Covering Ag since 1981. The faces, places, markets and issues of dairy and livestock production. Hard-hitting topics, market updates and inspirational stories from the notebook of a veteran ag journalist. Contributing reporter for Farmshine since 1987; Editor of former Livestock Reporter 1981-1998; Before that I milked cows. @Agmoos on Twitter, @AgmoosInsight on FB #MilkMarketMoos
In that same June 2019 hearing, animal scientist and greenhouse gas emissions expert Dr. Frank Mitloehner of University of California-Davis explained the methane / CO2 ‘biogenic’ cycle of cows.
He said that no new methane is produced when cow numbers are “constant” in an area because methane is short-lived and converts to CO2 in 10 years time, which is then used by plants, cows eat the plants, and the cycle repeats.
Dr. Mitloehner also said that this cycle changes when cattle concentrations move from one area to another.
The milk produced and bottled in the Northeast and Southeast milksheds is not just carbon neutral, it’s already carbon negative, producing not just no new methane, but less than prior-decades’ methane.
Bear in mind, these new dairy-‘based’ — blended — beverages are NOT Class I products. I have been informed that the 50/50 blends, for example, do not meet the standard of identity for milk, nor do they meet the milk solids profile that requires Class I pricing. This means that even though milk is part of a fluid dairy-‘based’ beverage, it is not priced as Class I.
The milk used in these emerging products that combine ultrafiltered solids with water, additives and maybe an almond or two, fall into Class IV, some are Class III if whey protein is used. Examples include products like DFA’s Live Real Farms ‘Purely Perfect Blend‘ that arrived recently in Pennsylvania and the greater Northeast after its first test-market in Minnesota.
Think about it. Unity is great on many levels, and is to be encouraged in an industry such as dairy, but when it comes to marketing, who is calling the shots for future viability within the DMI integration strategy, otherwise known as unity?
Pre-competitive alliances and ‘proprietary partnerships’ working on food safety are wonderful because all companies should work together on food safety. But animal care? Environment? Climate? Why not just offer quality assurance resources and pay farmers certain premiums for investing as companies would like to see and pay them for providing the consumer trust commodity — instead of implementing one-size-fits-all branches in programs like F.A.R.M.?
These so-called voluntary programs have the power to negate contracts between milk producers and their milk buyers even though consumer trust is a marketable commodity that producers already own and are in fact giving to milk buyers, and their brands, without being compensated.
Instead, producers are controlled by arbitrary definitions of the consumer trust commodity that the producers themselves originate. This goes for Animal Care, Worker Care, Environment, and Climate.
The pre-competitive model used in food safety is applied to all four of the above areas today. This is exactly the supply-chain model World Wildlife Fund (WWF) — DMI’s ‘sustainability partner’ — set in 2010 to “move the choices of consumers and producers” where they want them to go.
In the 2019 Senate hearing referenced at the beginning of the above op-ed, Dr. Mitloehner stated that the mere fact there are 9 million dairy cattle today compared with 24 million in 1960 and producing three times more milk shows that dairy producers are collectively not only emitting zero new methane, they are reducing total methane as old methane and carbon are eradicated by the carbon cycle and less new replacement methane is emitted.
The problem may be this: Year-over-year cow numbers for the U.S. are creeping higher. While still much lower than four to five decades ago, the issue emerging for DMI’s Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy is how to accommodate growth of the new and consolidating dairy structures to attain the checkoff’s expanded global export goal and to accommodate massive new dual-purpose plants if dairy farms in other areas remain virtually constant in size, grow modestly, or decline at a rate slower than the ‘designated’ growth areas are growing.
DMI is at the core of this, you see, to reach it’s new collective net-zero goal, cow numbers would have to decline in one area in order to be added in another area, or they will all have to have their methane buttons turned off or the methane captured because now the emissions are being tracked in order to meet one collective “U.S. Dairy” unit goal under the DMI Innovation Center and F.A.R.M.
At that 2019 Senate hearing,Dr. Frank Mitloehner testified that dairies already create zero new methane but this can be tricky when cattle move from one area to another (as we see in the industry’s consolidation).Then we have DMI’s Dairy Scale 4 Good claiming the dairies over 3000 cows can be net-zero in 5 years and ‘spread their achievement’ over the entire milk footprint. Do we see where this is going?
Will all dairy farms have to meet criteria — set by organizations under the very umbrella of the checkoff program they must fund — to get to a ‘collective’ net-zero using the GHG calculator developed by the checkoff-funded Innovation Center in conjunction with its partner WWF (12 year MOU)? This GHG calculator has been added to the FARM program. These are the big questions.
By Sherry Bunting, both parts of a two-part series in Farmshine, July 2021
The dairy industry continues to wait for USDA to provide details on three areas of dairy assistance already approved by Congress or mentioned as “on the way” by Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack.
The fly in the ointment, however, is the record-high 2021 milk production (Table 1) and accelerated growth in cow numbers (Table 2) at a pace the recent USDA World Agriculture Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) expect to continue into 2022.
USDA is reportedly looking at production reports — up vs. year ago by 1.9% in March, 3.5% in April, 4.6% in May — to determine how to assist without adding fuel to expansion that could threaten late 2021 milk prices in the face of rising feed costs and a worsening western drought. (The latter two challenges could temper those forecasts in future WASDEs.)
May milk production a stunner
U.S. milk production totaled 19.9 billion pounds in May. This is a whopping 4.6% increase above 2020 and 2018 and a 4.1% increase over May 2019.
Let’s look at year-to-date. For the first five months of 2021, milk totaled 96 billion pounds, up 2.3% vs. the 93.8 billion pounds for Jan-May of 2020, and it is 4.4% greater than the 91.9 billion pounds of Jan-May milk produced in pre-pandemic 2018 and 2019. Of the four years, only 2020 had the extra production day as a Leap Year.
Milk per cow was up 3% over year ago in May. Compared with 2019, output per cow is up 2.2%, according to USDA.
Cow numbers vs. 2018 tell the story
Milk cows on U.S. dairies in May 2021 totaled 9.5 million head, up 145,000 from May 2020’s 9.36 million, up 172,000 from 2019’s 9.33 million, and up 83,000 head from 2018’s 9.42 million.
Counter to the national trend, Pennsylvania had 48,000 fewer milk cows than May 2018 — dropping 30,000 into 2019; 10,000 into 2020, and 8,000 into 2021.
Elsewhere in the Northeast and Southeast milksheds, among the 24 major monthly-reported states, New York had 4000 more milk cows in May 2021 than 2018, Vermont 8000 fewer. Georgia dropped 1000, Florida 12,000, and Virginia 11,000. In the Central states, Illinois was down 10,000 head.
The total decline in cow numbers for the 24 lesser quarterly-reported states, the collective loss in cow numbers is 59,000 head from May 2018 to May 2021
Accelerated growth is coming from three key areas where major new processing assets have been built or expanded.
In the Mideast, where the new Glanbia-DFA-Select plant became fully operational in Michigan this spring, there is a net gain of 32,000 cows for 2021 vs. 2018, Ohio’s cow numbers that had been declining 2018-19, began recovering in 2020-21. Indiana had 18 months of substantial growth, and Michigan returned to its growth pattern in 2020. Taken together, the Indiana-Ohio-Michigan region had a loss of 8,000 cows heading into 2020, but gained a whopping 40,000 cows over the past year.
In the Central Plains, where new plant capacity is starting up this spring and summer — Minnesota, South Dakota and Iowa, combined, added 40,000 cows May 2018 to May 2021.
In the Southern Plains, where joint-venture processing capacity continues to grow, Texas has continued full-steam-ahead, gaining 87,000 cows from 2018 to 2021, along with 29,000 added in Colorado and 17,000 in Kansas. New Mexico regained earlier losses to be 2000-head shy of 2018.
The growth patterns in these regions somewhat mirrored dairy exits from other areas — until Jan. 2020 (Table 2). The past 17 consecutive months of year-over-year increases in cow numbers leave the U.S. herd at its largest number in 26 years (1995).
However, the assumption that ‘dairy producers are okay because the industry is expanding’ ignores several essential factors. The playing field has become more complicated and inequitable. There are four main factors at play. We’ll look at them one at a time.
Factor #1 — Milk dumping and base programs
A year ago in April and May 2020 — at the height of the Coronavirus pandemic disruptions — the dairy industry saw dumping of milk, stricter base programs and bigger milk check deductions. Producers culled cows, dried cows off early, changed their feeding programs, even fed milk in dairy rations.
But milk production still grew, according to the USDA data.
Some cooperatives and milk buyers, like Land O’Lakes, had base programs already in place and triggered them. Others made changes to prior programs or implemented new ones.
Dairy Farmers of America — the nation’s largest milk cooperative, largest North American dairy processor and third-ranked globally by Rabobank — quickly implemented a new base program in May 2020, seeking 10 to 15% in production cuts from members, varying by region, with overage priced on ‘market conditions.’
It is difficult to assess the ‘equity’ in these base programs and the cross-layers among producers between and within regions, or to know how these ‘bases’ are being handled presently. When questioned, spokespersons say base decisions are set by regional boards.
Meanwhile, product inventory and pricing schemes affect all regions, and milk rides between FMMOs in tankers and packages — with ease.
According to USDA, the 11 FMMOs dumped and diverted 541 million pounds of milk pooled as ‘other use’, priced at Class IV, during the first five months of 2020, of which 350 million pounds were in April alone. This is more than three times the ‘other use’ milk reported by FMMOs during the first five months of pre-pandemic 2019 (171.4 million pounds). By June, the amounts were double previous years.
Of this, the largest amount, by far, was the 181 million pounds of ‘other use’ milk in the Northeast FMMO 1 during Jan-May 2020, comprising one-third of all the dumped and diverted milk pooled across all 11 FMMOs in that 5-month period.
In the Southeast milkshed, the Appalachian, Florida and Southeast FMMOs 5, 6 and 7, together pooled 88 million pounds of ‘other use’ milk in the first five months of 2020. The Southwest FMMO 126 had 106.2 million pounds of ‘other use’ milk; Upper Midwest FMMO 30 had 46.1 million pounds; Central FMMO 32 had 36.7 million pounds; Mideast FMMO 33 had 30.7 million pounds; California FMMO 51 had 28.9 million pounds; Arizona FMMO 131 had 21.7 million pounds; and Pacific Northwest FMMO 124 had 1.3 million pounds.
The dumping had begun the last week of March 2020 and was heaviest in the month of April. Producers also saw deductions as high as $2/cwt. for balancing costs, lost quality premiums, and increased milk hauling costs. Unaccounted for, were the pounds of milk that had reportedly been dumped on farms without being pooled on FMMOs.
All of this against a backdrop of pandemic bottlenecks and record-high March-through-August imports of butter, butteroil, milkfat powder, and blends — adding to record-high U.S. butter inventories and contributing to the plunging Class IV, II and I prices vs. Class III (PPD).
Meanwhile, not only did production growth in key areas move ahead, so did strategic global partnerships. Just one puzzling example in October 2020, after eight months of deflated producer milk checks, depressed butterfat value, burdensome butter inventory, record butterfat imports, and a plunging Class IV milk price that contributed to negative producer price differential (PPD) losses, Land O’Lakes inked a deal to market and distribute cooking creams and cream cheeses — Class II and IV products that use butterfat — from New Zealand’s Fonterra into United States foodservice accounts.
The New Zealand press reports were gleeful, citing this as a big breakthrough that could be followed by other of their cheeses entering the “huge” U.S. foodservice market through the Land O’Lakes distribution.
Factor #2 — Class price wars and de-pooling
As reported in Farmshine last summer, dairy farmers found themselves in uncharted waters. As Class IV prices tumbled from the get-go with all of the ‘other use’ dumping and diverting, butter inventory building as butter/powder plants tried to keep up with diverted loads at a disruptive time, the USDA Food Box program started drawing products in the second half of May, and really got going by July 2020.
Cheese, a Class III product, was a big Food Box winner. The cheese-driven Class III milk price rallied $7 to $10 above Class IV, and massive volumes of milk were de-pooled by Class III handlers, which has continued through May 2021.
Reviewing the class utilization reports, an estimated 80 billion pounds of Class III milk normally associated with FMMOs has been de-pooled over the past 26 months.
At the start of this ‘inequitable’ situation, academic webinars sought to explain it.
“We’re seeing milk class wars,” said economist Dan Basse of AgResource Company, a domestic and international ag research firm in Chicago, during a PDPW Dairy Signal webinar a year ago.
He noted that under the current four-class pricing system, and the new way of calculating the Class I Mover, dairy farmers found themselves “living on the edge, not knowing what the PPD (Producer Price Differential) will be” (and wondering where that market revenue goes).
“A $7.00 per hundredweight discount is a lot of capital, a lot of income and a lot of margin to lose with no way to hedge for it, no way to protect it, when the losses are not being made up at home as reflected in the PPD,” Basse said in that summer 2020 webinar.
What does this have to do with year-over-year milk production comparisons?
Two words: Winners. Losers.
Some handlers, and producers won, others lost — between and within regions.
Here’s why all of this matters from a production comparison standpoint: Dairy economists — Dr. Mark Stephenson, University of Wisconsin, and Dr. Marin Bozic, University of Minnesota — are both on record acknowledging that USDA NASS uses FMMO settlement data, along with producer surveys, to benchmark monthly milk production.
So, on the one hand: How accurate are these data for comparison over the past 26 months, given the inconsistent FMMO data from dumping, diverting and de-pooling?
On the other hand: Did the negative PPDs and de-pooling, resulting in part from the 2018 Farm Bill change in the Class I Mover, allow Class III handlers to capture all of that additional market value and use it to fuel the 2020-21 accelerated milk growth for regions and entities connected to the new Class III processing assets?
Factor #3 — New dual-processing concentrates growth
Accelerated growth in cow numbers is fueling record production in 2021. It is patterned around ‘waves’ of major new processing investments in some areas, while other areas — largely fluid milk regions — are withering on the vine or growing by smaller margins with fewer cows.
In the 24 major milk states, production growth was even greater than the All-U.S. total — up 4.9% vs. year ago. In part one, the breakdown was shown vs. 2018.
Here’s the breakdown for just the 12 months from May 2020 to May 2021 — a time in which the industry dealt divergences that created steep losses for some and big gains for others, while FMMOs became dysfunctional.
In just one year, over 40,000 cows were added in Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan, combined, and milk production was up in May 2021 by 12.6, 3.2 and 5.1%, respectively. The draw is the massive new Glanbia-DFA-Select joint-venture cheese and ingredient plant that began operations late last year in St. Johns, Michigan. Sources indicate it reached full capacity this spring. Add to this the 2018 Walmart fluid milk plant in Fort Wayne, Indiana and other expansions in Ohio and Michigan.
Ditto for the Central Plains, where new cheese and ingredient line capacity became operational this spring and summer. Supplying these investments, Minnesota grew production 6%, South Dakota 14.6%, and Iowa 6.2% over year ago.
Number two Wisconsin grew by 5.6% in May 2021 vs. year ago.
Milk production was up 5% in number one California, even though cow numbers were down by 1000 head, and dairy farmers in a referendum voted recently by a slim margin to keep their quota system. They are also dealing with a devastating drought that news reports indicate is now impacting both the dairies and the almond growers.
Then there’s Texas, where growth continues to be a double-digit steamroller, up 10.8% in May 2021 vs. 2020 — pushing New York (up 4.2%) to fifth rank.
The Southern Plains has had several strategic investments, starting in Texas and New Mexico (up 6% vs. year ago).
In Colorado, where production was up 5.3% in May, DFA’s joint ventures and strategic partnerships with Leprino, Kroger and others have fueled growth.
Kansas grew milk production 7.3% vs. year ago. In 2018, a state-of-the-art whole milk powder and ingredient plant became fully operational in Garden City, Kansas. The plant was to be a joint-venture between DFA and the Chinese company Yili but ended up as a joint-venture between DFA and 12 of its member farms that are among the 21 Kansas dairies shipping milk to it.
DFA’s Ed Gallagher gave some insights on this during a May 2021 Hoards webinar. He said, “We went through a period of investing in powder plants in the U.S. It seems like there is a follow-the-leader approach when deciding on investments, and it goes in waves. The industry just completed a wave of a lot of investment in Class IV manufacturing plants, and now… it’s flipping to Class III.”
Looking back on the Class IV ‘wave’ 2013 through 2018, there were several times in those years that Class IV beat Class III, leading to FMMO de-pooling, but not to the extreme extent seen in the past 12 months as Class III now beats all other classes, including Class I, leading to negative producer price differentials (PPDs).
Gallagher sees Class III and IV prices “coming together” in the “next period of years” because the ‘wave’ of capacity investment has flipped from Class IV to III. He predicted more Class III capacity will be added.
Are these past 26 months of PPD net losses for producers the industry’s answer to, in effect, increasing processor ‘make allowances’ without a hearing?
The average PPD value loss (see chart) across the seven multiple component pricing FMMOs was $2.57 per hundredweight for 26 months, which began with implementation of the new Class I pricing method May 2019 through the most recent uniform price announcements for June 2021 milk.
Applying a conservative 5-year average PPD (prior to Class I change) for each FMMO, only the few gray blocks on the chart represent ‘normal.’
This means even positive-PPDs show margin loss for farm milk pooled on FMMOs. In fact, the CME futures markets as of July 14 show August through December divergence between Class III and IV above the $1.48 mark, indicating Class I value loss and negative PPDs or smaller positive PPDs could return after barely a two-month reprieve.
Many handlers that don’t pool on FMMOs also use the uniform prices as a benchmark.
This $2.57 net loss for seven MCP FMMOs across 26 months represents almost a doubling of the current make allowance levels.
Current USDA make allowances and yield factors add up to a processor credit of $3.17 per hundredweight on Class III and $2.17 on Class IV. This already represents 11 to 25% of farm milk value, according to 2018 analysis by John Newton, when he was Farm Bureau’s chief economist.
Why is this important? Because we are already seeing additional margin transfer from Class I to Class IV as the industry moves to blended beverages that mostly use ultrafiltered (UF) milk solids. Blends using whey would fall under Class III.
Looking ahead, DFA now owns most of the former Dean Foods’ Class I fluid milk plants since May 2020. New manufacturing synergies are undeniable, considering the direction of dairy checkoff’s fluid milk revitalization plan emphasizing these dairy-based-and-blended beverages and ‘dual-purpose’ processing facilities.
As low-fat UF milk solids are blended with other ingredients in a manufacturing process to make new combined beverages, the result is a competing beverage, and the milk in the beverage drops from Class I to Class IV.
Meanwhile, these beverages cost more at the grocery store, and the ingredients are not part of the USDA end-product pricing ‘circle’. Therefore, no new make allowances should be requested because processors are already getting a reduced class value, and a higher margin.
DMI’ vice president of global innovation partnerships, Paul Ziemnisky, gave some insights into this “future of dairy beverages” — and how it ties into new processing plants investments during the virtual Pennsylvania Dairy Summit in February.
Ziemnisky went so far as to say new processing facilities will “need to be built as beverage plants able to handle all kinds of ingredients” for the blended products of the future. In essence, he said, the future of fluid milk is “dual purpose” processing plants.
While 11 of the top 24 states had milk production increases of 5% or more in May, the 13 states with increases below 5%, or negative, are mainly located within traditional Class I fluid milk marketing areas: Florida, up 0.5%, Georgia up 2%, Virginia down 2.3%, Illinois up 1.9%, Arizona, down 0.5%, Washington, down 0.9%, Pennsylvania and Vermont both up 1.8%, and New York up 4.2%.
Idaho and Utah, up 2% and unchanged, are outliers and largely unregulated by FMMOs. Some beverage assets are coming to that region in the form of ultra-filtration and aseptic packaging, including a plant renovation to make Darigold’s FIT beverage. Additionally, a new Fairlife filtration membrane plant was opened near Phoenix, Arizona in March, and Kroger is doing filtration and aseptic packaging in Colorado.
Meanwhile, Pennsylvania is often described as a ‘fluid milk state’ with a Milk Marketing Board setting minimum prices for fluid milk, and a string of independent milk bottlers that figure prominently in their communities.
Ranked fourth in milk production in 2006, Pennsylvania was passed by Idaho in 2007. By 2016, Michigan had pushed Pennsylvania to sixth. The very next year, in 2017, Texas leapfrogged both Pennsylvania and Michigan. Now, Minnesota has pushed the Keystone State to eighth.
How does the future of dairy affect traditionally ‘fluid milk’ states like Pennsylvania, or the Southeast for that matter?
New dairy-‘based’ beverage innovations can be made anywhere and delivered anywhere, often as shelf-stable products. Most are not Class I products unless they meet the strict FMMO definition which was last spelled out in the USDA AMS 2010 final rule.
For now, this also includes the Pa. Milk Marketing Board. Executive secretary Carol Hardbarger confirms that the 50/50 drinks are not regulated under PMMB, which generally uses federal classification, but that a legal interpretation of the Milk Marketing Law with regard to blends may be in order.
The 50/50 blends are already in some Pennsylvania stores and elsewhere in the Northeast, which is the second phase of the ‘undeniably, purely perfect’ marketing plan for fluid milk revitalization.
Factor #4 — USDA, industry coalesce around climate
Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack has been outspoken from the outset about using and aiming every available USDA program dollar in a way that also addresses the Biden administration’s strategies for equity, supply chain resiliency, and climate action.
Speculating a bit as to why USDA is taking so long to announce details about already funded dairy assistance, it could be that Sec. Vilsack is looking at the fit for ‘climate impact.’
Paid around a million a year in dairy checkoff funds to serve 4 four years as CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council — between prior and current Ag Secretary posts — Vilsack understands the future plans of the dairy industry’s checkoff-funded proprietary precompetitive alliances on a global scale.
Vilsack has been privy to the DMI Innovation Center’s discussions of fluid milk revitalization through ‘dual purpose’ plants and blended beverages. He is no doubt looking at the accelerating growth in milk production that is occurring right now for ways to tie dairy assistance to measured climate impacts in the net-zero file.
Producers on the coasts and fringes of identified growth areas have a target — fresh fluid milk and other dairy products produced in regional food systems for consumers who have a renewed zeal for ‘local.’ Fresh fluid milk will have to find a path outside of the consolidating system and cut through the global climate-marketing to directly communicate fresh, local, sustainable messages about a region’s farms, animals, environments, businesses, economies, jobs and community fabric.
ROSEMONT, Ill. — Strategic integration. Gen Z Gamers. Point of origin for innovation. Dairy-‘based’ positioning. Virtual authenticity. Over a decade of planning.
My head is spinning after a DMI press conference this week on three new “activations” for June Dairy Month in the digital world of video games, including “Beat the Lag,” a gamer-recipe contest and the integration of Fuel Up to Play 60 into the virtual world of video gaming exercise.
Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) has been on a 12- to 13-year path to streamline, dilute, blend and innovate dairy with a focus squarely on Gen Z since 2008 in the schools, now integrating rapidly into the digital spaces where dairy checkoff leaders say Gen Z is changing the world of marketing for companies globally.
According to DMI, Gen Z is not interested in facts like vitamins and minerals. They want to know how foods and beverages will make them feel.
On the other hand, DMI leaders described Gen Z as “very capable of discovering facts,” of “looking deeper” for “authenticity” and “relatability,” that when communicating with Gen Z “you want to be really factual and transparent and tap into the emotions that they care about.”
(The paradox of virtual authenticity is hard to overlook.)
Dairy-based or ‘sprinkled’ is the future, some cheese on a pizza or snack. Butter in a cookie, splash of milk in a smoothie, a bit of cream added to a soda, a half ultrafiltered low-fat milk / half almond beverage blend. A little here, a little there. Don’t confuse or interrupt DMI’s ‘strategic integration’ flow by talking about having a glass of whole milk or a piece of cheese. DMI’s website has a few posts lately talking about how blending is the future of dairy — tailor-made for flexitarian messaging in the confusing and not-quite-factual climate-impact comparisons and discussion.
It’s all about innovation of new products, integrating (and diluting) milk as a component of beverages. Looking deeper, it’s really all about increasing margins for processors beyond the farmgate in the ramped up $100 billion dollar global “functional beverage” space, also known as ‘designer beverages.’
Gen Z has been DMI’s target for over a decade as the gateway, the point of origin for how strategic integration innovation will be accomplished with dairy farmer checkoff funds.
Anne Warden, executive vice president of Strategic Integration for DMI spoke in the zoom press conference May 26, explaining how DMI has been “focusing on the youth audience ever since making its commitment to USDA on school nutrition (in 2008).”
In fact, in a May 25, 2021 blog post by Warden, she talks about the future of dairy in schools, that Gen Z wants flashy packaging, unique combinations and sustainable dispensers.
According to Warden, Gen Z is the generation DMI has been working on since the launch of Fuel Up to Play 60, which was followed by the formation of GENYOUth and the signing of the memorandum of understanding (MOU) with USDA under Secretary Tom Vilsack in that 2008-10 time period.
This is the very same time period in which the option of whole milk as a beverage choice was removed from schools, even in the Smart Snacks rules governing ala carte beverage purchases and vending machines – paving the way for strategic integration. Put some milk in that soda, maybe? (That will make sense in a few minutes).
Last fall, Farmshine reported on the “partnering” DMI did with Gen Z ‘gamers’ in the popular Minecraft game, which included three dairy farms hosting three gamers to see how dairies operate. But the partnership that is now moving into integration warp-speed through three June Dairy Month “activations” has been years in the making.
Warden was hired by DMI in May of 2019 to head the strategic integration. Prior to that date, she spent three years at Edelman with DMI’s strategic integration as her primary project for Edelman. Warden’s resume at Linked-In notes DMI as one of Edelman’s largest and most integrated services clients.
This means ‘strategic integration’ — courtesy of all-knowing Edelman — has been underway at DMI for more than 5 years. Have we ever heard of it before now? No, because this is what the ‘precompetitive’ Innovation Center works on, where future strategies are decided upon via DMI’s ‘industry partners’ and quietly implemented with dairy farmer dollars.
Warden laid out the rationale for the three activations aimed at using Gen Z’s “love of video games to capture their attention and show how dairy products fit well within their gaming occasions during the day.”
DMI president Barb O’Brien stressed the point that DMI is looking at gaming as a platform with the objectives of communication and “research.”
“The work that’s coming through now with new product concepts, make this a consumer research method to understand where Gen Z will place their dollars in considering new products,” O’Brien related. “So it’s fantastic. (Gaming) is a channel, an occasion and a communications vehicle. It’s all about contemporizing how we do the work of the checkoff. It is the new advertising. Television is one-way. This is interactive.”
(Authentic, relatable, interactive content is deemed the key to communicating with Gen Z in a virtual digital world of gaming to bring forth new products. Let that paradox sink in.)
One of three activations discussed was “Beat the Lag.”
Lag is a term used to describe the frustration that happens when a video game’s graphics won’t load fast enough so the gamer has to wait (like the frustration of your computer screen freezing). DMI is taking that concept, partnering with Jordan Maron, known as Captain Sparklez to his 11 million followers to address “human lag.”
Over the past six weeks (ending May 29), DMI has been running a gaming recipe conest through Maron, soliciting “dairy-based” snack, beverage and recipe ideas from his followers, what do they eat to ‘Beat the Lag?’
DMI wants Gen Z to bring the ideas. “We don’t want to tell them what to eat (or drink),” said Warden.
During the press conference Maron noted that he got involved when approached by DMI because he “eats a lot of dairy.”
“One of my favorite foods is pizza,” said Maron. “I’m an especially huge fan of drinks that have added milk or cream in them, like sodas with cream added… They’re delicious. I love them.”
(A splash of milk or cream in a soda is something that had a hey-day three generations ago. Apparently, it’s making a comeback.)
Maron talked about doing some focus group work for DMI on “new product innovations” last fall along with a virtual farm tour.
“Me, and a few people who are followers of mine, got together in a call, and DMI shared their ideas for products they want to roll out down the line,” said Maron. “We took it to my focus group of three people and then turned that into Instagram story slides I was able to share out with a wider range of followers, and they were able to give their feedback as to what products would interest them, that they would buy or eat in the future.”
Maron said he hoped that his focus group gave DMI “some good insight.”
The press conference moderator, Scott Wallin of DMI, promptly steered away from the product innovation revelation and brought the conversation back to the farm tours and sustainability, saying DMI hopes to show Gen Z gamers the dairy story through Captain Sparklez and others.
Wallin introduced Gen Z dairy farmer Nevin Lemos of California. The 24-year-old fourth generation dairyman started his own 400-cow Jersey herd on a rented farm near his family’s dairy at the age of 20. Lemos admitted he doesn’t have much time for gaming over the past 10 years as his time and passion are spent working his dairy business.
Lemos observed that Gen Z is a generation able to “look behind the façade, to look deeper.”
Calling Gen Z a “savvy audience,” Warden said they exist almost entirely in the digital world, moving between multiple devices and media platforms daily, with 90% of Gen-Zers gaming.
They are aware of what companies are doing for good – beyond making money — and will turn away from products that “don’t match their values and their desire for authenticity,” said Warden, emphasizing Gen Z’s interest to know what companies are doing for the environment.
“We’re going to make sure farmers they can relate to (like Lemos) are showing up in their social media feeds to tell that story,” she said.
Gen Z gamer Maron talked about what it was like last fall to do the virtual farm tour with Gen Z dairyman Lemos, seeing how cows live and are fed and having one named after him: Sparklez.
The activation of DMI’s “Beat the Lag” is aimed at more than sustainability, said Warden, it is to “help re-position milk and dairy to meet Gen Z’s wellness needs.
“It’s about balance,” she continued. “Gen Z is less interested in the particulars of vitamins and minerals in their food or beverage. They are more interested in what that food is going to do for their bodies, how it is going to make them feel.”
Warden said DMI’s research shows that, “Some of dairy’s biggest opportunities with Gen Z are positioning as a food that will sustain their energy throughout the day or let them feel relaxed and recharged while doing the things that they love.”
“Beat the Lag” is themed around “dairy-based foods and beverages giving gamers an energy boost or a tasty pick-me-up after a long stretch of gaming,” said Warden. “We’re not going to tell them what to eat, we’re letting Jordan Maron (Captain Sparklez) and Rosanna Pansino, a gamer and culinary influencer, get gamers suggesting the ideas in ways they can relate to.”
Maron talked about ‘gamer fuel up’ youtube videos he did with Pansino, one being pizza pockets (with cheese).
“This is a contest, and when the (Beat the Lag) contest is all wrapped up, we’ll look at the recipes submitted,” he said, indicating that the winners will be shown in stages through the Minecraft game and win gaming prizes.
In addition to pizza pockets, other snack recipe ideas at the usdairy.com website under “Game On” and “Beat the Lag” include a bowl of vegetables and avocados, with the tiniest sprinkling of grated cheese. A demonstration is posted there also for making “Pixel Jam Heart” cookies.
During the videos, Maron and Pansino talk about the contest suggesting smoothies, dips, protein drinks and things made with yogurt as ideas for creative contest submissions.
DMI’s O’Brien said: “This is today’s new form of advertising. It’s an opportunity to set the record straight on the nutritional side (vs. major advertising in all venues by plant-based dairy alternatives.)”
She said this avenue allows for “the exchange of factual information,” but was quick to point out that those nutrition facts “are not what is driving Gen Z’s choices.”
Bottom line? The virtual digital world of Gen Z gamers is, according to DMI president O’Brien, “the forum for putting forward innovation, for putting forward innovative products that are relevant to today’s lifestyle. We will be leading with products that are designed for gamers, by gamers, we know will have a much bigger appreciation beyond just gamers…
“We’ll see those products at retail. We’ll see those products at traditional foodservice. This is the point of origin for that innovation, and the inspiration,” she stated matter-of-factly.
There’s a lot to digest here, pieces of a dairy transformation agenda funded by farmers through checkoff. It’s important to know what checkoff dollars are doing in the integration phase of a 12 to 13 year plan to join the milk-disruptors with dairy-based innovations, now putting Gen Z gamers virtually in charge of how DMI’s products that are ready to roll down the line, come to market.
Meanwhile, a Hartman Group survey recently showed Gen Z prefers fast food and familiar tastes with a much lower attention paid to local, fresh products than prior generations. It’s no wonder. This generation has been worked over by PepsiCo, Domino’s, Sodexo, General Mills, brought into schools by USDA via the MOU marriage of low-fat / high-carb Dietary Guidelines and low-fat / high-carb promotion through Dairy Checkoff’s ‘school wellness foundation’ GENYOUth.
In this game, the obvious questions are: Who plays? Who pays? And who wins?
After that trip into virtual authenticity, I need a tall cold glass of real whole milk to relax and recharge.
‘Grant’ will start ‘measuring’ air, soil arounddairy cropping practices in nine U.S. regions
This is the third and final part of the multi-part series about DMI’s Net Zero Initiative and Dairy Scale for Good implementation. Parts one and two in Farmshine covered some of the 12- to 13-year history, the ‘scale’ approach for getting the industry to net zero faster, and the impact of manure processing, digester models, and renewable energy policies and technologies in the NZI scheme.
By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, May 7, 2021
ROSEMONT, Ill. — How dairy feed and forage are produced are the “biggest hammers” that are “ripe for innovation in dairy emissions reduction,” said Caleb Harper, executive director of DMI’s Net Zero Initiative (NZI) Dairy Scale for Good (DS4G) implementation.
He and Dr. Mike McCloskey, chairman of the DMI Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy’s Sustainability Initiative, presented information about the Net Zero Initiative (NZI) and ‘implementation on the farm’ during last month’s Balchem real science lecture series.
Much of the presentation used the ‘spreadsheet exercise’ of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) white paper laying out the “business case for getting to net zero faster”, 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 about this size.
After explaining that the DS4G goal is to make maximum impact on the entire supply of milk in the short-term using “the consolidation going on in the industry” and the idea of “scale to drive down the risk … and spread the benefit across the industry,” Harper dug into each area and showed how the models tend to work best when multiple areas are combined.
Harper said no till farming, cover crops, innovative crop rotations, renewable fertilizer, precision agriculture all fall into this feed production area of emissions.
“It all boils down to measuring the emissions,” he said, showing a slide of boxes in potato fields in Idaho, where USDA ARS has a project that monitors the air around the crop to show the emissions from a field and mitigation that can be attributed to cropping practices. He said DMI has a grant to do the same thing with dairy cropping practices beginning this year.
The key, according to Harper, is to show that the emissions are being reduced. In addition to boxes in fields measuring emissions around crops, Harper said soil core samples will be taken to determine carbon sequestration of dairy feed cropping strategies.
“This is open science, (meaning still in the proving stage),” said Harper, known for his Open Ag science project growing food in computer controlled boxes at M.I.T. That project ended amid controversy last April a few weeks before Harper was hired by DMI to lead its NZI DS4G.
During the real science lecture in April, Harper said DMI has a grant program starting this year, along with Foundation for Food and Agriculture, to do this type of field box emissions monitoring and soil core sequestration monitoring across nine different U.S. geographies to test conservation tillage practices in terms of carbon emissions and sequestration over the next five years.
Harper said he sees this area as “huge” for innovation and for generating carbon credits that are valued by markets and for reducing one-third of dairy’s ‘field to farm’ emissions while improving soil health and the ability of soil to hold water.
He projects the bottom line potential annual farm revenue on this at $70,000, saying the industry will have to combine this with other strategies, like manure processing, renewable energy generation and such to get the combination of environmental impact toward ‘net-zero’ GHG and the economic revenue stream impact for the dairies.
“Some strategies are more impactful than others,” he said about the WWF models.
In this diagram, which was also shared by DMI leaders in a Pa. Dairy Summit breakout session about what dairy checkoff has done for producers lately, Harper illustrated how WWF models show farms will have to combine areas to merge emissions reduction potential with revenue potential. This shows feed production represents 26% of field to farm emissions reduction potential but just 3% of farm revenue potential; Cow care encompassing feed additives, efficient rations and genetics represents 33% of emissions reduction potential and just 5% of farm revenue potential; but conversely, renewable energy production on the farm represents just 5% of emissions reduction potential and 23% of farm revenue potential.
The ‘hammers’ on the emissions side do not line up with hammers on the revenue side, and the question remains, where will individual dairy farms sit in terms of decision-making as supply chains scale these combinations.
Yet again, the question arises around selling or monetizing the carbon credits generated by the farm once these cropping practices are “measured” and added to models. How does the sale of these credits, or bundling with sales of milk, then change the carbon profile of the farm selling the credits vs. the buyer in the dairy supply chain. Again, as mentioned in Part II on manure technologies and energy generation, this is an important detail that the WWF, NZI and DS4G modeling has not dealt with or worked through.
So, while discussions have already progressed to model how carbon credits and milk could be bundled to milk buyers, with pilots funded by supply chain grants to model how scale can spread impact over the industry and the entire milk supply, the holes in the value proposition are more obvious in this area where farms are already doing great things for land, air and water, by keeping something green and growing on the land as part of dairy feed production: How do farmers get credit for what they are already doing?
Harper also said “amazing things” are happening in the feed additive aspect of reducing enteric emissions, but he acknowledged “it’s early” on the carbon credit side for that.
This area of feed production and feed additives in the DS4G ‘value proposition’ has been spreadsheet-modeled to account for one-third of dairy’s field to farm CO2 equivalent emissions, and yet, at the same time, carbon credits based on this area are still in the research and measurement stage, needing documentation to be ‘monetized.’
Harper cited an example paper from University of California-Davis showing significant reductions in enteric emissions in beef cattle with certain feed additives.
As this work in the area of feed production and feed additives continues, said Harper: “Continuing to optimize rations (for production efficiency) remains important, while feed additives and selecting genetics for lower emissions will become important.”
The WWF Markets Institute released the dairy business ‘case study’ for scaling to net-zero faster on Jan. 27, 2021. A mid-February Farmshinereport 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 its 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.
DMI confirms that dairy checkoff had a memorandum of understanding (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, Sec. 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.”
Aside from both serving on the WWF Market Institute’s Thought Leadership Group, McCloskey and Harper 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 during Steve Harper’s tenure 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 tens of millions of dollars in checkoff funds through the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy partnering with the McCloskeys, Select, and Coca Cola.
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).
“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.
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.
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
(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.)
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.
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.)
— 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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
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:
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.