Push Back Against Non-Dairy Products That Use Words Like ‘Milk’ or ‘Cheese’

Earlier this month, Bloomberg writers Deena Shanker and Lydia Mulvany reported that, “Miyoko Schinner is a perfect illustration of the American dream. To the U.S. dairy industry, however, she is something altogether different.

“A Japanese immigrant, Schinner started a small company that blossomed into a wildly successful vegan cheese maker, one with the potential to do for dairy alternatives what Beyond Meat is doing for beef substitutes. Her business, Miyoko’s Kitchen, began in 2014 as an e-commerce platform, trading on the popularity of her vegan cheese cookbook. After one weekend in which she received $50,000 worth of orders, Schinner knew her 40-pound batches wouldn’t be enough to satisfy demand.

So she figured out how to make 1,500 pounds an hour, raised $25 million and built a 30,000 square-foot facility in Petaluma, California. ‘It was very difficult to scale,’ said Schinner, now 61. Making dairy alternatives out of ingredients like cashews and rice miso doesn’t always work as planned.”

The Bloomberg writes explained that, “Until recently, the U.S. dairy industry had been relatively quiet about the proliferation of non-dairy products that use words like ‘milk’ or ‘cheese.’  But lately it’s been pushing back. Wisconsin, which calls itself America’s Dairyland, is one of the biggest dairy producers in the country. It’s also America’s biggest maker of actual butter.

“So when it came to the kind of ‘butter’ Schinner makes, Wisconsin and its powerful dairy lobby decided to draw the line.”

The article noted that, “[Dire circumstances in the dairy farm economy] have led some in the dairy industry, most notably lobbying groups like the National Milk Producers Federation, to campaign against alternative dairy products—specifically their use of dairy terms on labels. Changing consumer tastes are regularly cited as a chief cause of dairy’s slow demise, but vegan products using labels such as ‘milk’—or in this case, ‘butter’—are seen by the milk lobby as misleading consumers to unfairly steal market share.”

The article added that, “Senators Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, a Democrat, and Jim Risch of Idaho, a Republican, are pushing the Dairy Pride Act, which would require the FDA to create a system of stricter nationwide enforcement for product labeling and the use of certain words. Under the proposal, labeling something ‘milk,’ for example, must mean the product comes from a ‘hooved mammal.‘ A bipartisan House version has also been introduced by Representative Peter Welch, a Democrat from Vermont, and has 33 cosponsors.”

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