Thursday, March 27, 2008

Bessy's banking my milk money!

I started this post a couple weeks ago. Since then the price of milk has curtailed slightly - but the story is still relevant. Enjoy!)


I made a desperate run to the grocery store last night. There wasn’t a fruit or vegetable on the premise. The milk supply was down to a few sips in the bottom of the jug. And as far as bread goes, there was one stale bagel in the back of the refrigerator. We were desperate for groceries.

I headed out – alone – for the supermarket, leaving daddy and kids behind. If only there was time for the mall and the craft store, this would have been a fun trip. But not this time. I was on a mission. There would be another day for dark washed jeans and fabric for new throw pillows.

I made my way through the supermarket with ease. Isn’t it amazing how fast you can move without children hanging from the cart and a baby on your hip? That’s when I hit the milk coolers.

$4.00 for a gallon of milk?

I stepped back slowly from the cooler. Surely, this wasn’t right. I cautiously checked the prices on the rest of the coolers. 2%, 1%, whole and skim – all within pennies of $4.00 per gallon.

I knew the price of milk had gone up, but when did it hit $4.00? I thought I was an aware consumer, but this had me baffled.

I stood there, leaning against my cart, thinking about those four dollars.

$4.00 can buy lots of things – a new color of nail polish for spring, a pair of polka dot socks, a snazzy new pen for my day planner, several colors of Play Doh, twenty-one digital prints from the pharmacy, flower seeds, and lip gloss – all of which are fun things to buy for $4.00. But $4.00 for cow’s milk? Holy cow!

What self-righteous, greedy dairy cow was taking my $4.00 anyway?

I can picture ol’ Bessy, herself, decked out in hot pink nail polish, new shiny lip gloss, and doodling her favorite bull’s name in her day planner with her snazzy new pen. She’s probably gazing at her beautiful flowers from her barn window, and hanging up new pictures of a night out with the girls at the feed bunk.

By now, I was pretty annoyed with Bessy. But my family had to have milk, and I pulled a gallon from the cooler and placed it in my cart anyway. I walked away from those coolers determined to figure out the truth behind Bessy’s shopping spree.

As it turns out, Bessy is not on a shopping spree. Bessy, in fact, is having a hard time putting food on the table for her family. Her family like to eat corn, among other things, and the price of corn is breaking Bessy’s bank.

So what’s going on with corn? Seems the rest of the world thinks it would be a good idea if their automobiles would run on corn…err…ethanol. And while that may be a good idea, the choice between food and feed use for corn versus using it for fuel, is creating competition thus driving up the price of those little yellow kernels.

Furthermore, the US dollar is weak, presently, compared to other currencies around the globe. That means US products are more affordable in the global markets, and we have been exporting much of our grain supply to foreign countries.

Getting complicated? There’s more…

It takes oil – in the form of gas – to get that grain from the field, to a processor, to a retailer and then to your kitchen table. Oil is awfully expensive these days, as you certainly are aware.

Incomes are on the rise around the world – as are populations. We have more people, with more money, and that means more mouths to feed with a limited supply of land on which to produce that food.

Did I mention that is has been a poor crop year around the globe? Grain supplies are down all over the world, and demand continues to drive that price upward.

So…hold on a minute. Can’t figure out why grain production in a foreign country has anything to do with the gallon of milk you just pulled from the cooler at your grocery store?

Let’s review.

Cows give us milk.

Cows need to eat grain to produce that milk.

Grain is expensive at the present time.

The price of grain is high due to many factors – oil, ethanol, poor global crop, etc.

If Bessy is spending more money to produce the milk you want to buy, then you, too, will have to spend more money for Bessy’s milk.

That happens to be the way a market economy works. Take it or leave it. You’re not getting your milk (lunch) free.

You and I, mother to mother, we’re in this together. We have to buy milk. Our kids need it. (And we need it too, or our morning coffee just wouldn’t be quite right.)

And from the look of things, we had better just get used to it. It doesn’t sound like things will be getting better anytime soon.

I guess it’s like they say, “When life gives you expensive milk, make chocolate milk.” Or something like that…

Want to read more? See this and this.

7 comments:

Dana J. Tuszke said...

This is one of the best posts I've read in such a long time. I live in Wisconsin and milk is just under $4.00 a gallon. My husband works in a grocery store and he tells me stories of all the elderly shoppers who are going without milk because of the cost. It makes me sad.

WillThink4Wine said...

It is just awful, isn't it? I noticed the price of a gallon a few months ago when I picked some up for my parents. I don't drink that much milk and only buy 1/2 gallons, and this is not an item I usually would watch prices on. I was blown away! Inflation has even hit the Milk Pumps!!

Anonymous said...

SGG - I appreciate your latest post tying in the ever-important topic of economics and it's relationship back to agriculture and our food supply. Well done. It's important to let people know that the dairy farmer is not the one raking in the extra profits. Thanks! -JNC

Pam said...

It is terrible, isn't it?! Everything is getting more and more expensive!

Thanks for stopping by my blog!

Janel said...

Wow. Very infomative and interesting post. I also buy my milk in 1/2 gallons and didn't really notice. We are not huge milk drinkers. BUT I have noticed how expensive groceries are in general.

Good stuff to know indeed.

Anonymous said...

Believe it or not, you CAN live without milk. You can get your calcium in other ways, haven't you heard of spinach or broccoli?

Sarah Grace said...

I believe you missed the point of the post. I was trying to provide an explanation of exactly why grocery prices had gotten so high. I understand there are other sources of calcium, and even support soy milk drinkers. (My family raises soybeans.) We just happen to prefer milk.