The current move to drive milk prices down in the UK is sinister. If allowed to continued, dairy farmers will go out of business, leaving a vacuum that can only be filled with CAFOs.
Concentrated Animal Feed Operations – CAFOs – are one of Agribusiness’s greatest evils. In the dairy industry, they are designed to produce the greatest volume of milk for the lowest price. The real cost—in terms of animal suffering, creation of new diseases, environmental destruction, and milk that’s bad tasting and destructive to human health—isn’t factored into the equation. Agribusiness doesn’t pay those costs. But we do.
Those places that have been holding out against CAFOs are now being put under even more pressure. In the UK, the farmers who produce the vast bulk of milk sold in supermarkets are being driven towards CAFOs. Their milk isn’t the quality it should be, as it’s denatured through pasteurization, But it’s still a step above CAFOs. These farmers have suddenly and arbitrarily been informed that they must drop their wholesale milk prices by a whopping 16⅔%—from 30 pence to 25 pence per liter. It’s a figure so low that they cannot stay in business.
In this age of increasing prices, supermarkets are trying to force farmers to accept less than it costs to produce milk!
At this point in the UK, there are no dairy CAFOs. One company has attempted to start a dairy CAFO, but community resistance, coupled with widespread concern, has managed to prevent their two attempts. Clearly, the citizens of England don’t want CAFOs. However, Agribusiness does. So, Agribusiness has taken a new approach. They intend to make it impossible run a dairy farm at a profit.
The industry is complex, with middlemen who buy directly from the farmers and sell to the supermarkets, making it difficult to point fingers. However, the simple fact is that virtually the entire supermarket industry in the UK decided all at once that they were going to lower the price they pay for milk from 30 pence to 25 pence.
Rather than go into the details, let’s just focus on the fact that it costs dairy farmers between 29 and 30 pence per liter to produce milk. That gives them no margin. They can survive for a time on that rate, but it leaves virtually no profit and absolutely no margin for problems or reinvestment for the future of the business. In other words, getting paid 29-30 pence results in, at best, a slow death for dairy farms.
Since the move started, many of the supermarkets have eased their demands a bit. They’re getting relatively good press for it. But there’s no real benefit to the farmer when the easing isn’t enough to support a viable business. Asda (Walmart’s name in the UK) has agreed to pay 29½ pence a liter, which amounts to slow starvation. Coop, supposedly a business that operates ethically, has agreed to 29 pence. Oh, whoop-de-doo.
Farmers for Action asks that people not purchase milk products from the following, termed “who to avoid like the plague” (with comments added in italics):
It’s not difficult to see that it’s Agribusiness that’s pushing the squeeze on dairy farmers. Although these are the worst offenders, Gaia Health suggests that all retailers that pay less than a living rate for milk should be treated the same. The fact that Coop pays more than the members of this list does not absolve them—especially considering the fact that they are member-owned and claim to support only environmentally friendly and humanitarian products.
Clearly, the goal is to drive dairy farms out of business, leaving a gap that must be filled either by imports—which will almost certainly be from CAFOs—or result in CAFOs on UK soil. We know what CAFOs are:
Even the Archbishop of Wales has weighed in on this issue. Dr Barry Morgan puts it in perspective. The Independent quotes him:
It is astounding people will pay £1.98 for a two-litre bottle of Coke and think they’ve got a good deal while squabbling over the cost of milk which at £1 for 2.27 litres is half the price of Coke.
It is shameful and immoral it now costs many farmers more to produce milk than they are able to sell it for.
It’s up to us to decide what we want. If you a healthy environment, further degradation of milk, destruction of local economies, and the further harmonization of food into food-like substances around the world, then seek out the cheap milk products sold by the above list.
If you care about your health, the health of the environment, and the health of the economy, then avoid their milk and milk products like the plague.
Of course, if you really want to put an end to the Agribusiness takeover of your food, then take it a step further whenever you possibly can. Purchase milk directly from the producer. Better yet, purchase raw milk. Do everything you can to return our food economy to local organic supply.