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Udderly Unimpressed: Healthwashing and Canadian Dairy


Written by Maeve Gallagher

We’ve been talking a lot about healthwashing on the Love in the Kitchen blog lately. When it comes to some of the moo-vers and shakers of healthwashing, the dairy industry is right at the top. When perusing the Dietitians of Canada "myth debunker" last week, I was a bit stunned to see myth #16 which reads: "MYTH: Cows' Milk is full of hormones and antibiotics."  The next one down read: "MYTH: Pasteurization Destroys vitamins and minerals in milk."

I was curious to see who were listed as sponsors for this "myth" debunking guide so I flipped back to the front page.  Lo and behold, the Dairy Farmers of Canada were a main sponsor. (And, another sponsor was Hellman's mayo- see myth #36: "Mayonnaise should be avoided when following a healthy diet." Don't even get me started there).

Let me lay this out, firstly, before I get accused of being anti-farmer.  Afterall, We are big, big fans of farmers here at the Love in the Kitchen headquarters and we think they deserve the utmost respect (uddermost respect? Ok, I'll stop now).  I do consume dairy on occasion, and my first stop for the good stuff is right here.

The "Dairy Farmers of Canada" are a group that claim to represent dairy producers, and lobby the government to adhere to their preferred regulations for ALL dairy farmers- even the small scale farmers, who aren't interested in playing along anyway. Despite claiming to represent all producers, this board of directors doesn’t have its small scale representees' interests at heart.  Dairy prices in Canada are among the highest in the world, but the farmers' themselves only see a small percentage of the profit on dairy.  The Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC) would have us believe the distributers and retailers of dairy are to blame- but really, you have to wonder- who pays for all the fancy schmancy healthwashing marketing campaigns the DFC run?

Let me explain. When my man, currently studying at teachers' college, came home with a DFC sponsored "nutrition program" for kids in grades 4 to 6, I was outraged.  It was the most blatant healthwashing bull (excuse the bovine inspired pun, there) I have ever seen. The entire kit, which is claims to be all about informing children to learn about "well rounded" nutrition and health, is completely focused on "bone health".  And how dairy is really, really good for bone health.  And how certain sports (like swimming- um WHAT?) aren't great for bone health.  And if you can read between the lines: go get your parents to buy overpriced, processed milk otherwise you won't have strong bones and you will be unhealthy.  These kits are mass distributed to schools, boards and teachers' colleges.  This is just one example of where Canadians' dairy money is going- misinforming children and parents alike, instead of supporting those farmers' who want reform in the dairy industry.

The healthwashing hooplah continues with the DFC. May not surprise many of you - nor us - that the whole “chocolate milk as a recovery drink thing” would be rearing it’s ugly head again. The most recent display is manifested in this campaign, aimed at “physically active men”.  The campaign aims to show athletes "heroically crossing the finish line" at a race, and is set to air on stations such as TSN and The Score.  This I just find downright disturbing.  Meghan has written before why chocolate milk is not a sports recovery drink, but considering the growing evidence of the link between dairy and prostate cancer, I find this latest campaign particularly careless.  Not that I would expect anything less of the DFC.  After all, this flashy campaign was another opportunity to splash around more money.

Reason 1,000,000,000 why I only get my dairy products from micro-production farmers such as the super awesome Ruth Klaussen of Monforte Dairy. If you are consuming any type of dairy, I suggest you do the same.

Question of the Day: What do you think of the Dairy Farmers' of Canada marketing campaigns?

16 Responses to “Udderly Unimpressed: Healthwashing and Canadian Dairy”

  1. Lisa said…
    Dear Maeve (and/or Meghan), I apologize, I directed my question (posted on March 14th) to Meghan when you in fact were the author! You wrote that you were stunned to see “Myth #16 which reads: “MYTH: Cows’ Milk is full of hormones and antibiotics.” ” Can you please elaborate on this statement. Do you believe that cows milk IS full of hormones and antibiotics? Do you have any suggested reading that I could peruse to gather facts on this topic? Thank you.
  2. Erin said…
    Oy. It's just gross.
  3. Maeve said…
    Hi Lisa, Thanks for following up! That claim is pretty standard healthwashing. While large scale industrial farms claim not to add hormones or antibiotics, they milk cows right into the latest stages of gestation, typically about 300 days a year. Considering cows have 9 month pregnancies, just like humans, you can imagine how high the amount of estrogen is in cows especially late in gestation. This is a real problem as the high estrogen levels are proving to be a big risk for any sex related cancer. (Which is one of the big concerns with soy). As a result, non-organic dairy from large scale producers IS certainly full of hormones- not to mention it is incredibly hard on the dairy cows themselves to milk so late into pregnancy. A few article your might want to peruse: Keep in mind when researching this online, a huge majority of articles will have the DFC all over it. They are adamant about keeping any real information about large scale dairy farming secret. If you are still considering consuming dairy- as I mentioned, I do from time to time- I would highly recommend looking into something like Monforte Dairy (which is mostly sheep and goat anyway, but organic cows' is available). Hope this helps! Maeve
  4. #Healthwashing and #Canadian #Dairy- @maevecath writes.
  5. #Healtwashing and #Canadian #Dairy- we are UDDERLY unimpressed.

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