Sunday, November 7, 2010

Dairy Management, Inc.? The New York Times investigates.

This week the New York Times published an article investigating the actions of a group called Dairy Management (ever wonder who was behind "Got Milk?), which looks like a private investor group but is in fact funded by the U.S. Government. The article is receiving a lot of attention in the food world because it pulls no punches about Dairy Management's intentions: to push foods (mainly cheese) that are known to be major contributors to disease and obesity. Here are some highlights (rearranged for clarity):

While Warning About Fat, U.S. Pushes Cheese Sales

Published: November 6, 2010

Domino’s Pizza was hurting early last year. Domestic sales had fallen, and a survey of big pizza chain customers left the company tied for the worst tasting pies. Then help arrived from an organization called Dairy Management. It teamed up with Domino’s to develop a new line of pizzas with 40 percent more cheese, and proceeded to devise and pay for a $12 million marketing campaign.

In 1995, the government created Dairy Management Inc., a nonprofit corporation that has defined its mission as increasing dairy consumption by “offering the products consumers want, where and when they want them.”

And Dairy Management, which has made cheese its cause, is not a private business consultant. It is a marketing creation of the United States Department of Agriculture — the same agency at the center of a federal anti-obesity drive that discourages over-consumption of some of the very foods Dairy Management is vigorously promoting.

Dairy Management, whose annual budget approaches $140 million, is largely financed by a government-mandated fee on the dairy industry. But it also receives several million dollars a year from the Agriculture Department, which appoints some of its board members, approves its marketing campaigns and major contracts and periodically reports to Congress on its work. It also includes the National Dairy Council, a 95-year-old group that acts as its research and communications arm.

Dairy Management runs the largest of 18 Agriculture Department programs that market beef, pork, potatoes and other commodities. Their budgets are largely paid by levies imposed on farmers, but Dairy Management, which reported expenditures of $136 million last year, also received $5.3 million that year from the Agriculture Department to promote dairy sales overseas.

By comparison, the department’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, which promotes healthy diets, has a total budget of $6.5 million.

Every day, the nation’s cows produce an average of about 60 million gallons of raw milk, yet less than a third goes toward making milk that people drink. And the majority of that milk has fat removed to make the low-fat or nonfat milk that Americans prefer. A vast amount of leftover whole milk and extracted milk fat results.

Dairy Management, through the “Got Milk?” campaign, has been successful at slowing the decline in milk consumption, particularly focusing on schoolchildren. It has also relentlessly marketed cheese and pushed back against the Agriculture Department’s suggestion that people eat only low-fat or fat-free varieties.

In one instance, Dairy Management spent millions of dollars on research to support a national advertising campaign promoting the notion that people could lose weight by consuming more dairy products, records and interviews show. The campaign went on for four years, ending in 2007, even though other researchers — one paid by Dairy Management itself — found no such weight-loss benefits.

“Great news for dieters,” Dairy Management said in an advertisement in People magazine in 2005. “Clinical studies show that people on a reduced-calorie diet who consume three servings of milk, cheese or yogurt each day can lose significantly more weight and more body fat than those who just cut calories.” It was based on research by Michael B. Zemel, a University of Tennessee nutritionist and author of “The Calcium Key: The Revolutionary Diet Discovery That Will Help You Lose Weight Faster.”

The campaign lasted until 2007, when the Federal Trade Commission acted on a two-year-old petition by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, an advocacy group that challenged the campaign’s claims. “If you want to look at why people are fat today, it’s pretty hard to identify a contributor more significant than this meteoric rise in cheese consumption,” Dr. Neal D. Barnard, president of the physicians’ group, said in an interview.

Agriculture Department data show that cheese is a major reason the average American diet contains too much saturated fat. Research has found that the cardiovascular benefits in cutting saturated fat may depend on what replaces it. Refined starches and sugar might be just as bad or even worse, while switching to unsaturated fats has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease.
My biggest question in all of this may be, why is the U.S. Government bailing out Domino's!?

And finally, an oldie but goodie... marketing cheese to kids certainly isn't a new idea...


Anonymous said...

Well, I for one, would much rather have milk {regular or flavored} in schools over sodas any day. Why don't people concentrate on products that are really bad for you such as sodas? Milk is a wholesome product with many nutrients. I am not obese, or even overweight and either is my family. We eat dairy products, meat and plenty of fruits and veggies. I just tired of people trying to tell us what we should and should not eat. Everything in moderation.

melissa bastian. said...

If you're tired of people telling you what to eat then why are you telling other people that they shouldn't have sodas? And why are you on a vegan blog in the first place? That's generally what we call being a troll.

Milk is a perfectly wholesome food - for calves, the creatures for whom it is intended. I'm glad your family isn't obese, but that doesn't make you healthy. I don't know whether you are healthy or not. But I can tell you for a fact that there's plenty of stuff in that milk that you'd rather not be giving to your children, even if it's organic. Do some research.

Anonymous said...

Melissa, it sounds as though you are a soda fan and sorry if I offended you by stating I believe sodas should be taken out of're right, I shouldn't tell people they shouldn't feed their kids sodas.
Milk....I have done a TON of research on it. It is a very wholesome product, in my book. Soy on the other hand, not so much.
Have a peaceful day:)

melissa bastian. said...

Now is when we resist the urge to feed the anonymous trolls.

And fyi, anonymous, any further comments from you will be deleted, but I'm leaving up what you've already written just for comic relief.

Stoerm said...

This was a rather poorly informed article.

melissa bastian. said...

Hello "Stoerm". Did you read the actual article? Because, as I mentioned, what is posted here is partial. On what do your base your extremely vague analysis that the article is "rather poorly informed"?