#4 The Breakdown

Lena Ashooh

6 Responses to “#4 The Breakdown

  • Tom McKenna
    6 years ago

    Dear Lena,
    I appreciate the infographic as a distillation of your research and thinking to date. What are you envisioning as next steps?

    Thanks for your response to my thinking last week as well. I’m sure there are some parallels in government buyout options (parallels between fishing and agriculture), but I’m sure the contexts vary widely. With farms, it seems like they are more of a closed system. If a farm is bought out and goes out of business– not that I’m advocating that– those cows and bulls will ideally not be produced. With fish, since we’re talking about a wild resource (in most cases), and since the buyouts are largely for conservation, those fish may be likely to be caught by someone in another country or regulation system.

    I’m still interested in knowing what proportion of our nation’s milk consumption comes from schools, in order to understand the relative impact that less waste in schools could have for the veal industry problems you raise.

    Have a good rest of your week, and keep in touch.


    • Hi Tom,

      Thanks for your comment! These next few weeks I am planning on really digging into the dairy industry’s history and impact on school lunches. I definitely think that you are correct in saying that having that context of what proportion of our nation’s milk consumption comes from schools would provide a much better understanding of the dairy industry’s relationship to schools, and that relationship to the veal industry. Here’s what I could find: According the the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States, school milk consumption accounts for 7% of National milk consumption, which is lower than I expected. Evidence from Denmark shows that milk consumption in a school increases by 40 percent when a school milk program is introduced. I’m excited to look into this more, and will definitely update you with more of what I discover.

      You bring up a good point about the uniqueness of the dairy industry, in the sense that the economics of agriculture revolves around localized farms, rather than a wild resource. I also wonder how regulations differ in the slaughter of wild animals vs. mass produced animals. From what I have learned last year, it seems like mass produced animals are viewed as products, instead of animals.

      Once again, thanks so much for your comments, they really got me thinking.


      • Hi Tom,

        Thanks so much for all your feedback! It has been really interesting working with you these past few weeks. I live in Shelburne and am a freshman at CVU.

        I saw your name on a list for a “Steering Committee” that Bill Rich is involved in leading. Are you attending the online meeting on Tuesday? If so, I’ll see you there!

        I look forwards to further correspondence!


  • Hi Lena,

    Thanks for sharing this interesting, detailed image of your project ideas to date!

    I also appreciated your response to my questions from last week. It’s helpful to see the connection you’re making between the wasted milk generated by the National School Lunch Program and the potential for reducing the number of bulls sent into the veal industry. I wonder about your idea that decreasing milk production could help farmers get a high price. This idea would only seem to work if all dairy farmers agree to reduce production, because otherwise other farmers (or large-scale dairy) would be able to undercut their price. It would be really interesting to know more about the economics at play here. Do farmers receive subsidies from the government even for the milk they end up dumping? And if farmers reduced supply and charged more for milk, would people (and especially schools) be willing to pay more? Maybe the best way to make change would be to tackle the National School Lunch Program’s milk requirements?

    I’m still intrigued to learn more about what other alternatives dairy farms have found as to what to do with their bulls. Are there any examples of dairy farms that have found a more humane option?

    Keep up the excellent work!

    – Fallon

    • Hi Fallon,

      Thanks so much for your comment, these questions were really interesting to consider.

      I’m definitely going to look more into the economics involved in increasing the price of milk, and I think that it is interesting to consider all the different ways that I could approach this issue.

      Last year, while looking for more humane alternatives to the current procedure for dealing with bulls, I met with a woman who is considered to be a humane farmer, and who dedicated her life to farming in a humane manner. She actually was a student at UVM, and while she was in college, was out rightly opposed to veal farming. This experience caused her to want to try to create a farming process that had no animal cruelty involved. She sent her animals, including veal calves, to a slaughter plant in Springfield, Vermont, who was notorious for being a humane plant. Recently, the plant received multiple violations for not properly stunning their animals prior to slaughter. This leads me to believe that with the current veal slaughter model, it is next to impossible to have a humane procedure. I also spoke with the woman about the difficulties of being a farmer economics wise, and learned that she was constantly struggling with affordability, and I’m wondering how much those hardships impacted her way of farming.

      I’m excited to see what else I learn about the economics side of dairy farming, along with exploring milk in school lunches, and will definitely keep you updated with what I find!


      • Wow, Lena – that’s such an interesting story about the farmer who was trying to be humane, yet unintentionally was still participating in the same inhumane system! That must have been so heartbreaking for her to discover. Stories like that would really speak to the challenges of finding a humane alternative, and maybe add force to making an argument about why reducing our milk consumption is the only feasible way of undercutting the veal slaughter model. You also make an excellent point about how the financial struggles experienced by most small-scale farmers make exploring alternative farming systems untenable. I grew up on a family farm, and I remember that we’d often spend more on feed for our animals than we ultimately were able to sell them for.

        Thanks for taking the time to respond to previous posts. I really enjoy seeing how your thinking is evolving!

        Have a great week!

        (P.S. Hi, Tom! Hope all is going well for you this school year!)

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