Shake well before using

Rising milk prices coming too late for many farmers

This story includes a rundown of the new Hautboy Hill Farm brand specialty “creamline” milk in Connecticut. Before retail milk prices began their run to $4 a gallon (they’re already there in New Mexico), many smaller milking operation had to fold due to government price caps. Now, driven by increased demand, limitations on dairy cows imported from Canada due to mad cow worries, farm closures, and other factors, prices are climbing rapidly. But not in time for many.

Faced with several years of $70,000 losses, Buddy Hulbert decided to close his 90-cow main operation and make the switch to specialty milk. Whatever the hell that is.

At the urging of his banker, Buddy Hurlburt drew up a business plan showing that, with just six to eight cows, he could produce 35 gallons of “creamline” whole milk a day. (Old-fashioned creamline milk, which is pasteurized but not homogenized, has to be shaken to mix in the heavier cream at the top.)

At the specialty prices charged by local stores, he could sell this for $6 a gallon, which would earn him more than $1,400 a week in gross proceeds, or about $75,000 a year. With the cash from selling off his herd earlier in the year, Hurlburt had enough to invest in pasteurizing and bottling equipment. Eleven local stores agreed to take on his new Hautboy Hill Farm brand, which the couple will begin selling at their farm stand in Cornwall in a few weeks.

“We were amazed once we ran the numbers,” Buddy Hurlburt said. “Grossing $75,000 a year direct to us was better than we were doing running 90 milk cows in a commercial operation. We realized that running a big commercial dairy was just a money-laundering operation — moving the money around but not returning the profits of milk to us.”

For $75K a year, I’d make people shake their own damn milk, too, if I thought I could get away with it.

Is this milk crisis part of a consolidation move by big dairy? When the little guys are pushed out of the lineup, will the lack of any competition allow the major players to set their own prices? Or will consumers, in the end, come out okay? I know that I’m happy buying DVDs at Best Buy. But I don’t shop at Wal-Mart. What will this mean for my cereal in the morning?

And SIX DOLLARS for a GALLON OF MILK? Do people really choose to buy the stuff? Is it really 50% better than regular milk? MO needs to know.


  1. Does this story, and the one on gas prices, cause anyone to question whether ‘the market’ really makes the best decisions for people? For the ‘efficient use of capital’ maybe. But people who like the idea of Wal Mart driving prices down via market mechanisms have to accept that they can just as well drive prices up. It’s a two step- commodotize an item by squeezing out costs and competitors, then increase profits by driving the price up once you have monopolized the commodity. Please don’t assume I am saying the government is the answer. If people have the vision they might make some different choices when they make purchases. Think globally and act locally, as they say.

  2. Well, although I don’t disagree with you about the big picture, it appears that government intervention is a major culprit in the milk price situation. Government price controls were a major factor in the downsizing of American dairy production and the inability of the ‘small guy’ to stay afloat. That being said, another government intervention, the limitation of Canadian ‘high output’ dairy cows due to mad cow fears, is the sort of intervention and oversight that I’m willing to support. Not that I know if the mad cow thing is for real in this case, but it is the sort of thing I’m more willing to let the government control. And if the government were keeping a closer eye on Wal-Mart’s questionable overseas and supplier system (the type of government oversight I can handle) Wal-Mart might not be able to offer such cut-rate prices. And if the government would do something (anything!) about the illegal immigrant and the illegal worker situations, maybe the Wal-Mart problem would even out a little. I’m talking about enforcing laws to protect people and workers, here and abroad. Not price regulation. I realize that a pure supply-and-demand world isn’t realistic, but the closer we can get, the better. Sure, some folks would be mad about paying more for their blueberries picked by Americans working for minimum wage, but it would be legal, fair, and ethical and I’d support it.

  3. Any Homepahtic Doctor will tell you whole milk which is pasturized and not homogenized is better for the human body. If you care about your health $6 a gallon is cheap. If you want all the hormones and insectisides from grain -keep drinking the major distributors millk product. There cheap and that is what America wants. Why do you think we are shipping 10,000 jobs a week to Asia.