Co-op Contention

Tillamook upholds rBST policy despite Monsanto pressure.
Members of Oregon’s Tillamook County Creamery Association (TCCA) in late February voted to uphold a policy requiring the cooperative’s 147 producers to stop using recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST) on their herds, despite an aggressive campaign against the policy launched by the maker of the artificial hormone.
TCCA reported a 2-to-1 margin in support of the policy, which calls for members to stop using rBST by April 1, 2005. The vote came as a result of a group of TCCA members, rallied by rBST-maker Monsanto Corp., to block the restriction.
While TCCA is not the only dairy business in the country to forgo the use of rBST, Monsanto has been especially vigorous in trying to dissuade the co-op from implementing its policy, TCCA officials reported. Monsanto representatives met with TCCA executives last June and pressed the co-op to reconsider its policy. In November, the president of Monsanto’s dairy business sent letters directly to TCCA members questioning the policy and seeking its reversal.
TCCA leaders decried the letters as an intrusion into the co-op’s internal affairs and what they called an unprece­dented effort to divide member farmers over the issue.
In April 2003, TCCA’s board began the lengthy process of developing and implementing an rBST-free policy for all producers delivering milk to its plants in Tillamook and Boardman, Ore. The co-op says the policy, codified in May 2004, was adopted after exhaustive discussions and research initiated by the board.
TCCA says the decision was based on customer requests and a company preference for “traditional” practices. Monsanto says it will respect the policy but hopes it will be reconsidered.
St. Louis-based Monsanto is the only commercial producer of rBST. Sold under the brand name Posilac, the artificial hormone stimulates milk production in cows. While the FDA has approved rBST, many consumers have become concerned about its use. In fact, TCCA reports, consumer inquiries on the subject have more than doubled in the past year. As such, TCCA determined that using milk produced without rBST supplementation better meets customers’ expectations.
TCCA does not intend to label its products rBST-free because, the co-op says, such labeling might cause consumer confusion due to the FDA’s findings that milk from rBST-supplemented cows is safe and no different than milk coming from untreated cows. The co-op will, however, inform its customers who ask about rBST about the policy.
Image makers
Product and promotion news
mLincoln, Neb.-based Roberts Dairy is donating a portion of the proceeds from 5-quart vanilla ice cream sales to provide care packages sent by Operation We Care® men and women in the armed forces serving overseas. Roberts Dairy’s Hiland-Roberts Vanilla Ice Cream 5-quart pails are imprinted with “Support Our Troops” yellow ribbons and available in grocery stores in Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Illinois and Minnesota. Located in Norfolk, Neb., Hiland-Roberts Ice Cream Co. is the state’s only active ice cream production facility. “We must not forget our military men and women serving under dangerous conditions in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere,” says Jeff Powell, president of Roberts Dairy. Powell encourages consumers to show support for American troops by purchasing a 5-quart container of Hiland-Roberts vanilla ice cream.
Operation We Care sends care packages each month to specific military members overseas. For more information, visit www.operationwecare.com.
The Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP), sponsor of the national Milk Mustache “got milk?” campaign, received top honors at the recent Reggie Awards ceremony in Chicago for last summer’s “Shape You Want to Be In” and “Show Off with the Top Down” promotions. The awards were given by the Promotions Marketing Association for the best promotions and integrated marketing campaigns in 2004. Judges for the awards were promotions-industry experts and included professionals from McDonald’s Corp., DreamWorks SKG and Northwestern University.
The promotions were MilkPEP’s in-store effort to increase consumer awareness of milk’s role in weight loss and to increase milk sales. Last June, the “Shape You Want to Be In” promotion educated consumers about milk’s weight-loss benefits. MilkPEP partnered with Shape magazine to distribute about 13 million copies of a custom weight-loss guide that was free with any purchase of milk. From mid-July to mid-August, the “Show Off with the Top Down” promotion gave away 24 Volkswagen Beetle convertibles in 24 days to reward consumers for incorporating more milk into their diets and adopting healthier lifestyles. To enter the contest, consumers entered UPC codes from milk packages on the contest’s Web site, www.2424milk.com. The winning promotions were components of MilkPEP’s broader “24/24 Milk Your Diet. Lose Weight!” program, which integrates promotions, public relations and advertising efforts to educate consumers about milk’s role in weight loss. Launched last May, the initiative continues in 2005.