California Depends on National Dairy Month

National Dairy Month Encourages Americans to Eat More Cheese

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Across the country, National Dairy Month will be celebrated during the month of June to promote the consumption of dairy products. Though California is the number one dairy state, California dairy farmers have been experiencing a decline in dairy production amidst high labor costs, competition from other states and declining profit.

Founded in 1937 as National Milk Month with the goal of increasing milk consumption to stabilize the dairy surplusthe holiday was renamed National Dairy Month to encompass all dairy products.

Anja Raudabaugh, CEO of Western United Dairymen
Anja Raudabaugh, CEO of Western United Dairymen

Anja Raudabaugh, CEO of Western United Dairymen in Modesto, Calif., is hopeful that celebrating National Milk Month will educate more consumers about the health benefits of diary products, increase dairy consumption opportunities, open more markets and enable the lagging dairy industry in California to better compete with other states.

States such as South Dakota and Wisconsin have ramped up their milk production significantly, which has stressed California producers to even the gap. According to Raudabaugh, the term oversupply doesn’t necessarily apply to the dairy conditions in this state. She remarked, “We’re actually in a 17-month decline at the moment, which is the longest decline [in milk production] we have ever been in.”

The dairy industry has managed to be very competitive with wages, another stressor, but the high labor costs are hurting production companies. “As things get more and more competitive globally,” said Raudaubaugh, “we are going to continue to struggle to figure out how those margins play out.”

“The margin is going to continue to shrink, especially as wages get more and more competitive,” Raudaubaugh observed. “Being a worker on a dairy farm is certainly very wage-competitive throughout the agricultural industry. We cannot keep workers at anything less than about $16 or $15 an hour as it is, so it’s a good time to be a worker in the dairy industry. It’s a good craft and skill to have if you become a milker.”Real California Cheese Logo

Given Western United Dairymen’s mission to promote and administer programs and policies aimed at maintaining the longevity of the dairy industry on the West Coast, and as the milk industry struggles and continues to face tough times, Raudabaugh has a solution: “Eat more cheese.”

Enter: National Cheese Day every June 4! According to the California Milk Advisory Board website and California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) 2014 data, California is the #2 cheese producing state—right behind Wisconsin—and the #1 producer of Monterey Jack cheese. An amazing 43% of California’s cow’s milk is used to make California cheese, which is produced by more than 50 California cheesemakers.

Even beyond cheese, Raudabaugh said, “There is a tremendous amount of diversity in the way people have exposure to dairy products they don’t even know about. There are yogurts and sour creams, ice creams, and whey products.”  She believes market sectors should understand more about the dairy products consumers are exposed to every day to increase not only more milk consumption, but higher-value dairy as well.

“The diversification of the product line is really what has kept us in business,” reflects Raudabaugh, “It’s what keeps us looking to the horizon and looking to the future optimistically, even in the face of some pretty bad milk prices right now.”

Remember California dairy producers, particularly, this monthNational Dairy Month, and try a new dairy product. And discover a new cheese tomorrow, June 4, National Cheese Day!

Lactose Intolerance: 11 Ways to Still Love Dairy

Source: Brunilda Nazario, MD; WebMD

If you’re lactose intolerant, you can still eat foods with lactose — in moderation. The key is to know your limit. Keep a food diary, write down when, what, and how much you ate, and how it made you feel. You should see a pattern emerge and you will learn how much or how little lactose you can have. Then, stick to your limit.

Consider Lactose-Free Milk and Other Dairy

For regular milk drinkers, most supermarkets have lactose-free or low-lactose milk in their dairy case or specialty foods sections. You can also find lactose-free cheese, lactose-free yogurt, and other dairy products. It can be hard to get enough calcium when you are lactose intolerant. Lactose-free milk, however, has the same amount of calcium as regular milk.

Take Control of Your Diet

Take control of your meals by brown bagging it rather than struggling to find something that you can eat on a menu. When cooking at home, you can replace milk in recipes with lactose-free milk. You can also buy a cookbook that features lactose-free recipes and start trying them. Many classic recipes can be adapted to fit a lactose-intolerant diet. Control the ingredients that go in the meal and you may be surprised at how much variety you can eat.

lactose intolerance, milkConsider Lactase Supplements

It’s not a cure, but taking lactase enzyme supplements can help you eat foods containing lactose. Supplements are found in many forms, including caplets and chewable tablets. They may be particularly helpful if you don’t know the exact ingredients in your meal. If supplements do not help your symptoms, be sure to check with your doctor.

Hunting for Hidden Lactose

Lactose is found in most dairy products, except those marked “lactose-free,” such as lactose-free milk or cheese. It also can be in packaged foods such as dried mixes, frozen meals, and baked goods. Read food labels carefully, and watch out for ingredients such as “milk solids,” “dried milk,” and “curd.” If you choose to eat these foods, you may need to take a lactase supplement to help prevent symptoms.

Ask the Experts

Learning a new way of eating isn’t easy, but you don’t have to do it alone. Ask your doctor to suggest a nutritionist or dietitian to help you manage your diet. She can teach you how to read food labels, share healthy eating tips, learn how much dairy you can eat or drink without symptoms, and come up with reduced-lactose or lactose-free foods to provide a well-balanced diet.

Smaller Portions, Fewer Symptoms

Maybe you can’t enjoy a big glass of milk with cookies, but you can try a smaller serving. Start with a 4-ounce glass instead of a full 8 ounces. Gradually increase the amount of dairy you eat until you begin to notice unpleasant symptoms. Listen to your body. It will tell you when you’ve reached your limit. If you want to avoid lactose completely, try lactose-free dairy milk or non-dairy drinks, such as soy milk.

Enjoy Dairy on the Side

Instead of eating or drinking dairy products by themselves, try having them with food that doesn’t contain lactose. For some people, combining dairy with other food may reduce or even get rid of their usual symptoms. So don’t just drink a glass of milk in the morning. Pour it over cereal or have a piece of toast on the side.

Make Better Cheese Choices

With lactose intolerance, you can still eat cheese, but choose carefully. Hard, aged cheeses like Swiss, parmesan, and cheddars are lower in lactose. Other low-lactose cheese options include cottage cheese or feta cheese made from goat or sheep’s milk. Certain types of cheeses — especially soft or creamy ones like Brie — are higher in lactose. If you want to avoid dairy completely, try lactose-free and dairy-free cheeses.

Learn to Love Yogurt

Look for yogurt with live and active bacterial cultures. When you eat this type of yogurt, the bacterial cultures can help break down the lactose. Plus just 1 cup of plain, low-fat yogurt provides 415 mg of calcium. But forget frozen yogurt. It doesn’t contain enough live cultures, which means it may cause problems for people who are lactose intolerant. To be safe, you can always choose lactose-free yogurt.

Probiotics for Lactose Intolerance

For some people, probiotics can ease symptoms of lactose intolerance. Probiotics are live microorganisms, usually bacteria, that restore the balance of “good” bacteria in your digestive system. They can be found in foods like yogurt or kefir — probiotic-rich milk — as well as dietary supplements. Check with your doctor to see if probiotics might help you.

Low-Lactose Home Cooking

Cooking low-lactose requires a change of thinking. The simpler you cook, the better. Use herbs and seasonings to flavor meat, fish, and vegetables. Stick to fresh ingredients and use fewer prepared foods. Experiment with chicken stock or lactose-free milks to make sauces. Use low-lactose cheeses for baking. Explore cuisines — such as Mediterranean or Asian — that don’t rely very much on dairy products.