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Idaho Dairy Industry: Crossing Borders

Karianne Fallow, the CEO for Idaho’s Dairy Products Commission representing the United Dairymen of Idaho, recounts attending the FEPALE 2014  Dairy Conference in Mexico and shares insights into the important trade partnership between two great countries. 

On a recent trade trip to the FEPALE 2014 Dairy Conference in Mexico, my first with the dairy industry, I was overwhelmed by one really important difference between that country and our own. The Mexican people have a taste and, perhaps unmatched, respect for milk and dairy products that isn’t always obvious in the US.

However, that love of milk is challenged by the fact that Mexico’s dairies only produce about 25 billion pounds of milk for 122.3 million people.

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Delegates from Idaho’s Dairy Industry

The group I traveled with included some of Idaho’s most successful dairy product companies, three of Idaho’s finest dairy farmers and the State Department of Agriculture Marketing team, whose job is to grow Idaho’s exports around the globe. We met with several food and dairy processing companies while in Mexico and, as the dairy aisle in the store represented, they were all very interested in growing their dairy product offerings.

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UHT (Ultra High Temperature Processing) Milk Containers

My visit to a Mega store, a grocery retail brand owned by Mexicana Comercial, was all the evidence I needed to know that in Mexico, milk matters. The unrefrigerated milk section included at least 60 feet of dedicated shelf space to UHT (Ultra High Temperature Processing) milk containers– these are the cardboard containers of milk that require no refrigeration. This milk came in a variety of sizes and flavors and catered to every niche one could think of, and had ample shelf space dedicated within the cereal aisle– brilliant (because what good is cereal without milk?)!

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Over 25ft of Drinkable Yogurt in a Mexican Grocery Store

 

The varieties of refrigerated cream (mostly used for cooking) and cheeses would make any milk lover jealous. Drinkable yogurt was displayed in a refrigerated area that spanned at least 25 feet. Near the drinkable yogurt, there were cartons of flavored milk, too. Having tried several flavors, I can attest that it was delicious and refreshing in the heat of the day.

No doubt, the demand for dairy is high, and as these suppliers look to the US for safe and fresh products to meet this ever-growing demand, Idaho has a unique opportunity. As a state, we produce nearly 14 billion pounds of milk a year– our climate and our environment are perfect for our cows. Yet, we only have 1.5 million people living in the state. If everyone in Idaho had to eat the cheese we produce here, we would all be consuming 5,500 pounds of cheese a year!

In addition to our milk volumes, our somatic cell count is low (somatic cell count (SCC) is an indicator of the quality of milk. Generally a lower somatic cell count indicates better animal health) — perhaps the lowest in the country. In Idaho, we have elected to regulate stricter standards than most of the US, conforming with the European Union (EU) standards. That means our milk offers a quality beyond compare in the US.

The State of Idaho opened a trade office in Mexico over 20 years ago and we enjoy strong, positive relations with our neighbor to the South. Using our face-to-face meetings serves as a reminder to those Mexican companies to remember Idaho as a great option.

For the dairy industry, we can’t take Mexico for granted as a trade partner. And, we won’t. We will be a good neighbor to them, not only as an exporter, but will even work to provide best practices and innovations to Mexican dairy farmers so that they can be their best, too.

Karianne Fallow, CEO – Idaho Dairy Products Commission, representing the United Dairymen of Idaho 

The globe made with recycled milk containers!

The globe made with recycled milk containers!