$52 Million Settlement Brings On Bigger Picture Concerns

NMPF and Related Entities settle CWT Class Action Lawsuit for $52 Million

No Guilt Admitted by Settlement

Name of Case: Edwards et al v. National Milk Producers Federation, et. al

Website containing several very pertinent court documents: www. boughtmilk. com

 (Note:  It is very troublesome to see that this case challenges the previous immunities, abilities, and parameters of the Clayton Act, Capper-Volsted, and the Sherman Act, important to the function of agricultural co-ops.  However, there will be many statements found in court transcripts, depositions, and other events in this suit which may shed light on the reasons for the Settlement.)



  • A Settlement Amount of $52 Million Dollars has been announced, in a 20-page  agreement dated August 11, 2016.
  • $26 Million is to be placed in an Escrow Account 30 days after preliminary approval [by the Court] of the Settlement Agreement.  The balance of $26 Million is to be deposited in same Escrow Account within 90 days after the Preliminary Approval is entered.
  • Documents indicate Settlement accounts will be funded by National Milk Producers, although member Co-ops Dairy Farmers of America (noted as successor to Dairylea by merger), Land O’Lakes, and AgriMark) are named in the court documents.
  • Attorneys Fees & Expenses to be deducted:  It is expected that approximately $17,333.333 million (1/3 of the Settlement Amount, along with a maximum of $2.4 million in expenses, shall be paid to plaintiffs’ counsel.  A maximum of $2 million is allowed for administration expenses.  Therefore, there is a total of $21.7 million to be deducted from the Settlement Amount of $52 Million, leaving approximately $30.3 million for distribution among class members.

Where will the Money to Fund the Settlement Money Come From?

The Settlement Agreement, as noted above, states that NMPF will fund the Settlement Accounts.  A valid question is “How will that $52 Million be replaced in the NMPF accounts?”  It is possible there could be an insurance policy that may cover this.  It is possible that NMPF may ask the defendant member co-ops for money to help fund the costs, but that would be between NMPF and the Boards of Directors of the Defendant Co-ops.  Producers should ask questions in their individual organizations if they are concerned about this matter

It is best to read the entire Settlement Agreement, along with other official court documents, which can provide thorough understanding.

Who are the class members eligible to file for damages?

CONSUMERS are Claimants:  Those consumers eligible for an estimated $30 damages/each are people who live in 15 states scattered over the country, plus the District of Columbia.   The final dollar amount will be determined by number of those who file claims Claims by Jan. 31, 2017.  The ‘Notice of Settlement’,  3 pages long, is the official court document which is the best reference, and is written per standards dictated by Federal Court Rules.  This map, which illustrates the states eligible to receive settlement monies, was downloaded from the boughtmilk.com website, which contains links to several pertinent court documents.



The Lawsuit was filed in 2014 challenging CWT activity which began in 2003.  The suit was originally filed by several plaintiffs.  At least some or all of the individuals are associated with a group called Compassion over Killing.  Their Mission statement is:  “Working to end animal abuse since 1995, Compassion Over Killing exposes cruelty to farmed animals and promotes vegetarian eating as a way to build a kinder world.”  An article gives their perspective at the time of the filing.

And for those who want to know the many items that have been vetted, reviewed, and discussed in the course of the litigation, go back to the beginning, and read the “Complaint” (legal term), which set in motion the course of action.  This 52-pg. document is written by the plaintiffs, and was filed with the court in December of 2014.


  •  Plaintiffs law firm, Hagens, Berman, Sobol, Shapiro LLP is based in Seattle, Washington and Berkely, California.
  • The case has been heard in United States District Court, Northern District of California, Oakland Division. The Honorable Jeffrey S. White is the District Judge who has presided over the litigation. As such, he signed off on the Class Certification Order.
  • Court Documents name the defendants who include National Milk Producers Federation and member co-ops DFA, Land O’ Lakes, and AgriMark. Their legal teams are based in several states in the Eastern United States.

Should the Defendants have settled?

 This is a question which only those intimately involved – and who are well versed in both class action law and federal court case law –  are qualified to answer.  There would have been a far greater financial risk had the case gone on to trial, along with significant additional legal expenses. Millions of dollars, and the risks of being liable for even hundreds of millions of dollars, quickly add up in all class action suits.

RECISSION? APPEAL?  Can the Settlement be Invalidated?

In the Settlement Agreement, there are a few clauses which refer to “Recission,” which describe what will happen  if the Settlement Agreement is appealed, or some other events which could void the agreeement.  It is far too early to predict if such actions will take place, but due to the fact they are mentioned in this agreement,  they can always occur.  The lengthy settlement process in the Northeast Milk Litigation is an example of ‘anything can happen’ in a court of law.

 BIG PICTURE QUESTIONS are raised about long-term CO-OP IMMUNITIES:

  • In general, the class action lawsuit challenged CWT as a vehicle for price-fixing and as a violation of antitrust. Due to the stature of all of the parties involved in developing the CWT, along with the fact a decade passed from the time CWT was instituted and before this suit was filed, it is difficult to understand the impact of the allegations in this suit at this time.
  • The CWT was initiated in 2003, and this suit was filed in 2014. The CWT was well publicized, and legal teams would have had significant input into its design. Why was the CWT not challenged legally at its inception?
  • Did those who designed the CWT miss something at the time, or have times changed and events in the decade since diluted the abilities of Capper-Volsted, the Clayton Act, and how they relate to the Sherman Act?

Questions going forward for all Agriculture Co-ops:

  • Will more lawsuits of this nature be initiated by AR groups? How will we in agriculture get prepared for them?
  • What other kinds of challenges will Capper-Volsted, the Clayton Act, and the Sherman Act have to withstand going forward from any other type of consumer group?
  • As will all big picture events occurring in agriculture today, this settlement could have implications far beyond a $52 Million Dollar Settlement. Only time will tell.


A Bloomberg writer has posted this article on Sept. 8.  In my opinion, radical wording in the headline which is very shortsighted and shows a lack of knowledge and research into the program’s early days.    This is another example of how words can harm a challenged industry of great people mostly trying to maintain their family farms, which are a treasure to them.   We in agriculture have got to figure out why folks think so little of us, and farms that do feed a world are taken so much for granted. .

The Huffington Post has posted this article.

What’s Missing: 2008-2010 Dairy Crisis saw farm prices down the drain, and Fast Food Dollars and Taxes were generated by the hamburger industry

One item left out of the discussion of any ‘big media’ report is that if the program were designed to raise prices, then the years of 2008-2010 saw some of the worst milk prices in history as paid to farmers.  Many farmers were forced to exit the business in those years, and if they didn’t exit, lost many years of equity. However, if any of those numbers were brought up during the course of the suit’s activity, then a thorough study of the transcripts is required.

And then, there’s no doubt that the slaughtered cows, which were slaughtered by elective choice of the owners, many who may have been facing financial walls, went into the fast-food industry as hamburger.  Event the HuffPo article admits that.  However, what is left out is the amount of income this generated for the fast food industry, along with the tax dollars generated.

This story continues to evolve, and many questions remain.

Southeast Milk Litigation: All Payments to be Finalized in Fall of 2016

Sun Photo by Phil GentryFederal Court House

Sun Photo by Phil Gentry Federal Court House

(Greeneville, TN)  All payments to class members in the Southeast Milk Litigation (SEML) will be final this fall with the completion of up to two additional payments from different settlements in the historic Class Action.

One of those payments will complete the cycle of payments in the Dean Foods portion of the Settlement. Individual recipients should expect to receive an amount similar to the previous Dean payments.

“Almost unbelievably, there are some uncashed checks from previous payments which need to be cleared before those payments can be finalized,” says John Harrison, Class Representative for the plaintiffs.

“Those uncashed checks must be accounted for or reconciled before final payments can be made, since everything must zero out before final closure of the Settlement accounts.”

Letters, some containing reissued checks, have been sent to the owners-of-record of those uncashed checks, with a reminder that those checks must be deposited within 30 days  of check issue (approximately, by the third week of August).

ANY QUESTIONS?  Act Immediately!  If anyone believes that they fall into this category of ‘uncashed checks,’ or if anyone believes they are due a payment which they have not received in previous cycles, they are asked to immediately contact the Attorneys-of-Record of each of the Litigation subclasses as follows:

Independent producers, as well as all other producers belonging to co-ops other than DFA, should contact Baker-Hostetler, by phone at 202- 861-1500, or via mail at:

Southeast Milk Litigation

Baker & Hostetler LLP

Attn: Robert Abrams, Greg Commins, or Danyll Foix
1050 Connecticut Ave., NW

Washington, DC 20036


DFA producers should contact Brewer & Terry, by phone at 423-587-2730, or via mail at

     Southeast Milk Litigation

Brewer & Terry, P.C   Attn:  Steve Terry or Gary Brewer

1702 W. Andrew Johnson Hwy

Morristown, TN   37816

The Dean Foods Settlement, a total of $140 Million dollars to be paid over five scheduled payments, was final in June of 2012, with four of those payments already paid to class members.   This fall’s payment will be the last.

The second expected payment, much smaller, will reflect the final apportionment of the Dairy Farmers of America and Related Entities Settlement, which received final approval by the Court in May of 2013.  The initial $140 Million Settlement phase was paid out in one lump sum at the end of December, 2013, and was prorated to individual class members according to production in defined time frames. This fall’s payments will distribute any remaining funds.

All activity in this case was conducted following Federal Class Action laws and directives, and all procedures took place accordingly, under the supervision of the Court.  Judge Ronnie Greer presided over the case.

The amounts of the total Settlement in this case, which totaled in excess of $280 million dollars, set a record in the US Federal Court, Tennessee, Eastern District of Tennessee, and is one of the highest ever reached in dairy or food industry history in the United States.  Terms of each of the Settlements state  that none of the defendants admitted guilt.

For court documents and more information on the litigation, please refer to www.southeastdairyclass.com.  In addition, various articles are posted at www.milkshedsblog.com, or please google search “Southeast Milk Litigation.”

#NationalIceCreamDay: Big Orange Spoonfuls Churned by Cruze Farm & Mayfield Dairy


National Ice Cream Day (July 17th) has been served up with a spoonful (well, several spoonfuls) of local farm dairyliciousness !

In East Tennessee, in the very heart of Big Orange Country, ice-cream lovers are lucky to have many great flavors of ice cream available, which are produced using milk from local dairy farms.  Those many flavors are found in two different commercially available brands. Both brands, Cruze Farm, and Mayfield, are popular and iconic in their own right. And both brands support local economies all the way from cow-to-consumer!

Cruze Farm is a single farm which has elected to pursue the difficult path of being a single producer-handler.  They market several types of fluid milk, and are especially known for their buttermilk.  With a very memorable branding program featuring stylish milkmaids clad in gingham, Cruze Farm has become an East Tennessee  and southeast favorite over the past 25-or-so years. They recently opened a seasonal pop-up-shop near Market Square, a food hot-spot, in downtown Knoxville, TN.

Mayfield is a beloved commercial brand founded over a century ago in Athens, TN, and still based there, now under the Dean Foods umbrella.  Mayfield ice cream can be found in several states in the southeast and now expanding it’s geographic reach up the Eastern seaboard.

Due to its market scope, Mayfield supports many regional farms in the southeast, in turn contributing to local agribusiness and economies in the areas where those farms and cows are located. Dairy cows eat lots of feed, formulated and balanced in many different ways, with many different grains and forages.  Mayfield products, and the consumers who buy them, also support many area grain and hay farms who supply those cows with feedstuffs.  This is one way that a ‘regional food system’ which supports medium-sized family farms, continues to be sustainable.

On National Ice Cream Day, it seemed a natural fit to visit the new Cruze Ice Cream Shop. Many East Tennessee minds apparently were thinking alike, as a line out the door signaled the ice cream boutique’s popularity!


Knoxville Food Tours, which has hosted nearly 6500 guests in over 700 tours, had a lively group ending their culinary tour of the downtown area with cones and cups!  We talked about how #NationalIceCreamDay is really a ‘thing!’  Did you know #JulyIceCreamMonth and Ice Cream Day were official declarations of Ronald Reagan?


A member of the group, Katrina, also professed her love for ice cream’s parent – Milk!


A group of folks who struck up a conversation as they made their way through line discovered they had several connections and common acquaintances through the UT College of Agriculture. (A couple already knew each other.)   It made for a great afternoon to spend time catching a sidewalk breeze and relishing the tasty treats!  From chocolate to strawberry to peach, a smorgasbord of flavors filled the cups and cones.


And anyone who knows Emily already knew what flavor she was savoring – Coffee!


National Ice Cream Day in Big Orange Country could only end with a nightcap of Orange Ice Cream, this time courtesy of Mayfield Dairy, even it it was accented with a bit of pineapple.


Local Cows.  Community.  Conversation.  Local Farms. Ice Cream.  Local Economies.

National Ice Cream Day in Tennessee.  That’s how we ‘bowl!’



Marking Brexit – A Snapshot of Change in a Milkshed Supper


“Brexit,” an election in which the United Kingdom voted to secede from the European Union, is a day of historic proportions.  While voting took place  on Thursday, June 23, 2016, so many people voted, and the vote was so close that results were not known stateside until early in the wee hours of the morning on Friday, June 24th. The media went into a tailspin, and the financial markets had a pretty rough day.  Nothing knew when change happens.

To mark this occasion, it just seemed appropriate that a simple summer supper, highlighting a UK-US milkshed,  was the most perfect end to this very unique 24-hours in history.  And eventually, we’ll know the effects of this vote on the global milkshed.

The Dairy Dollar$ at stake?  In a  June, 2015 report, the United Kingdom was ranked  10th in the world market, projected to have a global $442.3 Billion value by 2019.   Germany and France, also members of the EU, are ranked 5th and 7th respectively.  Additional information about the EU dairy profile and output is here.   A 2013 article ranks the world’s top 20 countries. (Note: since this is 2013, there may be some slight changes, but this should be a good overview.)

The complexities of this day of Brexit, with geopolitical implications on all fronts, have been enough to make one dizzy with pundits on radio, television, and on social media weighing in on every angle possible – some of them spoke from a knowledgeable aspect. Some weighed in just to be saying something, and were grasping at straws, verging on ridiculous.  The smart ones were saying ‘we’ve never seen anything like this, but changes will be coming, and we’ll have to wait to see what they are.’

My opinion:  I don’t live in the United Kingdom, so it’s really improper for me to comment one way or the other on what was the right thing to do, or to speculate on the short- or the long-term implications, or what effect this will have on an American election later this fall.  It is far too early to know any of that, no matter how learned one is, or how many charts or polls are floating around on any form of social media.

However, I deeply admire and respect a people who voted of their own free will for change they felt was necessary – no doubt, driven by an undercurrent of discontent because of what they were experiencing in their everyday lives.  I cherish a form of government which allows those free-will votes, and allows the people to determine their fate. It was a close vote. Time will tell if that was a right vote, or not.

Because my roots – several generations back –  trace back to Scottish immigrants,, who, driven by their own sense of discontent, came to the US, I am interested in how it all settles out. That knowledge will come in due time.

My head was spinning with all the news, so a walk in a country lane with a far more simple purpose in mind was the perfect way to clear my head.

The sweet corn patch was sending an ‘I’m getting close to being ripe’ signal with rustling silks that were turning an inviting form of brown.  I’d been watching them for a few days, wondering ‘when?’  I couldn’t wait any longer, and came to the house with about a half-dozen ears just to check.

There’s nothing quite like the first ears of sweet corn out of a corn patch in any season.  The long wait over the winter – a dreary drought of corn-on-the-cob for a maize purist – only makes the anticipation that much harder to endure.  The mildly sweet flavor, not quite fully developed, that is enhanced with butter and salt.  Not manna – but oh, so close!

On this day of all days,  I couldn’t help but think about all of the changes this modern world has brought. That American grown corn is a variety called Obsession (yes, it’s a GMO sweet corn, a nod to safe food science with some weed control thrown in.)  And it’s wonderful.  And I feel very, very comfortable eating it.

The European Union is a big player in the world dairy marketplace.  The United Kingdom, in a June, 2015 report was ranked 10th in world production.

I had Kerrygold, an Irish butter I’m quite fond of, in the fridge, so that was the creaminess which buttered my corn tonight.  The plate?  Spode china, made in England, in a pattern called Milkmaid.  [The china was largely purchased at the American discount chains TJ Maxx and Tuesday Morning, retailers who source from all around the world.)  And the salt – from a Morton shaker, source unknown.

The best statement summing up Brexit and dairy came from Dr. Judith Bryans, Chief Executive of Dairy UK.  As reported in a Dairy Reporter article, she said:

“Dairy UK did not take a side in this debate because we knew regardless of the result, we would continue to operate in a global dairy marketplace and demonstrate our unwavering commitment to give the public nothing but the best of UK dairy.”
Dr. Judith Bryans, Chief Executive of Dairy UK

I’m betting that statement applied not only to dairy, but to other product sectors as well.

If the products are good enough, the market will get them to us.  The  UK has plenty of wonderful dairy products with storied reputations – Stilton and KerryGold are two – and the players in the marketplace will keep those trade pipelines open.

Some lines of farm equipment, also part of the global #milkshed, will be affected.  #McHale Hay Balers, made in Ireland, used by a lot of farms shipping to Kerrygold, and now imported into the United States, are one of the best hay balers I’ve ever seen operate.  An ag supply company I’m associated with  is now a dealer.  There may not be some changes in their availability, or there might be.

Whatever changes, even if there are any, will be dealt with by each company and distributors along the supply line.  The market will find a way to make it work.

In the meantime, I don’t plan on getting caught up in the flurry of ‘what ifs’ and ‘the sky is falling’ and ‘oh my goodness, folks got tired of the way things were going, and look what they did!’  No time for that, and very little that can be done to control it.

If you wish to read more of the early speculations about Brexit in general and food implications,  here are some suggestions:

1.) For “Brexit 101,” a general background of events that led to Brexit

2.)  For “What Happens Next,”  an explanation of what and when (Note: this is a process that will take several years.)

And please check back, I’m likely going to add some links here just to keep all of the appropriate Brexit information consolidated.

So for now, I’m going to work on things I can have more control over than Brexit speculation and fear-mongering.  I will eat more sweet corn, on English serveware, slathered with Irish butter.  Maybe not a celebration exactly, but this is a summer of history, which needs recognized.  I can  make sure that some of that corn gets into a freezer, or sold, or given to a few select individuals, and that I get some writing tasks and projects completed

The global milkshed is a part of a global economy.  That is a fact.  What is also a fact is that within that global economy, individual nations can change how they participate in that global economy, and Great Britain has done just that.

There’s always a big picture, and always a smaller snapshot, right in front of our face. The big picture sometimes changes that smaller snapshot, more immediately felt by an individual, and sometimes it doesn’t.  In the case of Brexit, we just don’t know yet.

I’m not going to let fear of change  – or what ‘may’ happen – ruin my summer, or my year. In fact, sometimes the greatest growth comes with change. We are all blessed to be witness to this historic transition.





#NationalHugABaristaDay; Hugging Bovine Baristas!

Who even knew there was a #NationalHugABaristaDay?   By Twitter algorithms, it’s today, June 11th!  (Don’t you just love the twitterverse we live in?)

So I’m celebrating with a post about two of my favorite things – cows and coffee!  (I just love bovine baristas, don’t you?)

How many of you have tried Caribou Coffee’s Premium Iced Coffee Beverage, a new and super-dairylicious, milk-based, caffeinated,  taste-bud sensation?  The first day I found it, May 15, at a Dollar General in East TN,  I was inspired to at least do a post for Facebook:


And on that very same day, a dairy industry colleague, Sherry Bunting, picked me up for a short ride down to a farm on the NC-SC border. (Sherry was delivering a goat her daughter had sold to a SC #farmHer – perhaps another blog post in the making!)

Being the curious dairy industry communicators we are, and because Sherry needed caffeine for a long drive on down to Texas, we ended up at another Dollar General in Chesnee, SC.  We were SO GLAD (and kind of amazed at the karma involved at the timing of all this) when we found the same calcium-coffee concoction in that cooler.


Dean Foods, one of America’s largest dairy processors, has developed and is distributing the beverage in a joint venture with Caribou Coffee.  Announced to be available by March, 2016,  this was the first day (May 15th) either of us had found it on a retail shelf.   Result: Two very excited Caribou Dairy beverage fans in one day!

Now – as to the #MILKSHED involved (all known from the information on a label):

These bottles were processed at a Dean Foods plant in Riverside, Ca, (Code #06-128), with the milk most likely originating from California herds. (Note:  educated guess based on milk transport and CA’s huge dairy cow presence and milk production, but not for sure known.)  It’s also a guess that this plant had the specialized equipment available needed to produce such a delightful product on a large basis. Dean Foods, because of its size and nationwide network, has the built-in distribution system required to bring the product to retail outlets across the country, in a cost-effective manner.

Even the labels are of a ‘new age.’

Many consumers, myself included, have been frustrated because ‘serving size’ didn’t necessarily match ‘container size.’  However, in this case, a shout-out to Dean Foods and Caribou for going a step further, and putting both ‘serving’ and ‘bottle’ size on the label!


As for the nutrition, USDA is in the process of writing new label standards, and it appears that ‘added sugars’ will have to wait for a bit to be included.  If you are a diabetic or watching sugar intake, realize you must balance this aspect with other parts of your daily diet.

And lastly, the label engages one with a delightful message:  on this label of Sea Salt Caramel flavor, the message is “JUMP into life!  Just make sure the cap’s on tight first!’, then followed by some wordplay. Lessons in life, and lessons in marketing, too!  The messages differ for different flavors (Sea Salt Caramel, Chocolate Mocha, and Vanilla), so I’ll encourage you to go try some for yourself!



Why is this Tennessee-southern gal OK with buying a drink made with milk from cows in California?  Several reasons apply:

  1. I have dairy friends in California, and they are experiencing an extremely challenging on-farm low price cycle as this is written. Anything that will help them move milk for new uses is very exciting.
  2. Dean Foods has several plants in the southeast, and if this beverage meets with widespread acceptance, then it means financial stability for Dean Foods in general, and that will benefit Dean plants across the country.  That’s good for both dairy farms and milk plants across the country.
  3. Any new product or beverage that helps sell milk in general is great!  Coffee drinks in the past few years have proven to be a big boost for dairy farms and milk consumption in general, and we cows and people in the dairy industry really appreciate that!  So many THANKS to all you lovers of Lattes, and Champions of Cappucino!
  4. I’ll keep buying regular milks produced by the cows in my neighborhood and processed at the local milk plants near me  – I’m a great believer in local food systems, and make a conscious effort to support that belief with my dollars.  However, a locally processed dairy beverage of this type is not conveniently  and readily available at the current time, in the paths where I most often travel.  There is a local processor who does make a similar product, and it is wonderful, but it’s often sold out on delivery!

For now, I think I’m going to heed that message of “JUMP,”  and go JUMP in the car, and find some of that Caribou Iced Coffee on this hot June afternoon!  I’ll be going to a Dollar General store, because I know that’s where I can get this in my small town.  Look for this at a retailer near you – you’ll be glad you did!

Have a dairylicious #NationalHugABaristaDay!  Party till those Cows Come Home!


Drink Up! MILK is Official! June Dairy Month is Here!


June Dairy Month is off to a Jumping Start!  It’s time to toast and drink up MILK’s goodness in every facet of the Worldwide Milkshed!

Please join this young farming couple, Tyler and Alli Davis Kamper, of Tennessee (with some Virginia, NC, and California thrown in) in a toast to:

  • Cows
  • Farmers
  • Processors
  • Retailers & Restaurants
  • Consumers – and
  • Agribusinesses who serve farmers, & the lands which take care of those farmers
  • And the jobs and economic activity nourished by milk!

Most dairy industry folks have been really busy with celebrations of all sorts in the past couple days, this writer included, so this post is going to be brief.  The photograph above hits a lot of notes common to today’s milk markets – young farmers, coast-to-coast connections of dairy people, corporate business, and precious soils; all those aspects of any milkshed.

Today, I want to celebrate 20 very special states – states who have designated MILK as their OFFICIAL BEVERAGE!  Is your state on this list?


I was delighted to wake up to a breakfast bar this morning featuring this sight – a refrigerator full of dairy products, which in itself is a celebration of the Worldwide Milkshed.


Every product in this fridge in Cookeville, TN is an illustration of the Dairy Industry’s collective scope:

  • Hampton in Cookeville, TN  (this is a traveling society, myself included!)
  • Yoplait Yogurt processed in one of the world’s largest yogurt plants in nearby Murfreesboro, TN (both the Greek and the regular yogurt)
  • Prairie Farms milk bottled in Somerset, KY  – milk from farmers I know in KY and a milk cooperative based in the Midwest.
  • Dannon Oikos Yogurt processed in Utah, and likely sourced from a single farm contracted to Dannon / Danone (a French global dairy giant)
  • Jobs for processors, marketers, farmers, and truck drivers all along that path!

And no June Dairy Month ‘first post’ is complete until we recognize the bovine ladies who make this month possible – the cows themselves.  Milk, that wonderful elixir of nourishment and great taste, comes from a variety of breeds who due to a gene package from the Good Lord above can process almost any feedstuff into creamy, delicious milk – HE does provide!  And from that white milk a huge economic chain is launched that provides jobs and feeds economies in a very big way.

See you later – I’m off to another Cow Celebration!


Drink up the Magic of Milk with Tyler and Alli!


Milksheds 101 – A Primer about a “Cow”mplicated Topic



A MILKSHED – just exactly what is it?

For the purposes of  this blog, a ‘milkshed’ is all of the factors and people related to bringing milk to a consumer.  Those factors include:

  1. Cows, mainly, but sometimes other mammals such as goats, sheep, water buffalo, or camels.  In my view, nut-based and plant-based beverages are not part of a true milkshed; they belong in a faux-milkshed.  However, I will freely acknowledge that sometimes allergies to mammalian milks necessitate the existence of the milk-alternative beverages.
  2. Farms and crops and feed for cows (Some farms have cows, some farms grow feed for others who have the cows.  Sometimes a farm does all of that, but often not in today’s world.)
  3. Farmers (farm families, farm managers, and farm workers)
  4. Agribusiness, livestock supply, farm supply companies, and veterinarians: those who provide products and services that farms need to stay in business
  5. Milk Handlers (milk brokers, co-ops, or farm owners /individuals) – those responsible for selling milk from farms to milk plants
  6. Transport systems – responsible for delivery of milk from farm to plant – includes trucking companies, and those who drive the trucks, those who service those trucks
  7. Milk processing plants – safety labs, quality control labs,  equipment, assembly lines, and some very expensive and very sanitary equipment.
  8. Distribution networks – from the milk plant to retail outlets such as stores, restaurants, or ice cream trucks!  Sometimes, depending on shelf-life of the product, warehouses and then to retailers or restaurants.
  9. Retailers – Groceries, restaurants, fast-food chains, convenience stores, caterers, ice cream parlors, cheese-mongerers, etc.
  10. REGULATIONS!  And again REGULATIONS!  Did you know the dairy industry is one of the most heavily regulated industries in the world?  At every step of the way, from farmer to retailer, there are volumes and volumes of local, state, federal, and in some cases, international regulations.
  11. LAWS and legal events:  Along with regulations, many local, state,  federal, and again, international laws touch that tall, cold, glass of milk.
  12. The consumer- the person who drinks a glass of milk or kefir, enjoys yogurt for breakfast, or eats a big bowl of ice cream as part of a celebration.  THANK YOU, to each and every consumer and afficionado of milk everywhere!

At every level of that milkshed – there are people, and jobs.  And those who supply  equipment and services for every level of the dozen steps of a milkshed above. (Really, there may be way more than a dozen – this is just how it worked out at this writing.)  Some of those people know only one level or niche of a milkshed, while others know and have experienced several aspects of a milkshed. Those who have ‘been there and done it’ are the ones I trust the most with accurate information about a complicated industry.

There are those who milk the cows, the farm families who live and manage the farm business (and it is a business), the milk fieldmen and fieldwomen who connect the milk plant or milk company and their quality standards with the farm,  writers and media folks who communicate to the public and within the different levels of the milkshed about industry events, farm kids, youth, college students and professors, and business executives – and more! Well, you get the picture – at least the start.

100 years ago, a milkshed was often as close as the backyard shed when the family cow was kept in a lot not far from the back door. Almost every residence had one cow.  If they didn’t have a cow, there was a nearby creamery, but the consumer pretty much knew where the cows and farms were that supplied that creamery.  Today, we live in a national or global milkshed that runs from coast-to-coast, and then around the world.

I am based in East Tennessee, but travel across the Southeast, so that is the local/regional milkshed with which I’m most familiar. However, my working knowledge and travel expands to a much wider base, from coast-to-coast, and border-to-border, and even ‘across the pond’ just a bit.

Those are the basics, but the reality is a Milkshed is much more complicated and intertwined than the very simplified explanation you see on this page.  Feel free to ask questions about anything milk!  Many of the answers I will know, some I will have to bring others in on, and some questions – well, answers may still be needed, just as answers are still needed for a lot of life issues.

I hope you enjoy the journey with me!