June 13, 2018

I Buy All My Milk From Walmart

 |  By: Anna-Lisa Laca

Editor's note: In the wake of Walmart opening their Indiana plant on Wednesday, we are re-running this piece from earlier in the year. 


I have a confession. I only purchase milk at Walmart. Really. Well, except the occasional half gallon of non-homogenated chocolate milk bottled locally by a friend.

Last week upwards of 80 farmers who ship their milk to Dean Foods were told they have until May 31 to find a new processor. Many in the industry think this is a direct result of the new Walmart processing plant built in Ft. Wayne. And to be honest, it probably is.

As a response, the message being spread far and wide is a call to quit buying Great Value branded milk.  Let’s not get crazy. More harm than good will come from boycotting Walmart. Let me explain why.

When the milk price does finally come out of its sinkhole, it won’t be on the back of exports alone. Many analysts say this price cycle won’t recover without an increase in domestic demand of all dairy products. We need people to drink milk, eat cheese and buy butter from any store they can afford to patronize. Period. Domestic consumption of fluid milk has been on a steady decline for decades. Spreading the notion that milk from Walmart is somehow “bad” will not help boost it.

Walmart is not the enemy here. A glut of milk is. Year after year we produce more and more milk. Spring flush hasn’t even arrived yet and processing capacity is running at 90% in most regions. Walmart works with regional processing plants across the country to bottle milk under the Great Value brand through private label contracts. In many cases, those private label agreements help keep the lights on. For example, some of the milk that our family produces is bottled in Reno at a Model Dairy (Dean Foods) plant under the Great Value brand. If people in my area were to stop purchasing milk from Walmart it would only drive our milk price lower. That would be devastating. Last month our mailbox price was less than $14.

Walmart does not hate farmers. They don’t want to put you out of business. And to set the record straight, there was no coercion here. Farmers involved in this situation say Walmart has signed contracts with individual producers to provide about 40% of the milk they will need to fill the Ft. Wayne plant. The remainder will be balanced by cooperatives. The producers who signed contracts with Walmart were not strong-armed into the situation. There was clearly some kind of incentive for them to walk away from their current markets and partner with Walmart. Once those producers start shipping to Walmart there should be some capacity opened up to take in a good portion of the dropped Dean producers.

It’s easy to point fingers and place blame in situations like we continue to find ourselves in this industry. I understand seeing friends and family members lose their contracts brings out strong feelings. Let’s try to channel all of that emotion and passion into spurring milk consumption, let’s not use it to discourage our neighbors from purchasing milk. Even if they choose to buy it at Walmart.




Anna-Lisa is never short of an opinion. The Barn Buzz blog is where we house those. Find Anna-Lisa on social. Twitter: @annalaca1 Instagram: annalisalaca