Every few days or so, I come across a dairy industry-related news item that stands out among all the standard PR about acquisitions, plant upgrades, personnel changes, marketing campaigns and regulatory happenings. Whether that news is sad, funny or simply bizarre, it generally is excluded from our regular online coverage.

But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth sharing from time to time. Read on for highlights from some of the more noteworthy of these news items.


The woeful

It’s no secret that U.S. dairy farmers are facing dire economic circumstances. There’s a surplus of milk in the market, and the downward trend on milk prices is dragging some of the most dedicated dairy-farmer optimists into pessimist territory. According to The Dairy Alliance, Atlanta, the United States has lost almost a quarter of its dairy farms since 2010.

How bad is it? Well, when dairy cooperative Agri-Mark paid its dairy farmers at the beginning of February, each check was accompanied by a letter listing crisis hotlines for those farmers “feeling financial stress, depression, anxiety and thoughts of suicide,” said WCAX of Burlington, Vt., in an online posting.


The weird

On a lighter — albeit a bit strange — note, the Halo Top ice cream brand recently partnered with Scruples Hair Care. Under the partnership, 10 U.S. hairstylists were challenged to create hair color looks reminiscent of the brand’s popular ice cream flavors, the U.K.’s Daily Mail reported. Scruples shared the highly colorful results via Instagram.

In other ice cream-related news, a team in Japan discovered how to create ice cream that retains its shape as long as three hours at room temperature. A recent post on the Engineering Insider website notes that the ice cream came about by mistake when a Japanese chef was asked to find a way to use the misshapen, difficult-to-sell strawberries grown in areas impacted by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

The chef found that the strawberries caused cream to solidify, piquing the interest of a Kanazawa University team. The team discovered that when mixed with ice cream, a compound in the strawberries — polyphenol — prevented the frozen treat from melting.

On the cheese front, Australia’s Margaret River Dairy Co. set a Guinness World Record for a cheese tasting in February — when 560 people showed up to simultaneously sample three types of cheese. According to United Press International, the dairy is thinking about going after a similar tasting record for yogurt.

But perhaps the weirdest dairy-related news of the new year centers on punctuation, not dairy products. In February, Oakhurst Dairy of Portland, Maine, settled a lawsuit over an overtime dispute its drivers filed in 2014, the Associated Press said. An exemption in Maine’s overtime law states it doesn’t apply to “canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of” foods.

The lack of what’s known as an Oxford comma after the word “shipment” cost Oakhurst $5 million, as without the comma, the latter part of the sentence could be interpreted as “packing for shipment” or “packing for distribution” — and the drivers don’t do any packing.


The whimsical

Some other recent dairy-related news, meanwhile, brought a smile to my face. For example, Friendly’s Manufacturing & Retail debuted an ice cream flavor that pokes fun at one of Americans’ biggest winter-weather nightmares: the dreaded pothole. The limited-edition Nor’easter Pothole ice cream, sold under the Friendly’s brand, features chocolate ice cream, a fudge swirl, crushed chocolate crème cookies and chocolate chips.

And although it doesn’t really qualify as “news,” a Feb. 21 Fargo Monthly post titled “Grate Insights: Cheese Jokes? I Camembert It” elicited some belly laughs (and a few groans) from me. Check it out for yourself at https://www.fargomonthly.com/cheese-jokes-camembert-it