Dairy PhotoVoice

During my time in this class, working on this blog, there have been two industries I’ve hit particularly hard: the pharmaceutical industry and the dairy industry: both of which may come off as hypocritical, as I do consume things from both these industries. I take a hormonal contraceptive to combat a scourge of hormonal acne that has struck me in my early 20’s, and when I make a sandwich, a slice of swiss really does make it great. However, the beef I have with these is misleading marketing about healthful effects of their products.

Who’s selling me what?

Here’s the really interesting thing about the dairy industry in the United States – it is one of the main receivers of farm subsidies in the country. Starting in the great depression and continuing into World War II, the industry was subsidized for economic reasons – the depression because dust bowl areas were suffering, and just a general decline in consumption – these subsidies were to keep these small family farms afloat. During World War II, it was to keep these farms producing while people were away at war and the United States was such a powerhouse. Production and subsidies continued – with the government having an investment in whether or not that milk got sold – the farm lobby has a good stake in many policymakers. So the federal government, on top of these subsidies, bought milk and stored it in Missouri as reserves for cheese and butter. But here’s the kicker: these reserves, in 1983, were valued at over 4 billion dollars. So the government switched gears and began to take a pro-dairy approach to policy making – it implementing an advertising board and commission that made a choice to heavily market dairy products such as cheese. Got Milk, if you’re familiar, is a product of this commission, known as ‘Dairy Management Inc.”

That’s the who, here’s the what:

The dairy industry most definitely wants you to look at their product as wholesome, and healthy. A glass of milk on the side of your meal is their recommended consumption: so much so that school lunch programs are not allowed to call it a meal unless milk is served with it. Again, I don’t think milk is per-say bad for you – you’d be better off consuming a glass of milk than an equally sized glass of vodka, or even soda; but rather, the products that milk can end up in in the normal American diet (the ones that Dairy Management Inc. is promoting especially heavily – they’ve worked with pizza chains to make sure there’s MORE cheese in certain products) are at odds with what many dieticians and, even other government agencies, say is healthful to eat.

How Healthy is it?

Again, I’m not doubting the benefits that milk can have on your calcium intake – it’s, weight-wise, the best thing you can consume if you’re looking solely at calcium levels. A glass of whole milk is a 103 calories, so it’s not especially bad calorically either. However, don’t let the milk lobby talk you into thinking it’s the only source of calcium: dark, leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach or okra; white beans and soybeans; and some types of fish such as salmon, perch or rainbow trout are also good forms of calcium.

Milk, however, is something people can be sensitive to: lactose intolerance is relatively common among humans. It also can aggravate acne in those who are prone to breakouts; and those who consume skim or nonfat are more likely than those who consume whole to be overweight.

But milk itself is not the problem – rather, the problem is the things that milk pops into as an ingredient.

Dips and Syrups

These products are some dairy products that I found in my family’s fridge – all of these are not especially healthy uses for dairy. These items include sundae syrup; various dips and coffee creamer.

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Other dairy in our fridge also included cheeses – while the Brie and Provolone were slightly healthier, and more high quality in production, the shredded mexican cheese was not incredibly healthful.

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This is the creamer – while the calorie count doesn’t seem to be high, it’s also an artificially low amount for coffee creamer. Just a tablespoon?

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100 Calories for a topping? Wow.

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2 tablespoons as a topping is 18% of your daily saturated fat.

Why is it difficult to be healthy/unhealthy?

It’s difficult to know what’s healthy because people like to make clear-cut choices – “I won’t eat X because it’s not healthy” is a really good rule until you get into a complex process, such as the dairy industry. While it’s not bad for you on it’s own, and can have nutritional benefits, it’s difficult to make these close calls because they are able to add things to it and make it not-healthy-at-all.

 

Reflection:

Overall, I thought taking these pictures and putting together this post was fun – I really love doing research, so learning so much about the dairy industry and its subsidies was something that I really took in stride. As a history buff, I also LOVED being able to dive into some Great Depression and WWII history. (I most definitely had the Molly American Girl doll!) Plus, learning about billions of dollar in what is basically cheese reserves parallel something I learned about Canadians – that they have a syrup reserve. We’re not the only crazy ones, apparently.

I thought it was interesting seeing what my parents had in their fridge – I got home for the holiday last night, and this morning, rustling through the fridge, I noticed their eating patterns while we were gone. My parents are fairly health-conscious people, but the holiday season (and I’m thinking, having their two daughters home from college) may have spurred them to spring on some items they may not usually dive into. I’ve realized I’m not an incredibly artistic person, through my PR degree, but at this point I’m comfortable enough behind a camera to construct something that doesn’t look like it came out of Blair Witch Project.

Being not versed in iMovie (I’ve tried!), putting together a long-form blog post was a little more my speed. I thought it was an intuitive project for me – even though I wish I was a little more humorous with my captions. I try incredibly hard to be funny and witty, but not quite sure that this topic could support something like that.

I’m also shocked about how calorically dense caramel syrup is – I’d make a joke and say I should “Switch to magic shell”, but I’m convinced that’d be even worse… somehow.

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