Swirl of milk.
May 18, 2017

rBST Fades Away in the Upper Midwest

 |  By: Jim Dickrell

By the end of the year, most major dairy processors in the Upper Midwest will no longer accept milk from cows treated with rBST.

Foremost Farms USA will be rBST free by June 1st, says Joan Behr, director of communications. “The marketplace is requesting it,” she says.

Land O’Lakes (LOL) will be rBST free by the end of the year. “Because a number of customers who purchase ingredients from us in the Upper Midwest plan to become rBST-free, we will require our members in the region to be rBST free by Jan. 1, 2018,” says Becky Lentz, with LOL’s communication department.

“Our top obligation to our member-owners is to maintain market access for their milk. This means responding to demands in the marketplace, responding to changes in our customers’ requirements driven by consumer demand and providing flexibility to find additional outlets for our members’ milk. This was not an easy decision. But it’s the one we had to make in the best interests of our member-owners,” she says.

Associated Milk Producers Association, New Ulm, MN and First District Association, Litchfield, MN, will also be rBST free by the end of the year. Requests from cheese customers was the reason, and the one that made it necessary to go rBST free in all AMPI plants, says Sarah Schmidt, AMPI director of Public Affairs. AMPI has already been supplying rBST-free milk to Kemps fluid milk plants for a number of years.

“For us, the request was coming more from whey customers than from cheese buyers,” says Clint Fall, First District Association CEO. In First District’s case, it’s more difficult to segregate out streams of product from whey processing than it is from cheese manufacturing, where separate batches can be run. As a result, the First District decided to go rBST free by the end of the year.

Agropur, with plants stretching from Wisconsin to Idaho, will also be rBST free by the end of 2017, says Keith Braun, director of milk procurement.

The lone, major exception, is Dairy Farmers of America (DFA). “While DFA supports the use of safe production technology, such as rBST, we are seeing some requests for an rBST free milk supply coming from customers outside of the fluid milk industry,” says Kristen Coady, DFA’s VP of corporate communications. “We are working with these customers to supply their evolving needs.”

For its part, Elanco Animal Health, which markets rBST, expressed frustration with food companies marketing to consumer fears. “Elanco is disappointed by these recent announcements in the Midwest and we know many producers are, as well,” says Tina Gaines, Elanco’s director of North America Communications. “For many years, we have seen food companies add label language in an attempt to differentiate their products by removing safe, scientifically-proven technology and modern farming practices from the dairy industry. 

“The consequences of these actions have a direct impact on the sustainability of dairy farms. Research shows that rbST helps cows produce more milk – about a gallon more per cow per day – which means farmers can produce the same amount of milk with six cows instead of seven. The use of rbST also reduces the carbon footprint of a gallon of milk by nine percent. The collective impact of this increased productivity each year in the US alone saves 95.6 billion gallons of water, reduces land needed for dairy farms by 1,023 square miles, and eliminates 2.9 million metric tons of greenhouse gasses.