“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.