(Updated May 1, 2020) | As demand falls due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, suppliers are dumping excess milk and eggs. Closed restaurants, cafeterias, and businesses are leaving U.S. farmers and food companies with huge quantities of excess produce.
While grocery store sales are increasing, producers disproportionately depend on industry sales to survive. Switching from industrial production to grocery-sized and labeled packaging is extremely time-consuming. As a result, farms, food companies, and other producers cannot easily offset the sudden lack of service industry demand.
According to Dennis Rodenbaugh, executive VP at Dairy Farmers of America, as much as seven percent of all U.S. produced milk was dumped last week. “Consumers have changed how they eat, and it’s rippling back right to the farm gate,” said Rodenbaugh, as reported in The Wall Street Journal.
In addition to dumping milk and eggs, farms are plowing hundreds of acres of vegetables back into the earth. Some chicken companies are intentionally shrinking their flocks. Last week, Sanderson Farms Inc. reported a 60 percent reduction in demand from its restaurant customers.
The Mississippi-based farm is breaking eggs to avoid the additional cost of unnecessarily hatching and raising the chicks for slaughter. According to officials within the meat industry, several poultry companies are taking similar action.
The milk industry, in particular, is struggling. According to the USDA, milk consumption has been falling steadily for decades. The average annual consumption fell from 273.8 cups in the 1980s to 198.8 pounds in 2012.
A number of factors have contributed to this reduction. Dairy has become a global trade, for example. There are also differences in consumption between generations. For 48 percent of Americans, dairy-free vegan milk is now a staple purchase, regardless of dietary preference. The impact of coronavirus on the industry is reducing the demand for milk even further.
Earlier this month, the USDA revealed plans to spend up to $15.5 billion bailing out the meat and dairy industries. The Trump administration’s bailout combines remaining USDA funds and part of the $23.5 billion allocated to supporting agriculture during the coronavirus pandemic.
In order to limit milk dumping in New York state, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the launch of the Nourish New York initiative.
Under the new plan, the state will buy $25 million worth of milk and dairy products, such as cheese, yogurt, and sour cream, and donate them to food pantries.
“This is just a total waste to me,” the governor said at his coronavirus briefing. “We have people downstate who need food and farmers upstate who can’t sell their product.”