How do Milk Protein Concentrate, Ultra-filtered milk affect milk glut?

Wisconsin State Farmer

Are the “milk glut” and low farm milk prices being caused by the use of Milk Protein Concentrate (MPC) and Ultra-filtered Milk (UF) in cheese and other dairy products?  

No one really knows how much milk MPC/Ultra-filtered Milk is displacing since the Federal Milk Marketing Orders (FMMO) do not collect data on MPC/UF Milk production and use. This is considered proprietary information. MPC/UF Milk are now being used in all four classes of milk products. 

MPC and UF Milk are not approved ingredients in standardized cheeses, but Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has “exercised discretionary enforcement” in this area, as reiterated on Aug. 11, 2017. FDA went further and stated, “. . . we do not intend to take action against companies that manufacture standardized cheeses and related cheese products that contain fluid Ultra-filtered Milk or fluid Ultra-filtered Non-fat Milk without declaring them in the ingredient statement, as long as their labels declare milk or non-fat milk in the ingredient statement.” 

We can, however, look at cheese production compared to Class III utilization in the FMMOs and California Class 4b (cheese) utilization to gain some insight. The traditional yield factor for cheese is 10.01 pounds per 100 pounds of fluid milk containing 3.5 percent butterfat and 2.99 percent true protein. Higher average components may yield 11 pounds of cheese per 100 pounds of milk.

National cheese production last year (2017) for cheese falling under Class III or California Class 4b was approximately 12.4 billion pounds Class III utilization (weighted average) in all Federal Orders was 41 percent. If this rate of utilization is true nationally, the average cheese production would be 14.1 pounds per 100 lbs. of milk. The Class 4b utilization in California for 2017 was 46.2 percent, making an average cheese yield of 13.66 pounds per 100 pounds of milk.

Given this information, it seems unlikely that the national average cheese yield is less than 13.5 pounds per 100 pounds of milk. This translates into at least 20 billion pounds of farm milk being displaced by the use of MPC/UF Milk in cheese. 

Low-fat and non-fat dairy products are being promoted. Declining fluid milk sales may be due in part to people not liking the taste of low-fat or non-fat milk. It is even getting harder to find full-fat yogurt and cottage cheese.

The fat that traditionally would go into these products is used with MPC/UF Milk to produce substandard cheese. Much of this use violates cheese standards. How much milk is being displaced in other dairy products because of MPC/UF Milk?

More profit is pocketed by cheese manufacturers when MPC/UF Milk is used than when cheese is manufactured the traditional way. Besides, creating a false milk surplus keeps farm milk prices low and dairy manufacturing profits even higher.

Any discussion of supply management that does not consider the farmer’s cost of production and deal with the displacement issues is nothing more than smoke and mirrors.

Gerald Carlin, Meshoppen, PA