Survey Shows Consumers Misled by Plant-Based Beverage Marketers

In a survey done by IPSOS and commissioned by Dairy Management, Inc., 73% of consumers queried believe almond milk has as much or more protein per serving than milk from cows. It doesn’t. In fact, dairy milk has eight times more protein.

Another 53% believe plant-based beverage marketers label their products as ‘milk’ because it has similar nutritional value.

And the misinformation was even more common among those consumers who only bought plant-based beverages. Of those, 68% strongly or somewhat agreed that plant-based ‘milk’ beverages have the same nutrition as dairy milk.

Milk labeling “is much more than a sideshow over whether consumers can tell the difference between an almond and a cow,” says Jim Mulhern, National Milk Producers Federation president and CEO. Consumer confusion can, and may be, leading to an increasing number of children suffering from nutritionally-inadequate diets, he says.

“The Food and Drug Administration needs to immediately end the application of the term ‘milk’ to non-dairy products,” says Mulhern. That will help consumers distinguish between nutrient-rich milk from cows and water-heavy, nutrition poor imitators, he says.


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Staying Up When the Market is Down

Low milk prices, depressed demand and changing consumer preferences have collectively exerted a heavy toll on the industry and its people. ( )

It’s hard to stay positive through a long stretch of red ink, even in an industry you love. Or, maybe, especially in an industry you love.

Virginia Tech University Professor Emeritus David Kohl has worked with farmers for several decades, and through more than one economic downturn. In a recent video message provided by Compeer Financial, Kohl offered words of encouragement that included the following advice:

  • Surround yourself with positive people. “One of the things I find is that people’s net worth and self-worth often are equated and correlated to the type of people they stay around,” said Kohl. “Do the people with whom you spend most of your time see the cup half empty, or see it half full?”
  • Shut down the social media and TV. Be selective and limited in your use of media, as they often depict extremes. These over-hyped or highly passionate portrayals can be emotionally draining, even if they are extreme examples.
  • Rely on the wisdom of elders. “Sometimes we need to shut down our technology and have a talk with Grandma or Grandpa, or an older person in the community who has been through many of these economic cycles in the ag industry,” advised Kohl. “Their wisdom and philosophy can be reassuring, particularly in these down cycles.”
  • Invest in yourself. Leave the farm for some educational seminars, particularly those outside of agriculture. You are more than your profession – don’t allow your identity as a farmer be the only thing that defines you. Dedicate time for exercise, and take time for reflection as well.
  • Embrace opportunities to serve others. Spending time in service to those less fortunate can provide valuable perspective and help heal your own anxieties. “A friend who recently returned from a mission trip to Guatemala said it was an incredibly uplifting experience,” said Kohl. “There also are many ways to give back right in your local community, especially during the holidays.”

The end of one year and start of another is the perfect time to take a step back and assess business and personal goals, as well as take stock in your blessings that cannot be measured in dollars and cents.

New USDA Rule Allows Flavored Milk to be Served to 30 Million Children

Working to supply 30 million children in 99,000 schools with healthy and appealing meals, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced Thursday that the Child Nutrition Programs: Flexibilities for Milk, Whole Grains, and Sodium Requirements rule has been finalized.

The rule provides the option to offer flavored, low-fat milk to children participating in school meal programs, and to participants ages 6 and older in the Special Milk Program for Children and the Child and Adult Care Food Program.

Additionally, the law requires half of the weekly grains in the school lunch and breakfast menu be whole grain-rich and will also provide more time to reduce sodium levels in school meals.

“USDA is committed to serving meals to kids that are both nutritious and satisfying,” Perdue said in a press release. “These common-sense flexibilities provide excellent customer service to our local school nutrition professionals, while giving children the world-class food service they deserve.”

Milk consumption in schools has decreased over the past eight years as a result of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, according to U.S. Reps. G.T. Thompson (R-PA).

“If schools have more options, students are going to drink more milk, which was once a staple in the diet of our student populations,” Thompson said. “I applaud Agriculture Secretary Purdue for taking this important action to ensure students are receiving meals that are both nutritious and satisfying.”

The ruling has been praised not only by schools, but by producers and dairy cooperatives as well.

“This is great news, not only for dairy farmers and processors, but also for schoolkids across the U.S.,” says John Rettler, president of FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative. “This is a step in the right direction in ensuring that school cafeterias are able to provide valuable nutrition in options that appeal to growing children’s taste buds. Their good habits now have the potential to make them lifelong milk-drinkers.”

AVMA Calls for More Action on Veterinary Shortages

John Maday

The following commentary does not necessarily reflect the views of AgWeb or Farm Journal. The opinions expressed below are the author’s own.

Many veterinary students who are interested in rural, food-animal practice face a dilemma, with student loans, lower pay and other barriers discouraging them from pursuing that goal. Research from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and elsewhere generally shows that U.S. veterinary schools produce enough graduates, even those with food-animal specialties, to meet demand on a national level. Distribution however, remains a problem, with isolated rural areas facing ongoing shortages of veterinary services.

The USDA has recognized this problem, and each year works to identify shortage areas and provide economic incentives, through the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP), for DVM graduates to set up practice in those areas.

Last week, the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA) announced that 74 food animal and public health veterinarians will receive educational loan assistance in exchange for a three-year service commitment to practice in a USDA-designated veterinary shortage area.

“The VMLRP is one of the best tools available to help address veterinary shortages, and we’re grateful Congress recognized its importance by providing a $1.5 million increase in funding for the program this year,” says AVMA President Dr. John de Jong. He adds that VMLRP has become more important to agricultural communities as veterinary student debt now exceeds $140,000 on average, or more than $167,000 for veterinary students who graduate with debt. Compounding the problem, rural salaries are often lower than those for veterinarians practicing in urban areas.

Past recipients of VMLRP grants often credit the program with helping them establish viable rural practices. “Our local veterinarian owned the only large animal clinic in town and was desperate to retire, but he couldn’t find a younger veterinarian to take his place,” says Dr. Kaki Nicotre, a 2015 VMLRP award recipient based in Clifton, Texas. “The Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program made it possible for me to take over his practice and continue caring for the community’s livestock and pets. Now, I’ve settled down in Clifton and I’m looking forward to treating local animals for years to come.”

Dr. David Brennan from Ashland, Ohio, utilized the VMLRP to get started in rural practice in 2008. After 10 years, he purchased the practice in what he calls a natural progression. The VMLRP, he says, provides a double win, enabling young veterinarians to establish themselves in rural practices where their services are needed while also benefiting those communities.

Brennan says while some areas are under-served, there is no real shortage of food-animal veterinarians. In order to attract young associates, rural practices need to stay up to date and provide opportunities for young veterinarians to practice a full range of skills. He stresses that the role of rural veterinarians has changed, with more emphasis on consultation services including designing and monitoring protocols, analyzing performance data, evaluating facilities for cattle health and welfare, nutritional services and others, rather than “fire-engine medicine.”

According to the AVMA, the VMLRP has helped place veterinarians in more than 415 federally designated shortage areas across 45 states since its inception in 2010. However, more than 113 shortage areas remain unfilled this year.

In order to fill these areas of need and expand the VMLRP’s effectiveness and reach, AVMA is asking Congress to pass the VMLRP Enhancement Act, which would lift a 39 percent income withholding tax on the program’s awards. By ending this tax, which is covered by USDA, Congress could effectively expand the program’s reach without needing additional funding. AVMA encourages the veterinary community to contact Congress on this issue.

For more on this topic, see these articles on

NIFA Awards Nearly $10 Million to Address Veterinary Shortages

USDA Solicits Nominations for Veterinary Shortage Areas

Bovine Practice Well Positioned for the Future

Help Wanted: Rural Veterinarians

Additional information on the program can be found on NIFA’s website.