We all remember seeing those terrible photos of dairy farmers dumping milk down the drain.
The first thing that many people said is "why don't the dairy farmers just give the milk away". We couldn't understand why during crisis farmers would let food go to waste.
As it turns out there's a number of reasons.
The milk supply chain is a complex one. It's dependent on many companies handling different parts of the supply chain.
Under lockdown, truck drivers can't work, storage facilities aren't open, refrigeration companies can't operate and farmhands are also under lockdown.
So they can't get milk to you.
Without refrigeration milk goes off very quickly. No one wants it.
Stores and companies don't want to keep it in their refrigeration systems because refrigeration costs money and there's no point in running refrigeration if no one is buying anything.
Even if dairy farmers could give it away, there is no quick way it to get to charities before it spoils.
This isn't simply a question of dropping by a charity and handing it out.
Some agency will need to put in place emergency measures to coordinate collection, packaging, refrigeration and distribution to the charities.
The current supply chain cannot pivot in time because its outdated.
Hence we're stuck with a problem that even if we could get the milk to charities in time it would most likely spoil.
Dairy farmers dumping milk is pretty bad - even given their reasons for doing so.
However it's actually worse than that.
People never consumed a lot of milk at the beginning of last century. However with the mass industrialization of farms during the 1950's some weird markets practices began taking over.
A study released in 2018 found that 73 percent of U.S. dairy producers’ revenue came in the form of various government supports.
Subsidies are effectively the government taking our taxes and doling it out to specific groups whether or not you or I had say in the matter. Personally I think it's crazy for the dairy industry to be getting 73% of their income from the government.
After all, I don't get 73% of my income from the government and neither do you.
Our taxes are being used to subsidize an industry that can't compete. In effect we're paying twice for it.
It's surprising to realize that 60% of adults can't digest milk. Although this totally makes sense when you think about.
Consumption of milk was mainly a European and Middle Eastern thing because the first agricultural based societies started there around 10,000 years ago. They started using domesticated animals to farm the land, and they just capitalized and drank milk whenever it was available.
But the rest of world never consumed milk.
Here in South Africa, we never had cows, sheep or chickens. Jan van Riebeck brought them over here in the 1600's.
It makes sense that people weren't designed to drink milk from another animal.
In order to increase milk production, the diary industries uses Bovine Growth hormone, Antibiotics and host of anti-inflammatory drugs on the animals.
Milk now is a chemical cocktail which is unhealthy for us.
This paints a troubling picture.
We the consumer are overpaying for a chemical cocktail called milk at multiple levels of the production process.
Our taxes are paid to a failing industry, we also pay for the product, and the product itself is unhealthy, so we pay once again for medical expenses.
And to top everything off, the farmers decide to dump the milk when business is not going well.
This is a broken food system which makes no sense at all.
The next time you see milk being dumped, rather than stress about the milk going to waste, instead just boycott milk and all other products from the dairy industry.