Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Fair Trade...MILK!??!??!

Sunday afternoon, Alyssa and I made our weekly trip to Meijers, and like normal, I hung around the dairy and produce isles, seeing what type of marketing ploys a fringe group is aiming at production agriculture this week.


Have you ever heard of the concept of fair trade milk? How about “humanely certified”? Or Pasture Raised?? Who makes this stuff up?? Well, after some Google time, I have the answer.

It seems a slick talking, well-dressed gentleman by the name of Chad Pawlak is president of a group of farms called Grass Point Farms. Now, the fact that he is “President” seems a little contrary to the whole corporate-farms-are-killing-our-children routine he’s preaching, but we’ll get to that later. When you look at their website, which by the way, is written line-by-line out of what my friend Ben refers to as “Web Marketing For Dummies”, it’s obvious these people have done some homework. And when you read their info, background, and standards, I think we’d all agree with the concepts; safe, clean, healthy milk, produced by cows that are owned by families, cared for according to the highest standards, and are generally happy.

But here’s where ol’ Chad looses me...

He speaks at several points about how cows raised on pasture are happier, cleaner, and how they produce better milk.


He then brings up several points to consider before you buy, such as:

Who is profiting from this sale?

How far did the product travel?

Is the company socially responsible?

There were many more, but I’ll focus on these to start.

My family and I farm about 2 miles from a large dairy farm, where they milk around 1500 cows. The farm is run by a young man, along with his wife, mom, and about a dozen trusted employees. I know everyone on the farm by their first name; in fact, Jason, the owner, and I went to high school and MSU together. But back to Chad’s questions...

Who’s profiting? Well, I’d say Jason, if I had to take a guess. You see Chad, most of the milk at Meijers is produced by guys just like him, from all over the area. They load their milk into trucks driven by local guys, who take it to a processing plant in Grand Rapids, which is within about 50 miles of virtually every place it will end up. By the way Chad, how far is it from Sparta, Michigan over to Wisconsin, because unless you think you can float it over, it’s gonna be a long pull through Chicago to get your milk here.

As far as social responsibility, these farmers are just like the rest of us. We sponsor little league teams, coach soccer, donate to food banks, and pull floats in the Homecoming Parade. We live here too, and don’t you forget it. And while we're on it, remember, his profits get spent on things like my custom farm services, fuel from the local supplier, and feed from the co-op. You know, corporate America at its finest.

If a farmer or company wants to cater to a market segment, that’s fine. But please, don’t bash the rest of us on your way to the top. Offering consumers a choice is never a bad thing, but remember, there were about 20 gallons of Chad's milk on the shelf, compared to about 5,000 gallons of the other guys. I don't think it would have lasted very long if it was the only choice.

As the old saying goes, don’t piss on my leg and then tell me it’s raining.