Reporting on latest dairy surplus has more holes than Swiss cheese

Photo by  Jenny Hill  on  Unsplash

Photo by Jenny Hill on Unsplash

Reporting on latest dairy surplus has more holes than Swiss cheese

Recent Washington Post article America's cheese stockpile just hit an all-time high reports that the US has "amassed its largest stockpile of cheese in 100 years." It calls this "result of booming domestic production of milk and consumers’ waning interest in the dairy beverage."

So why is domestic dairy production booming even though the market is decreasing? The author omits several key issues including subsidization, product dumping, price fixing schemes, bailouts, and environmental impact, all while sugarcoating animal exploitation. 

There’s much more to the story behind why – and how – the US keeps producing a “mountain of excess dairy.”


The author fails to mention that 73% of the returns received by U.S. dairy farmers are a result of taxpayer subsidies.

This means dairy farmers are being paid with our tax dollars to parasitize hoofed mothers, whether or not human beings actually want to consume baby cow food anymore.

Not only do we subsidize production, we also pay to clean up the mess. For example, tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies are going to fund "anaerobic digesters" to try to minimize the pollutants in manure.

The dairy industry also spends millions on lobbying.

The thought of all this money and effort being poured into a product most adults can't even comfortably digest, humans don't actually need, and apparently fewer and fewer people even want – only for it to continually end up sitting in surplus en masse – is mind-boggling, but it gets worse.


The article states:

In 2016, dairy farmers requested that the agency buy more than 90 million pounds of cheese to cut the country’s 'mountain' of excess dairy.

Again, there’s much more to that story. As we wrote about back then, via a $20 million dollar dairy industry bailout, the US government pushed that unwanted supply on those in food assistance programs who have the least autonomy over their food choices – the majority of whom are part of populations that are "lactose intolerant" (meaning they haven't developed the gene mutation of lactase persistence). 

Gee, thanks Uncle Sam!


The article also omits the fact that during that same year, as we also reported, more than 43 million gallons of US dairy milk was "dumped or lost" (in a "normal" year, it's apparently somewhere between 20 and 30 million).

These tens of millions of gallons of unwanted milk literally just poured out into fields were produced in addition to the tens of millions of pounds of unwanted dairy cheese (which contains ten times the milk).

Oh, and that same year, the dairy industry killed off 500,000 cows sooner than planned in an alleged price-fixing scheme.


The author then naively claims:

"Better genetics mean that cows produce more milk, and consolidation means farms keep more cows," and a caption states, "Dairy farmers are producing record amounts of milk. It’s thanks to more cows and better genetics."

What does “better genetics” really mean?

It means we have selectively bred them to have the traits we want to exploit, to their own bodily detriment. We manipulate them through breeding and rearing to lactate persistently and excessively, specifically so we can take and sell their personal lacteal secretions.

The result for them is that they are always either pregnant or recently pregnant. After each nine-month pregnancy, each baby calf is typically permanently removed within hours after birth so the milk can be sold to people. The near-constant milking means many suffer frequent bouts of mastitis. And as a thank you, they are slaughtered as soon as it’s determined their dead body is more profitable than their living one. (Many of these issues are covered, with sources, here.)

Yes, dairy cows are slaughtered quickly and often. According to industry publication Drover’s, although dairy cows only represent 22% of all cows in the US, they represent an average of 47% of total cow slaughter.

Quite simply, even though it sounds counterintuitive, the more cows slaughtered, the more milk can be sold to humans, since each "older" cow killed (still only a fraction into her natural lifespan) is replaced by a younger one, and each calf killed or sold off to be raised/killed for "beef" means less milk diverted to them (even though many only get milk replacer anyway).

But “better genetics” sounds so much more wholesome, right?


Finally, also omitted altogether is dairy’s catastrophic toll on the environment.

From a resource standpoint, every day, each single dairy cow consumes:

  • 30 to 50 gallons of drinking water
  • 100 pounds of feed (which requires magnitudes more water to grow)

While producing:

  • 120 pounds of feces and urine
  • 260 to 650 grams of methane (an extremely powerful greenhouse gas)

...All so we can take a measly 6.5 gallons of liquid per day meant for her latest baby calf she wasn’t allowed to nurse or raise. (And again, cheese requires ten times the milk.)

(See sources for those figures below, also found here.)

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Like all animal agriculture (which uses more land than any other activity on Earth), dairy production greatly contributes to climate change. It sucks up global freshwater reserves. It exacerbates species extinction. Manure runoff pollutes waterways and makes people sick. And it entails needless exploitation and killing.

And that’s just the short list.

Now you know what’s really behind the dairy surplus – and what a crime against people, planet, and animals it is. If you have the access and autonomy to do so, please opt out of this unconscionable waste of resources and lives and go vegan. Although these industries will still be subsidized to exploit and slaughter animals, each vegan is one more person standing up to be counted that they will not be complicit in this giant mess.

And if you are in Ottawa, Canada, this event put on by Nation Rising on July 14th will be bringing people together to "demand the government stop its multi-billion dollar subsidizing of animal agriculture for the good of the people, the planet, and the animals."

By Lorelei Plotczyk

Comment & discuss here.


Sources for "Environment" section:
1) Dairy Herd Magazine: "A milking dairy cow drinks about 30 to 50 gallons of water each day. During periods of heat stress water intake may double."

2) Midwest Dairy Association: "A cow that is milking eats about 100 pounds each day of feed, which is a combination of hay, grain, silage and proteins (such as soybean meal), plus vitamins and minerals."

3) Animal Manure Management: "A mature dairy cow weighing 1,400 pounds can generate around 14 gallons (about 120 pounds or 1.9 cubic feet) of feces and urine each day with an average as-excreted solids content of around 12 percent."

4) Science News: "Emissions from a grown dairy cow can amount to about 260 to 650 grams of methane per day. Consider that the nation has 98 million head of cattle and you see the scope of the problem. One mid-sized animal could put out about 150 kilograms of methane every year, which has the same environmental impact as driving from New York to Los Angeles — three times."

5) Purdue agriculture food animal education network: "6.5 gallons: Typical amount of milk produced each day by one cow."