Letters: January 2010

LETTERS

Producer/trucker conducts retail survey

After establishing a transportation company in 2009, I had the opportunity to survey retail milk marketing and prices in 17 states and 27 cities or towns during October 2009. Among my findings:

• Prices for 2% milk in one-gallon plastic jugs and/or glass containers ranged from a low of 99¢/gallon in Chicago, to $4.36/gallon in Shreveport, La. The average price was $2.94/gallon.

• The highest priced organic milk was $6.49/gallon, in Milwaukee, Wis.

• I found two common threads among milk offerings from producer-handlers: 1) their shelf space was limited; and 2) they offered products at prices below their competitors.

• Milk is being offered in a variety of flavors, including orange, banana-strawberry and root beer.

• In only three markets was “rbST-free” or “rbGH-free” labels noticeable.

• In many stores, large signs indicating milk prices were displayed prominently, drawing consumers to the dairy case.

• In three markets, gallon containers were offered in a two-for-one price scenario, with a 10¢-20¢ savings per gallon.

• Another notable sign offers “WIC-approved” milk. In Texas, the manager of an employee-owned grocery store chain explained that whole milk might not be available to WIC recipients due to concerns over obesity. He indicated it would not be a welcomed change.

• Country-of-origin signs were used in one store.

• Shelf space competition was most fierce in Kansas City, Mo., with seven brands represented. Iowa City, Iowa and Shreveport, La., each had six brands in competition for shelf space.

• Four markets offered all varieties (fat content) at the same price.

• A trend of skim milk being priced higher than milk containing fat has become more noticeable.

As a Holstein breeder, and with producers being paid on component values, what kind of cow do we breed for if skim is more valuable? How should you feed and manage? What should you be paid if your milk buyer processor/consumer is demanding these products? More or less?

Consumers have hundred of choices available when they shop. Food is such a value and plentiful. No one else along the chain would work or stand for the return on investment and human capital for the pleasure of being in this business. Dairymen and women need and deserve to get more of the retail dollar.

Mike Richter, Rich-Lane Farms

Highland, Illinois

richlane@papadocs.com

Vail article is required reading for employees

I loved your article on the Vail Brothers (“Beating the Benchmarks,” September 2009 issue ofEastern DairyBusiness, by Susan Harlow). It is required reading for our employees. What a wonderful example of frugality and steady growth. There is so much in this article that the struggling dairy farmers of our area should pay attention to. Two quotes stand out:

1) “You borrow money to buy cows, but you don’t borrow money for machinery without a darn good reason.”

2) Any efficiencies or success has to do with people who work together well. When they can work things out themselves, that’s just magic.”

Keep the good reporting coming.

George B. Mueller

Clifford Springs, N.Y.

Dairy-beef quality researchers noted

A November 2009 Eastern DairyBusiness article, titled “Premiums & Deductions: Dairies Have a ‘Steak’ in Cow Quality” failed to adequately attribute the work of lead investigators Jason Ahola, University of Idaho, Extension beef specialist, and Holly Foster, independent contractor, California Beef Council, Sacramento. For more information about their research, visit www.bqa.org.

FYI

To offer your own opinion or response, e-mail Dave Natzke, national editorial director,DairyBusiness Communications, e-mail: dnatzke@dairybusiness.com.


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