Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Jim Collins on ideas and movements

Jim Collins has a new book out – How the Mighty Fall. I can't wait to read it. He has also hinted he has some interesting ideas he's researching related to entrepreneurs, or opportunity capturers as I tend to think of them. In his most recent Time magazine interview, Collins says "entrepreneurship is about an idea more than just an organization." It is "creating a movement."

He said similar things in a recent Inc. magazine article.

Sure a great movement needs organization and structure, but it first needs a great idea and others with the same ideas. What great ideas could help transform the dairy industry? I'll be asking for more of those ideas from you in the coming days.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Do Facebookers love milk and cheese?

By Progressive Dairyman Managing Editor Walt Cooley

Over the weekend I used Facebook Lexicon to do some interesting social networking research about dairy and dairy products. The most significant reason we as an industry are in a low-price slump is demand for dairy products has decreased. What is interesting is that at the same time demand has decreased chatter on Facebook about dairy, milk, cheese, ice cream and yogurt have too. See how much it has decreased from last year in the graphs below.



This is one of the major components of our diving dairy markets. If cheese were not in oversupply, dairy farm-gate prices would be different.

Ice cream


If dairy products were mentioned more frequently would their demand also increase? Perhaps we could all do a little bit to help the situation by asking everyone we meet, "Have you had milk, cheese or yogurt today?"

I've had two of my three servings of dairy today. Off to get one more.

Friday, January 9, 2009

I won’t be a pessimist

By Progressive Dairyman Managing Editor Walt Cooley

No one need say more about how bad the dairy industry’s situation has nose-dived in the last two months. The graphs to the right tell the story. Since the U.S. economic fallouts began in October, dairy markets have underperformed seasonal averages for the holidays, and in mid-December they unraveled and then absolutely fell apart by the first of the year. Our well-tuned, world demand-minded U.S. milk production system is now producing much more supply than is necessary to meet demand. That means milk is plentiful and its value is cheap. Cheap enough that it sells for less than it costs to make. Sounding familiar, right?

That forces you to make some tough decisions. How will you survive this low-price era? You are probably hearing that it might be worse than ever before, and it might. Yet I’m determined to be optimistic. Why? In my opinion, optimism will see the opportunities in supply and demand imbalances. Yet realism is also required. A realistic attitude will translate into survival.

So since most dairymen won’t be selling assets to come up with more revenue, how can you cut costs or borrow enough to survive? And where are the opportunities in this downslide?

Progressive Dairyman is committed to providing answers to these questions in the months ahead. As we prepare our coverage, I’d like to hear from you. What are your greatest cost-cutting challenges? What are your greatest obstacles? E-mail or fax your situations. We’ll include those scenarios, without using names, in our coverage.

As we monitor the situation, I don’t want to tell you the things you already know. The situation is bad. While there is comfort in reporting just how bad it is for everyone else too, dwelling on the negative will hide the opportunities. Capture the opportunities while surviving. That’s our theme.

We’ll continue to tell you how long experts think this will last. That’s meant to provide hope, not discouragement. Consider our coverage like listening to the radio during severe weather. We’ll cover what’s going on around you, but more importantly we want you to know how much longer to endure in ‘survival mode’ and when the sun will shine again.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Dairy goes green?

Since it's Earth Day, why not lead with such a headline. And yet just last week the dairy industry announced that is the direction it is going.

Below is the text of a press release from Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), which I haven't seen appearing in too many places. Yet, in my opinion, I think the release should have received more headlines. The future of the dairy industry in the U.S. may require producers be more conscious of the carbon footprint of the input costs required to produce their milk. In the release, DMI says it hopes to position dairy as a "sustainable" product that will be favorable to environment-concious consumers. I'd recommend the entire piece for your reading. (I didn't link to anywhere because I haven't seen the release popping up on any other major dairy-related websites.)

Dairy industry addresses environmental stewardship

Rosemont, IL - From farm to consumer, dairy industry leaders have joined together to launch a comprehensive sustainability initiative that will encourage industry innovations, improve environmental performance and position the industry for future marketplace demands.

Three national dairy organizations – Dairy Management Inc., National Milk Producers Federation and the International Dairy Foods Association – said the new initiative will bring together producers, processors, manufacturers, distributors, retailers and others in the dairy supply chain to address sustainability.

“The dairy industry recognizes the growing number of people who care about the health and environmental impact of the products they buy,” said Tom Gallagher, chief executive officer of DMI, which manages the national dairy producer checkoff program. “We must do all we can to ensure that consumers know that the dairy industry is committed to improving their lives, both nutritionally and environmentally.”

The initiative will identify key supply-chain innovations that, as part of a comprehensive sustainability effort, can help position dairy as a preferred product among the rapidly increasing number of socially-conscious consumers. Among the focus areas of the effort will be identifying opportunities to reduce energy consumption and costs in milk production and processing, as well as boost on-farm income opportunities in emerging “green” energy markets.

“We want to be sure that our industry is well-positioned to take advantage of future opportunities – both in terms of credits for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, as well as developing new products and markets for milk,” said Jerry Kozak, NMPF’s chief executive officer. “Importantly, this initiative will help identify opportunities for dairy farmers to generate additional revenue from emerging energy markets through methane capture and other innovations. We also recognize that sustainability needs to be defined in a comprehensive way that acknowledges the socioeconomic benefits that dairy farms can provide,” Kozak said.

“This is a key dairy industry value chain partnership that will allow us to cut energy costs, meet consumer needs and further develop our relationships with dairy buyers,” said Connie Tipton, IDFA’s chief executive officer. “By working together, dairy producers and processors can further demonstrate our industry’s commitment to healthy people and a healthy planet.”

The DMI-coordinated sustainability initiative is initially focused on the twin goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and growing the dairy business by meeting unmet consumer demand. Through this effort, DMI, NMPF and IDFA will identify best practices and opportunities for innovation in production, processing and marketing of milk and milk products.

Currently, about 30 percent of U.S. consumers buy products based on health and sustainability attributes, according to the Natural Marketing Institute. This rapidly-growing consumer segment today accounts for some $227 billion in purchasing power. Recent surveys indicate that 85 percent of consumer product companies have sustainability policies in place (GMA/Deloitte).

“We are at the dawn of a new era in the food retailing industry,” Gallagher said. “This ground-breaking, checkoff-supported effort will help us tap the ingenuity of our industry and guarantee that we can continue to produce a highly nutritious and sustainable product for American consumers.”

According to Gallagher, the sustainability initiative is designed to “increase dairy sales through innovation opportunities that will promote health and wellness, and preserve natural resources. Our focus will be on identifying sustainable practices that can help the dairy industry meet unmet consumer demand by driving innovation and efficiency in a way that sustains the industry economically, environmentally, and socially.”

As part of the initiative, the three dairy organizations have begun efforts to analyze the carbon footprint of milk, from production on the farm, through processing and retail distribution, to consumption. This analysis will help identify potential innovation opportunities and possible best practices that can reduce energy use and increase sales in the dairy supply chain.

After calculating milk’s carbon footprint, this life cycle analysis will be subject to a peer review process to develop a manuscript for publication in a scientific journal. This process will help ensure that the life cycle analysis accurately and adequately addresses milk’s true carbon footprint in a manner that is credible and transparent. According to Gallagher, this will help produce realistic, real-world opportunities for dairy to increase its sustainable practices.

“The dairy industry’s commitment to sustainability is a win-win-win,” according to Gallagher. “By working together, we can identify opportunities to cut energy costs, produce ‘green’ energy and develop a deeper connection with consumers and retailers.”

Monday, April 21, 2008

What is a mega-dairy?

I recently reviewed my AP stylebook and was struck by the literal definition of the prefix "mega." Quoting from the stylebook:

"A prefix denoting 1 million units of a measure."

To my knowledge, no dairy in the U.S. has 1 million cows. If one did, they would own and milk 10 percent of the cows cared for in the nation. No wonder activists choose this prefix when affixing a label to dairy and other animal production. Caring for this many cows on one facility would be difficult. That's why none of these dairies exist. Dairy producers today have dairy sizes that permit efficient and safe care for their cows – regardless of size. That also can mean that not all family farms are small and that not all large dairies are factories.

Friday, April 11, 2008

rBST in the Midwest

I recently returned from a trip to the Midwest. Dairy producers there are fighting against processors who want to go "rBST-free" with their dairy products. I've heard more commotion about this fight over the use of rBST from producers there than we ever heard from producers here in the West.

Here's the link to a producer who doesn't use the product but is trying to help consumers see why they should want milk produced with rBST.

Obviously, the fact that milk produced without the use of rBST requires the consumption of more fossil fuels and grain in order to produce the same amount of milk has not been widely publicized. Like it or not, rBST is actually more "green" than many think.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

How can women contribute to dairying?

I believe that in addition to helping out with production-related responsibilities, women can and should also be contributing to the promotion of our industry. They can have the most impact when advocating the goodness of our dairy products to consumers.

For example, consider the following:

More than 80 percent of women seek out health and nutrition information for themselves and their families online, and there is a more than 9 in 10 chance that their search will begin with a search engine. Depending on the search terms they use to find information, their point of view regarding dairy consumption may be swayed considerably.

If one searches the Internet with the keyword “milk,” among the first results are two industry-sponsored webpages about milk with positive messages and two negative websites with antagonistic opinions about milk and dairy product consumption. Results are even more discouraging when using any negative keyword search term that consumers may have heard used in connection with our products, such as rBST or antibiotics.

Women can help dispel the misconceptions that have or may be circulated about the health or safety of dairy. Sharing their positive experiences related to dairy consumption and its production with those beyond their local peer group, even online, is just one way women can get more involved. Here's a list of milk sites with positive messages to refer your friends to:

Got Milk?

National Dairy Council

Dairy Council of California

United Dairymen of Idaho

National Institutes of Health

Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association

National Dairy Council