|Bread (1 pound)||$ 0.09||$ 1.43|
|New Domestic Car||$ 310.00||$ 24,160.00|
|Average Income||$1,518.00||$ 53,657.00|
|New Home||$ 4,850||$ 292,300.00|
|Milk (1 gallon)||$ 0.56||$ 3.28|
Just a cursory look at these numbers shows that the cost of a gallon of milk has increased a mere sixfold in the last ninety years, while the cost of everything else has increased much more. Here’s the same chart showing the multiplier for each item.
|Bread (1 pound)||$ 0.90||$ 1.43||16|
|New Domestic Car||$ 310.00||$24,160.00||78|
|New Home||$ 4,850||$292,300.00||60|
|Milk (1 gallon)||$ 0.56||$ 3.28||6|
All this sounds great for the consumer. A gallon of milk has increased only sixfold while income has increased by a factor of thirty-five. Of course, Mr. Average Consumer is spending a lot more for his house and car, so a gallon of milk at $3.28 might actually be a hardship.
But what about the dairy farmer? His costs have gone up also, even if he is still living on the family farm and doesn’t need to buy a house. He needs a pick-up truck and feed for his cows, must pay vet bills and upkeep on his property, plus insurance and dozens of nuisance expenses. All these have gone up many-fold, yet the farmer must get by with a payment that reflects decades-old values. (NB. the farmer today actually gets about half the retail price, or about $1.70 per gallon.)
If milk prices reflected the thirty-five-fold increase in income since 1926, a gallon of milk would sell for $19.60 per gallon. And that’s just about what milk sells for—raw milk, that is—in some parts of the country. A gallon of raw milk purchased at a store in California costs $17.00 or more. Champoeg Creamery in Oregon provides milk for $24 per gallon—and has a waiting list. We sell raw pet milk at our farm in Brandywine, MD for $12 per gallon and reckon our customers are getting a bargain.
What happens when the dairy farmer gets only $1.70 per gallon of milk while prices for everything else skyrocket? He goes out of business, of course. A few years ago, USA Today reported that dairy farms in the U.S. were folding at the rate of sixteen per week. America has lost over eighty thousand dairy farms since 1992. Here in Maryland, the number of dairy farms has plunged from sixty-seven hundred in 1965 to twelve hundred in 1990 to less than four hundred today. Those dry numbers reflect untold suffering and hardship—often even suicide.
When America had something like two hundred thousand dairy farms, it had a vibrant rural life; little towns , each with a movie theater, a furniture store, a car dealership and a tractor supply store; several churches, all full on Sundays; a high school with a marching band and a drill team; the countryside dotted with proud farm buildings. Today a drive through rural areas takes one through shuttered towns and past crumbling barns—as you can see from these photos I took on a trip to the Midwest a few years ago.
In 1970, Americans spent about 22 percent of their income on food, and only 3 percent on health; today we spend about 7 percent of our income on food and 16 percent on health—either way, the total is about the same. Except that when you are spending that much of your income on health, you likely are suffering a diminished lifestyle in other ways, such as reduced income, increased worry and fatigue, lowered expectations and fewer opportunities.
I have often said that compulsory pasteurization is a key factor—perhaps the main factor—in the destruction of rural life. When a farm family can sell raw milk directly to the consumer, at a price that reflects their costs and the value of the product, they make a decent living, stay on the land, send their children—healthy children—to the local public school, and spend their income at local businesses—while at the same time providing their customers with a superbly healthy food, one that will ensure optimum growth and reduced asthma, allergies, eczema and respiratory infections, even when they also eat occasional French fries and candy bars.
Compulsory pasteurization is the curse that not only destroyed nature’s perfect food, but also took away the right to sell milk directly to the public, and to set the price for that milk. Now the farmer sells to the dairy co-op and has no choice in the price he receives. Since there are only four major dairy companies in the whole U.S., each one with delineated territory, the farmer cannot go elsewhere to get a better price. In the early days of the co-op system, farmers signed on with the promise of fair compensation, protection from price fluctuations and the promise that the milk tanker would come to their farm, no matter how small it was. No longer. The price is no longer fair, often fluctuates, and dairy companies have begun refusing to pick up from small dairies, especially those that populate remote areas. When the truck stops coming, dairy farmers go bankrupt not one by one but en masse. This handwriting is on the wall in our state of Maryland, where most dairies are small by today’s standards. Why should the dairy company pick up 400 gallons from a dairy farm in rural Maryland when for the same cost it can pick up 4000 gallons from a confinement dairy in New Mexico?
Can we reverse this great sucking sound from the countryside? Can we put prosperity back into rural life? The answer is yes, although it will take time and require the efforts of many thousands of people. The solution is to drink raw milk, and whenever possible, purchase that raw milk straight from a farmer. Along with the milk, we should purchase eggs, poultry, meat, produce and artisan products directly from farmers or small-scale producers—but milk is the key to rural revival.
See more of my musings on the role of raw milk as the basis of a vibrant, equitable economy here: http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/the-politics-and-economics-of-food/
P.S. My Dad liked to tell the story of what it cost to go to college when he was a freshman at Cornell, in 1937. Plane fare from Los Angeles to New York was $300, and his tuition for a year was also $300. Today you can still get a round trip ticket LA-NY for about $300 but a year’s tuition at Cornell is $51,000, an increase of 170-fold. Nothing has increased more in the last ninety years than the price of education. Feed your kids right—with raw milk and cod liver oil—and maybe they’ll get a full academic scholarship!
The Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) has championed raw milk since its founding in 1999, providing ongoing information on raw milk safety, health benefits and availability. In 1999, the Foundation’s raw milk website, realmilk.com, listed just 30 sources of raw milk in the whole US—today there are at least 2000 listed sources and many more operating under the radar. In 1999 farmers could provide raw milk (through sales, as pet milk or through cow shares) in just 27 states; today the number if 42. If you have benefited from raw milk, please be a member of WAPF to support the Foundation’s important work. You can sign up now at www.westonaprice.org and clicking on Join Now.