In a tragic example of the damage being inflicted on the economy by the virus, dairy farmers around the country are dumping millions of pounds of milk every day.
Milk is highly perishable and there is not enough storage and processing capacity for products that are no longer needed during the almost nationwide lockdown, or shelter in place orders, closing restaurants and schools, among other dairy customers.
Heartbreak of dumping whole milk as the supply chain struggles. Photo via a Facebook friend pic.twitter.com/Q9j1dmkIyV
— NYFarmer (@NYFarmer) April 2, 2020
Coronavirus changes the way Americans eat
Before the “shelter-in-place” orders were enacted in almost every state in the Union, Americans enjoyed meals out at restaurants and children ate a lot of their meals at schools. 40% of dairy products went to food service, and that market has collapsed.
About half of U.S. consumers’ food budget was spent on restaurants, and we’ve shut that spigot off,” said Matt Gould, editor at trade publication Dairy & Food Market Analyst.
All of that is changed now with most restaurants closed or only serving take-out. Children no longer go to school, and people not working in essential industries are staying home. Most people are eating three meals a day at home.
This change is hard on the consumer and the producer.
With America eating three meals a day at home, dairy products are in high demand and often in short supply. Part of the reason for empty milk shelves in grocery stores is just logistics.
For dairy cooperatives, it is not easy to change the packaging of products from wholesale for restaurants and schools to retail to be sold in grocery stores. Milk is being dumped because the change cannot be made fast enough or it isn’t cost-effective.
So, milk is being dumped, even when Americans want more of it.
In an already fragile dairy industry, we are taking another hit as COVID-19 disrupts the food chain
This week we got the call to start dumping milk because processing plants are full & there is no place for it to go due to the closure of restaurants, schools, and food services pic.twitter.com/bt4lm1VYwt
— Nikki Boxler (@NikkiBoxler) April 5, 2020