- Florida's Ocheesee Creamery was in federal court this week facing the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which said Ocheesee's all-natural skim milk must be labeled as "imitation" because the dairy does not add vitamins to the skim milk.
- The department argues that because skim milk is milk with the cream removed, vitamins are removed as well, and because consumers expect the same nutritional value from skim milk as whole milk, vitamins must be added for the skim milk to be considered "real." The all-natural dairy does not add vitamins, so in the department's eyes, the skim milk is imitation.
- The dairy said it sold its skim milk for three years without being labeled as imitation and without any issues with consumers. However, now that the dairy must label its skim milk as imitation — or not sell it at all, according to the department — the dairy is having trouble selling it, which is leading to the dumping of hundreds of gallons of skim milk per week.
This mass milk dumping sounds all too familiar. While this dairy may be struggling with label issues, milk dumping has become increasingly common due to a massive milk surplus that has impacted the U.S. dairy industry significantly. The surplus is causing milk prices to fall, by 39% from a record high in February 2014 as of July, which was the lowest in five years. Dairy producers are relishing higher profit margins, but they are also scrambling to sell excess milk supplies as demand for milk dwindles in the U.S.
Dean Foods saw this firsthand in its latest quarter. Though milk costs have fallen and the company reported its highest gross profit margin since 2012, Dean Foods has not lowered prices for consumers, which led to decreases in sales and volumes.