Today rbST – What’s Next?

Harrisburg, US – Recently, there has been renewed attention on the use of rbST (recombinant bovine somatatropin), a synthetic version of the natural protein growth hormone in dairy cattle. Dairy producers can use this product as a herd management tool to increase milk production.
calendar icon 6 November 2006
clock icon 2 minute read

Thirteen years ago, the Food & Drug Administration approved the use of rbST after extensive scientific research. It was proven that rbST is species-specific to bovines and deemed completely safe for human consumption. In fact, there is no way to differentiate between the milk from herds using rbST and those not using it.

The bottom line is that milk is safe when produced and processed under our strict sanitation guidelines. As agriculturalists and producers, we know the products we offer are rigorously tested and inspected to ensure they are safe, wholesome and healthy when processed, handled and stored properly.

Recently, several dairy processors began labeling and marketing milk as produced on farms not using synthetic hormones, attempting to gain more of the market share of milk sales. These marketing techniques are guiding consumers to purchase this milk, and allowing processors and retailers to charge more per gallon than for unlabeled milk. If consumers have preferences about the way food is produced such as “grass-fed,” “organic,” or “natural,” that’s their choice. However, in this situation, consumers are not basing their decisions on sound science but rather on manipulative marketing.

Dairy producers are being directed to sign documents by processors and cooperatives to cease using rbST so the milk can be labeled as such. A producer recently shared that because he was using rbST, his milk processor was charging an additional fee for hauling the milk to another plant for processing.

In some states, a gallon of milk from herds not using supplemental hormones is selling for nearly twice the dollars per gallon of “regular” milk. Who is collecting that extra money while the farmer is still receiving the same price? What other industry is guided by the retailer and the processor to eliminate the use of an approved management tool that will cut yields and productivity, but not increase the price paid to the producer?

With the volatile milk prices, dairy producers rely on a mix of these tools to manage their farms to remain profitable. If it is rbST today, what will be the next request or mandate?


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