How Big Dairy Took Over Your TikTok Feed—With Help from Uncle Sam

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Ever since Congress passed nan Dairy Act successful nan 1980s, farmers person been required to salary 15 cents per hundred-weight of beverage (equivalent to a small little than 12 gallons) toward manufacture promotion programs overseen by nan US Department of Agriculture, aliases USDA. Ten cents is sent to section promotion entities, and nan remaining 5 cents spell to nan nationalist Dairy Board, which promotes each dairy products. (Eggs person their ain $20 cardinal program.) Farmer contributions to nan nationalist programme totaled $124.5 cardinal successful 2021.

The Dairy Board successful move sends money to Dairy Management. Milk processors activity nether a akin structure, paying their ain assessments to nan Fluid Milk Board, which useful exclusively connected promoting a class that includes milk, flavored milk, buttermilk, and eggnog. The Fluid Milk Board received $82.4 cardinal successful processor fees successful 2021. Its trading limb is called MilkPEP.

In an emailed statement, a Dairy Management spokesperson told Grist that “all dairy research, promotion contented and accusation not only complies pinch each regulations and standards, but besides seeks to thief consumers make informed decisions astir nan foods they take for themselves and their families, including nutritious, sustainably produced dairy.”

The financial building of these efforts is complicated, but nan extremity consequence is that these programs, which are known to farmers arsenic “checkoffs,” bring successful much than $200 cardinal each twelvemonth successful nan dairy manufacture alone. As a result, nan manufacture takes attraction to statement its accomplishments. For instance, successful nan first 8 years nan checkoff collaborated pinch Domino’s Pizza, nan mean shop accrued its food usage by 43 percent.

Other promotional efforts, however, person amounted to slickly-produced flops. Last year, nan Fluid Milk Board hired character Aubrey Plaza to hawk “wood milk” successful an evident effort to lampoon plant-based beverage alternatives, which resulted successful a general title revenge by a group of physicians who advocator for plant-based diets. Another effort progressive a board-funded website featuring Queen Latifah, which was devoted to combating nan seemingly fictional arena of “milk shaming.”


CAPTION: The Office character Brian Baumgartner poses for a 2023 promotional photograph for “Never Doubt What You Love,” a pro-dairy parody news run created by nan California Milk Processor Board.
CREDIT: Rachel Murray for CMPB/Getty Images

Some caller industry-funded persuasion campaigns person been much subtle. In 2021, nan fluid beverage checkoff sponsored a wellness play for apical editors from Bustle, New York Magazine, Marie Claire, and others astatine a $750-per-night Hamptons edifice wherever they participated successful workouts led by a personage trainer and “partook successful milk-forward meals.” Congressional disclosures bespeak that nan Fluid Milk Board held USDA-approved advertizing and trading contracts pinch Vice Media and Food52 successful 2021. A spokesperson for MilkPEP told Grist that these were branded editorial contracts to create milk-inclusive look content.

There’s immoderate grounds that each this trading has worked. A caller USDA study delivered to Congress claimed that farmers gain $1.91 for each dollar spent connected “demand-enhancing activities” for fluid milk, $3.27 for each dollar spent promoting cheese, and $24.11 for each dollar spent boosting butter. An independent information by nan Government Accountability Office successful 2017 likewise recovered that, betwixt 1995 and 2012, nan fluid beverage programme returned $2.14 for each dollar spent.

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