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Letter to the editor: on Milking the market

Apparently the food professor can’t get enough dairy

In an article posted by titled “Milking the market”, author Sylvain Charlebois again attempts to mislead his readers by constructing one-side arguments and omitting key facts from his analysis.

As Charlebois correctly notes, the per-capita consumption of fluid milk in Canada fell by 18% between 1995 and 2014. What his article fails to mention is that the pattern of decline in fluid milk consumption in Canada mirrors a similar decline in many other developed countries.

As a matter of fact, in the United States, milk consumption is now at its lowest historical level, having declined by 19% between 1995 and 2013. As Charlebois argues, changes in age, demographics and shifting consumer preferences can and do occur over time. This occurs in all industries in all countries–the Canadian dairy industry is no more immune to this than any other.

Fortunately, in Canada, the decline in the consumption of fluid milk has been more than offset by a corresponding rise in the consumption of other dairy products over the same time period–another critical piece of information left out of Charlebois’s analysis. In fact, from 1995 to 2014, there was a significant rise in the consumption of cream (+86%), cheeses (+1%), and especially, yogurt (+204%).

While the Canadian dairy industry will always continue to produce the highest quality fluid milk, one need only glance at these numbers to clearly see that we have adjusted our approach over time to address changing consumer preferences.

Finally, Charlebois, noting possible concerns from consumers about the treatment of animals, argues that “it would be a mistake for the dairy sector to not consider animal welfare as an important issue going forward”.

We couldn’t agree more–the health, well-being, and ethical treatment of every Canadian dairy cow is among the highest priorities of all Canadian dairy farmers. This is why we have taken it upon ourselves as an industry to design and implement a made-in-Canada program known as ProAction.

Under ProAction, Canadian dairy farmers take the initiative to set, adhere to, and constantly improve what are already among the world’s strictest standards for best practices. The national standards set by ProAction cover six modules, one of which is animal care. The reality is that when it comes to animal welfare, Canadian dairy doesn’t just get a passing grade–it sets the bar.

As a professor at the University of Guelph, Charlebois is expected to teach his students a balanced, unfiltered, unbiased account of the truth. As a journalist, I would urge him to show his readers the same respect.

Should he require some assistance, I, for one, would be happy to discuss the industry with “the food professor” over a cold glass of milk.

Wally Smith, president, Dairy Farmers of Canada

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