When we picture the world of corporate corruption we always imagine men in impeccably well tailored suits who work for a huge, faceless oil or drug company, or something along those lines. We never think of the various companies that make up the dairy industry as being shady — they work with cows and make ice cream, how evil can they be? Well, we’re about to show you.
10. They Lobbied to Give Dairy A Bigger Section Of the Food Pyramid
Prior to it being replaced by the Healthy Plate scheme championed by Michelle Obama, the food pyramid was the go-to way schools, parents and health conscious members of the public decided how to portion their meals. What few people realize is that just before the food pyramid was set to be released to the American public in 1991 the dairy industry found out about it and didn’t like that the dairy section was towards the top of the pyramid, indicating that only one portion should be consumed each day.
So industry bigwigs spent the better part of a year complaining to the Department of Agriculture, presumably in an annoying, nasally voice. Now, as you’re going to find out through the course of this article, the dairy industry has an unreasonable amount of power to affect and influence government decisions. With that in mind, you can probably guess what happened when the Department of Agriculture released an updated food pyramid a year later.
If you guessed that the new food pyramid had a bigger section for dairy that suggested two to three portions a day, you’d be absolutely correct. In just under a year, the dairy industry managed to convince the government to tell every single person in America to triple their intake of dairy just by complaining really hard. Which, come to think of it, is pretty inspiring.
9. They Fought to Make Margarine Pink
Margarine is an innocent, ubiquitous product that you can buy in any store. But when the product was first introduced to the United States back in the 19th century, butter manufacturers positively blew their churns. In fact, they were so fearful of the potential dent this new product could make in their profits they complained directly to the government. Butter barons across America argued that the margarine industry should be banned from dying their product yellow. They reasoned that by dying their product yellow, instead of leaving it the unpalatable shade of off-white it usually was, margarine producers were unfairly trying to pass off their product as butter. We feel we should point out that these butter makers were dying their own product yellow to make it look more appealing.
Amazingly, the butter industry was not only able to convince the government that dying margarine yellow shouldn’t be allowed, they also managed to convince them to enact a law stating that all margarine instead had to be dyed a garish shade of pink. Which meant that for a brief but nonetheless significant period in American history, all margarine was bright pink just because the butter industry said so.
8. They Bribed Nixon to Raise Milk Prices
Depending on how old you are, Richard Nixon will make you think of either the Watergate Scandal or Futurama. We love the latter, but we’re here to talk about something related to the former. During Nixon’s time in office the dairy industry began to worry about their bottom line when poor sales and a boon in production resulted in huge surpluses of milk. A surplus of the white stuff meant that the government had no real reason or incentive to raise the wholesale price of milk that year, and in fact had every reason to lower the price for the consumer to stimulate sales. It was a thought that positively terrified members of the dairy industry who didn’t yet own a second solid gold toilet.
So in 1971 representatives from Associated Milk Producers met with President Nixon and offered him a multi-million dollar donation for his next election campaign. You know, just to be nice. A few days later, out of nowhere, President Nixon ignored direct advice from the Department of Agriculture and signed a bill to provide the dairy industry with the equivalent of half a billion dollars in price support. And instead of lowering the price of milk, the government decided to make it more expensive. Yes, all of this was later found to be super-illegal, which is about as illegal as something can reasonably be. But somehow no one ended up being prosecuted for bribing the President.
7. They Fixed the Price of Milk, Because Why Not?
Hey, remember when we talked about the milk surplus back in the ’70s? You know, 40 seconds ago? That’s something that happens quite a lot in the dairy industry, because our eating habits are anything but predictable. In 2013, the Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) found themselves with a huge surplus of milk and cheese and nowhere to put it.
Rather than admitting that they’d severely overestimated how much cheese America wanted or selling it as a more humane method of killing obese rats and mice, the DFA instead decided to simply create an artificial demand for dairy. The group bought and sold cheese futures, limiting the supply and thus increasing the price it could be sold for.
Yes, this was also illegal. In a satisfying twist, the DFA were found guilty of “manipulating trading” and were issued with a $43 million dollar fine, the closest the government can get to personally delivering a back-hand slap to the face. Despite begrudgingly paying the fine, the DFA steadfastly refused to admit that they’d done anything wrong. Kind of like how they refused to admit any wrongdoing when they were accused of price fixing raw milk back in 2009. It’s almost like these companies don’t care about breaking the law because they’ve got such strong ties to the government or something.
6. More Cheese On Pizzas
If you’re a fan of Domino’s Pizza you may have noticed that sometime between 2009 and 2010 their pizzas suddenly stopped tasting like cardboard. That’s because Domino’s “improved” the recipes for a lot of their pizzas. If you’re wondering why we put the word “improved” in the most sarcastic quotes we could possibly find, it’s because the only thing Domino’s actually did was put 40% more cheese on them.
Now if Domino’s had decided to effectively double the calories on their pizzas of their own volition, we wouldn’t really care. But their decision wasn’t influenced by consumer demand, it was influenced almost entirely by a group called Dairy Management, a splinter group of the Department of Agriculture who agreed to pay Domino’s advertising costs if they smothered their pizzas in cheese.
While this move did indeed increase Domino’s sales, it was also widely condemned by health groups who argued that maybe, just maybe, a single slice of pizza didn’t need to contain 66% of a person’s recommended daily allowance of saturated fat. They also argued that it was probably a teensy bit unethical for a group working for the government to promote anything that involved imbibing cheese by the pound, but those concerns were dismissed as “lame” and “super lame” in equal measures.
What really got people’s proverbial goat was the hypocrisy of the Department of Agriculture simultaneously campaigning about obesity while a group that worked for them spent millions promoting stuffed crust pizza, which you may recognize as one of those things people eat when they think their heart isn’t working hard enough to not explode. But hey, at least Domino’s ended up buying extra tons of cheese.
5. Lying About Health Benefits
We’ve spent a lot of time so far talking about how unhealthy certain dairy products are, but if we’re being honest with ourselves that really isn’t fair. Yes, dairy products like milk and cheese are full of fat, but they’re also good sources of protein and calcium. What we’re trying to say is that the adage “everything in moderation” is very apt when it comes to consuming dairy.
Despite the fact that milk has a multitude of health benefits one could tout, a company called Dean Foods still felt the need to lie through their teeth about how healthy their milk was. It reached the point where a professor by the name of Penny Kris had to ask them to remove mention of her study from cartons of their organic milk.
The company claimed, amongst other things, that adding Docosahexaenoic acid (a kind of omega-3 derived from the oil of fish) to their organic milk supported “brain health.” The claim was immediately refuted by the aforementioned scientist who conducted the study they cited. She said, “It’s not right — it’s inaccurate. It’s really a marketing strategy to sell more of their milk.”
4. Hiring Illegal Immigrants To Ruin Rivals
Milk is weird — it’s one of the most commonly consumed items in an average home, and yet most people couldn’t care less about where it comes from. If you were one of several thousand people who got your milk from Bad Axe Dairy between 2000 and 2007, it’s almost guaranteed that illegal labor played a part in bringing that carton of milk to your breakfast table.
According to news reports, for seven years 75% of Bad Axe Dairy’s workforce consisted of illegal immigrants. This allowed them to unfairly undercut rivals by paying their workers below the legal minimum. That went well for Bad Axe right up until they were caught and slammed with a three million dollar fine. Which, to be honest, they kind of deserved for such a terrible name alone.
3. The Milk Racket
Back in the 1930s a huge scandal rocked America when it was revealed that a group of milk salesmen, wholesalers and deliverymen in several cities had colluded with one another to covertly fix the price of milk. Local gangsters intimated, beat up and in one case bombed anyone who refused to comply with their wishes. This led to an almost universal agreement amongst people who didn’t want to be stabbed in the face to charge the exact same amount for a quart of milk.
The “milk racket” operated unimpeded for almost a decade until a coordinated effort by the police managed to take it down. After the milk racket was dissolved it was revealed that people were actually killed by milk racketeers in an attempt to control the lucrative milk market. Maybe we should be thankful that all modern milk salesmen do is lie to us.
2. Scaring People Into Drinking Milk
The Got Milk campaign is widely regarded as one of the most successful advertising campaigns in history. In the United States the phrase “Got Milk” is recognized by almost 100% of people, a feat only mega-brands like Coca Cola and Pepsi can claim to equal. The campaign worked better than anyone could have hoped and it’s resulted in practically every person in the States being aware of the various health benefits of milk. And that makes the fact that some of the commercials have had to resort to using scare tactics to make people drink milk all the more curious.
For example, back in 2003 one ad consisted of a montage of x-rays of broken bones and another showing a “calcium-deficient man’s” arms being ripped right out of their sockets. Both ads were meant to show the benefits of drinking milk in regards to bone strength and both came under fire for being out of step with the usual light-hearted nature of other Got Milk ads. In response to the latter ad, California Governor Gray Davis asked his staff if it could be pulled off air because he didn’t like the idea of an ad that tried to get kids to drink milk by threatening that their arms might fall off. And then a recall election removed Davis from office. Coincidence? Almost certainly, but we’re starting to think there’s nothing the dairy industry can’t accomplish if they put their minds to it.
1. The Organic Industry Is So Corrupt That Actual Organic Companies Hate It
This entry isn’t entirely about the dairy industry, but they’ve played a crucial role in what we’re talking about. For example, Dean Foods, the same company that lied about the health benefits of their organic milk, have “held nearly continuous influence on the [National Organic Standards] board” since its inception.
If you’re curious about what exactly the National Organic Standards Board does, they’re the guys in charge of deciding what “non-organic substances” you can put in organic food and still label it as organic. One item that caused considerable arguments in the organic community was the decision to add DHA to the list of acceptable things you can cram into organic food — the exact thing that Dean Foods were putting into their organic milk to claim it improved brain power.
The National Organic Standards Board has so many ties to big business that actual organic companies that aren’t owned by massive, multi-national corporations don’t want anything to do with it. For example, Michael J. Potter, the CEO of Eden Foods (one of the largest independent organic food wholesalers in the States), refuses to put the “certified-organic label” on any of the products his company sells.
And that’s the image we want to leave you with today. The CEO of the biggest independent organic company in America is so disillusioned with the organic industry that he can’t bring himself to label his own products as organic. Thanks, big dairy!