As the food industry evolves in the direction of all things plant based, major shifts have taken place in the previously padded pockets of dairy product producers everywhere. So much so that they’ve taken to FDA to set boundaries defending against imitations and substitutions of dairy foods using dairy terms such as “milk, yogurt or cheese” via the Dairy Pride Act. It’s been 3 years since Senator Tammy Baldwin brought this bill to congress and dairy farmers still haven’t forgotten about it. Though the Dairy Pride Act failed to pass then and again in March of 2019, The National Milk Producers Federation is still attempting to make their case.
Claims vs. Industry Reality
According to dairy farmers and those within the National Milk Producers Foundation, substitutes are merely imitators of real milk and do not stand up to the nutritional values of true dairy products. For this reason, the argument is that the food and drug administration should enforce strict regulations to ban non-dairy products such as replacements of yogurt, cheese and plant-based milks, from using dairy terms on their packaging. After years of strategic messaging and billions and ad dollars to promote the health benefits of dairy products, it’s easy to see how the plant-based movement is infringing on the dairy space, especially while major players in the dairy industry begin to file bankruptcy.
According to a public statement issued by Dean Foods regarding their unfortunate need to file for bankruptcy in November of 2019:
“While milk remains a household item in the U.S., people are simply drinking less of it,” Dean Foods Co. said in its November bankruptcy filing. “The decline in dairy sales has occurred in conjunction with the rise of oat, nut, soy and other alternative ‘milk’ products at retailers and food service locations across the country.”
Borden said that “…the price of raw milk has risen 27 percent in the past year and that it’s expected to keep rising, partly because more than 2,700 dairy farms have gone out of business since mid-2018.”
At the same time, dairy sales have fallen “in conjunction with the rise of oat, nut, soy, and other alternative ‘milk’ products,” which are eating away at both sales of whole milk and its shelf space in stores, Jason Monaco, Borden’s chief financial officer, said in an affidavit attached to the bankruptcy filing.
The primary argument of the case being made to the USDA is that consumers are confused by the misleading labeling of non-dairy products using terminology that leads the shopper to purchase their products under the ruse that they believe they are purchasing real milk. The 2nd leg of the argument lies within the unsubstantiated claims that plant-based milks do not contain the same nutritional value as their animal based counterparts. Well, let’s take a look shall we?
It doesn’t take a granular breakdown of nutrients between these two labels to see that the claims made by the dairy industry are not making sense when it comes to nutrient comparison. While some plant-based milks may not stand up, there are some that certainly do, and then some.
That leaves one to wonder, is the next big push for the Dairy Pride Act just that? Dairy pride? Because like the nutrition facts claims, something just isn’t adding up.
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