Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Why people want labels on milk

As a dairy scientist with a Minnesota farm background, I'm often asked why people pay more for milk labeled according to the way it's produced. One example is the recent controversy over labelling milk from cows not supplemented with rbST.

I've observed that it's not really about any differences in the milk. When I speak with consumers who pay more for milk that is labeled as rbST free or organic, I've found that they do really know that there is no difference in the milk. These are casual conversations, and not a part of a scientific study.

These people are willing to pay more because they think that dairy farmers who don't use rbST or who produce organic milk are somehow better for the ecosystem or environment as a whole, and they often say that they are willing to pay more to help support those farmers. Of course, farmers who choose not to use rbST receive only a very small fraction of the price difference.

It's ironic that the recently published research study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences clearly demonstrates that rbST-supplemented cows are more 'environmentally friendly.' Cows supplemented with rbST have a smaller 'carbon footprint' than do those raised under conventional management.

An authoritative article about the safety of rbST supplementation for both cattle and humans is available for those interested.

In the interest of full disclosure (very important these days) I have no financial connection with Monsanto.

Hope that helps.


High Feed Cost Webinar

Update: The webinar went off very successfully and was archived. You can review the archive online.

There will be a 'webinar' focused on high feed costs on 18 August 2008 at 8:00 PM EDT. That's midnight GMT. The topics are listed below. Each will have an internationally recognized expert give a 10 minute presentation, including Powerpoint slides, and then the presentation will be followed by a question and answer period.

  • Strategies to Lock in Milk and Feed Prices—Dave Byers, VA veterinarian/nutritional consultant
  • Feeding Strategies with $7, $8, or $9 Corn – Mike Hutjens, Univ IL Professor
  • Alternative Feedstuffs for Corn and Soybean Meal – Randy Shaver- Univ WI Professor
You need a computer with speakers and an Internet connection. You will type in your questions in a box in the webpage, and the expert will answer them.

You can download a copy of the presentations from Slideshare.

This webinar is a part of the DAIReXNET Project in the new US eXtension effort that utilizes the latest in Web 2.0 technologies to provide objective, research-based and credible information on timely and important topics.

Hope that helps.