dairy positioning for in-home meals is something the industry has not seen for decades, said Gallagher. He explained that before Covid, 10% of consumers were eating at home 90% of the time. After Covid, 50% of consumers were eating at home 90% of the time. More people eating at home — even after Covid — presents “huge new opportunities for us,” he said.

E-commerce was highlighted as one of those opportunities.

“Change is happening in an ‘omnichanneled’ world,” said David Mounts of Inmar Intelligence. He described media networks, digital networks for in-store, curbside, delivery and online, and how Amazon is integrating all of these as not just a retailer, but also a merchant, a media company and data company in the ‘strike zone’ of everyday business.

“We saw this opportunity a few years back and did a program on home delivery that was extremely successful,” Gallagher reported.

O’Brien noted that this gave DMI the experience to work with Amazon.

“E-commerce will change the supply chain,” she said. “As of June 14, internet purchasing surged 70%, so we are pleased we anticipated that growth, and now we see Covid has accelerated it.”

DMI has been working with Amazon for two years. Then, a year ago, Amazon named DMI as dairy “category captain.” Since then, DMI has been helping Amazon “navigate the whole dairy category with dairy 101 for their entire grocery leadership team,” O’Brien explained. “From the beginning, we were able to position ourselves as category experts and brand agnostic. We gave them a deep dive into each sector, and in the end, demonstrated the dairy category as a driver.”

As category captain, DMI will work deeper into Amazon’s e-commerce business across 31 sales regions to identify sources and tie consumer shopping experiences online through a promotion portal that puts it right at the internet point of purchase and can measure consumer response.

DMI will work with MilkPEP and other partners on this, she said.

“It was important to first prove the size and value of dairy to Amazon, where placing their investments,” said O’Brien. “Because competition is stiff in plant-based allocation, we now have been able to come back with data, with proof of what dairy can do for their business, so we think opportunities will continue.”

Mounts also highlighted e-commerce.

“This is a time for digital transformation to accelerate in the retail environment,” he said. “The entire retail industry got caught under-invested in digital readiness for what happened in this pandemic. Now massive resources across the retail industry are in catch-up mode.”

‘Real time’ consumer shopping data during the pandemic was also shared by David Mounts of InMar Analytics during the recent ‘open mic’ call. Slide from presentation

Inmar’s analytics show consumer behavior has changed to fewer trips to the store, buying more at each trip with total retail sales up 10% over year ago and some dairy categories up by more than that. Retail sales of fluid milk have settled in at 4 to 5% over year ago and butter up 46%, for example.

Total supermarket baskets are up 15% per trip, and the number of trips are down 6% right through end of July, “so this is real time data,” said Mounts.

Online shopping spiked 6 times higher than year ago in March and is up 2 to 3 times over year ago for the year to date.

Mounts said the number of people who have registered to be online grocery shoppers is increasing at rates of 100%, with the majority seeking value and savings as priorities.

“Consumers are also thinking about in-home health and wellness, ways to boost immunity and stay healthy,” said Mounts.

“Dairy is such a positive for consumers in retail. It is a core part of strong at-home food sales,” Mounts observed. “Dairy is an anchor for at-home meal planning and stock-up trips, and its always part of every shopping list.

“That’s where we think the opportunity exists — right now — as consumers shift from list-buying to ‘solutioning,’ and the occasion now is one that requires planning and thoughtfulness to have more value,” he explained.

Meanwhile, as retailers have been transitioning through their supply issues, “they are understanding new in-home categories and assortments to be more dynamic,” he said. They are being more data-driven to be more agile.”

At the same time, he said “manufacturers are focusing on their core — their most productive products — and are streamlining and trimming.”

These trends set the stage for a more centralized, streamlined and globalized dairy supply chain at a time when consumers are showing they want to be more – not less – connected to where their food comes from and to know more about the nutritional benefits.

“Consumers will deal with fewer players,” said Mounts, emphasizing the point that, “The mindset of the consumer, retailer and manufacturer must adapt to set the right priorities.”

Those priorities are being set within the tools of technology. According to Mounts, investment in technology and data tools support the strategic pillars of DMI and its partners, which Gallagher said are geared for dairy to be “viewed as an industry leader setting the gold standard on environment and animal treatment, and fitting into the efficient and healthy lifestyles of consumers.”

Searchable apps for phones, in-home voice activation systems tied to marketing outlets, namely Amazon, these tools “bring consumer preferences and marketing targets together for effective campaigns that demonstrate super strong value to consumers,” Mounts explained. “By connecting data into such platforms, the advantage for advertisers is they see it generate sales.”

But the conversations will change, and the level of personalization will increase in the food sector around the data, according to Mounts. “The digital assets are more efficient, and you talk directly to people you want to speak with and are going where the buying audience is to capture them.”

“That’s where we need to be,” said Gallagher. “This is the information the industry looks to DMI to share and will be used to create partnerships with industry.

“We won’t get the drinker or eater back if we do not do these things,” he asserts. “Farmers are great and we have a great product, but it still requires innovation. Until whole milk is recommended for kids, and even when it is, we still need innovation to get it to the kids in a style that they like.”

Mounts said innovation is a “team sport, and the key to speeding it up is to create the ecosystem, the environment, that inspires others to come in and bring solutions.”

Where dairy farmers are most familiar with the production playing field, Gallagher sees DMI as the entity that expands the dairy supply chain ecosystem to bring in other resources globally. In short, DMI has identified itself as U.S. Dairy’s supply-chain integrator and expander. Gallagher said checkoff partnerships are regional, national and international — along with the industry and National Milk Producers Federation.

“Working together as one is our hope for the future,” Gallagher insisted. “If we do not have that unity, then we are small players in a big marketplace.”

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