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DRUGS / FOOD: Hormone-free milk ad is false



------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE:  Hormone-free milk ad is false
SOURCE: Daily Herald, USA
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AUTHOR: Grace Leong
URL:    http://www.heraldextra.com/content/view/220825/3/
DATE:   04.05.2007
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DHTV Milk Ad
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2Eheraldextra%2Ecom%2Fcontent%2Fview%2F220825%2F3%2F
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Hormone-free milk ad is false

Got synthetic hormone-free milk?
How 'bout controversy?

A milk marketing campaign by Associated Food Stores has riled several
dairy farmers across the Beehive State and caught the eye of a state
agency, forcing the Salt Lake City-based grocery cooperative to change
its milk ads starting Sunday.

At issue is what has been described by the state and irate dairy farmers
as a "misleading" milk ad run by 170 of Associated Food's 400-plus
independently owned and corporate-owned stores, including Macey's, for
the past two weeks.

The ad says: "Got Hormones? We Don't."

But there's no such thing as hormone-free milk, said Kyle Stephens,
deputy commissioner of the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.

"Hormones are naturally occurring in milk, so the ad is false and
misleading," he said.

Starting Sunday, Stephens said, Associated Foods will change its milk
ads to say "Got All Natural Milk? Our Cows Do."

"We want to be good corporate citizens. But obviously we've offended the
dairy farmers," said Neal Berube, chief operating officer with
Associated Foods.

"We respect them and are compassionate to their needs. But we're not
embarrassed about giving consumers a choice."

Meanwhile, Associated Foods can continue advertising its store brand,
Western Family milk, as "all natural from cows not treated with the
growth hormone rbST," Stephens said.

That's because the Food and Drug Administration allows the term "all
natural" to be used on milk products that don't use added colors or
synthetic materials, he said.

Recombinant bovine somatotropin, or rbST, is a synthetic version of a
naturally-occurring hormone that was approved by the FDA in 1993 to
boost milk production. There's no significant difference between milk
from cows treated with the growth hormone and untreated cows, the
federal agency said.

Even its natural form, bovine somatotropin, a naturally occurring
protein found in cow's milk, does not have any physiological effect on
humans consuming the milk because it is biologically inactive in humans.
Pasteurization destroys 90 percent of bST in milk, the FDA said.


Dairy industry, retailers divided

But the bioengineered growth hormone, rbST, created by biotech giant
Monsanto, remains a controversial issue dividing dairy farmers and
retailers, especially those in the organic industry.

"We're not saying rbST milk is dangerous," Berube said. "We're not
saying it's good or bad. We have milk that's not treated with the
hormone rbST and we will continue to let consumers know we have that."

State Agriculture Commissioner Stephens disagreed.

"These ads are playing on a misunderstanding that rbST-free milk is
healthier than rbST milk," he said. "All milk is natural. And there are
no tests that can be conducted to differentiate between rbST and rbST-
free milk."

Still, some consumers are wary, and more seem to be requesting for their
milk to be rbST-free, he said.

Fueling such concerns is a recent petition by a coalition including the
Organic Consumers Association for the FDA to ban rbST because it
allegedly increased the risk of certain kinds of cancer for those who
drank milk from rbST-treated cows. But Monsanto, which produces the rbST
hormone, maintains it's safe.


More retailers go rbST-free

Those health concerns are apparently prompting other retailers to make
changes too.

In Utah, Kroger-owned Smith's Food & Drug stores have begun offering
certified synthetic hormone-free milk.

"Our milk suppliers are now providing us with raw milk they have
certified as being free of the synthetic hormone rbST, so Smith's has
recently begun using that supply in all our milk production," Marsha
Gilford, Smith's spokeswoman said in a statement Thursday.

"Utah customers will find information on the milk container label and
may possibly see some in-store notification in the dairy section."

Elsewhere in the nation, Chipotle started using rbST-free sour cream on
its burritos and tacos this year, and Starbucks said it would use more
milk without synthetic hormones.

Earlier this week, a Florida-based supermarket chain, Publix Super
Markets, began introducing a full line of milk without rbST.


Utah dairy farmers worried

Those changes are a troubling trend for dairy farmers like Brad and
Jason Bateman of Bateman's Mosida Farms in Alberta, who have been using
rbST intermittently for the past eight years to increase their cows'
milk production.

"This is just some marketing program that some silk suit dreamed up of
to differentiate their milk," said Brad Bateman, a third-generation Utah
dairy farmer. "If we stopped using rbST, it would cost us upwards of a
dollar per hundredweight to produce milk and we will be producing 10
percent to 12 percent less milk."

Bateman's Mosida currently ships 420,000 pounds of milk per day to
processors including Dannon Co. in West Jordan, Meadow Gold Dairies and
Cream O'Weber Dairy in Salt Lake City, and retailers like Smith's Food & Drug.

Already, four to five Utah County producers have closed their dairies in
the past year due to increasing urbanization and other industry
challenges, said Jason Bateman, Brad's brother and a board member of
Dairy Farmers of Utah, a nonprofit group representing more than 300
dairy farmers statewide.


Dairy industry's woes

Skyrocketing crude oil prices have driven up operating costs for many
dairy farmers, but milk prices have remained low, pinching revenues,
Jason Bateman said.

"This past year, our energy costs of propane and diesel have gone
through the roof, as well as our equipment and fertilizer costs," he
said. "We're now paying $53,000 a month in fuel surcharges for freight
shipping into and out of our farm, which we can't pass on to the
processors. Our feed costs have jumped because corn prices have
increased dramatically due to growing ethanol demand."

The last thing we want to do is put dairy farmers out of business,
Associated Food's Berube said.

"We didn't invent rbST-free milk. Consumers across the country want more
organic products. The government wants consumers to have more
information through better labeling," he said. "Our suppliers, Meadow
Gold and Layton Dairy, began asking for milk without rbST in March. That
will become the normal mode of production as demand for organic food
increases."

Milk produced without the synthetic hormone generally costs 30 cents to
35 cents more per hundredweight, according to Steve Frischknecht, a
board director of Utah Dairy Commission and secretary of the United
Dairy Association in Chicago.

That type of milk costs more in part because cows produce less without
the hormone.

But this shouldn't affect the cost of Associated Food's milk, Berube said.

"We're not charging a premium on rbST-free milk. But we've heard some
other retailers using this to get up to $1 more profit," he said.

The grocer co-op now offers rbST-free milk only in one-gallon and half-
gallon bottles under the Western Family, Meadow Gold and Shur Savings brands.

Nonetheless, these trends are worrying dairy farmers like the Batemans.

"If we lose an advantage like rbST, which helps us produce milk cheaper,
it's like taking money out of our pocket," Jason Bateman said. "More
dairy farmers will go out of business because they'll be less profitable."

Utah County now has 16 dairy producers in Genola, West Mountain, Spanish
Fork, Springville and Provo, down from about 20 a year ago.


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