Alisa Fleming ~ Last year was a rough one for Domino’s Pizza. The widespread chain was suffering sunken sales and a paltry consumer approval rating. But help was just 12 million dollars worth of funding away. When they heard of the ailing corporation, a “heroic” organization known as Dairy Management stepped in to save the day. They suggested that Domino’s create a new line of pizzas with 40% more cheese, and then proceeded to create and pay for the multi-million dollar campaign to promote them.
How noble this might appear if one didn’t know that Dairy Management is not a private business consultant. It is a marketing brainchild of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Dairy Management Inc. (lovingly known as DMI) enjoys an annual budget of close to $140 million, funded indirectly by the dairy industry (via the government) and directly by the Agriculture department.
As their tagline states, “DMI helps to build demand for dairy on behalf of dairy producers and is dedicated to the success of the dairy industry.”
Though it may not come as a big surprise that the dairy industry is trying to get one of the largest pizza producers to use more cheese, the kicker comes in the USDA’s involvement. Of course, I could go off on a tangent about Domino’s (and the dairy industry) getting taxpayer dollars for private gain, but consumers unknowingly funding the dairy industry is actually old news.
What is truly puzzling is the USDA’s battle on both sides of the coin. As stated in the New York Times, the USDA is “… the same agency at the center of a federal anti-obesity drive that discourages over-consumption of some of the very foods Dairy Management is vigorously promoting.”
Since 1970, Americans have tripled their cheese consumption, with the average individual consuming 33 lbs of cheese per year (and this calculation was done before these pizzas became even heftier). Cheese has become our largest source of saturated fat, the “enemy” as labeled by the nutrition committee of the USDA. They have urged us to keep saturated fat below 7% of calories (just one slice of this cheesier Domino’s pizza contains up to 2/3 of that amount for a 2000 calorie diet), and switch to low fat milk products.
In September, Michelle Obama even spoke out against obesity, asking restaurants to offer healthier menu options and citing cheeseburgers and macaroni and cheese specifically as problems.
Perhaps you are wondering, “Could that extra pizza cheese really have an effect?” Have no fear, Dairy Management doesn’t drive forward without some serious metrics behind them, and in this case, experience. They developed a “Summer of Cheese” promotion for Pizza Hut in 2002 that helped Americans gobble up an additional 102 million pounds of cheese. With respect to the Domino’s campaign, Dairy Management has estimated that if every pizza included just one more ounce of cheese, Americans would dish up another 250 million pounds of cheese annually.
The Agriculture Department and Dairy Management aren’t restricting their marketing to fast food either. They have boasted a 5 to 16 percent increase in cheese snack sales in stores where Dairy Management has “helped” grocers to reinvent their dairy aisles with an array of cheese products and recipes for home cooking. According to the New York Times, Dairy Management documents show that “… the strategy is focusing on families whose cheese “habit” outpaces their concern about the health risks.”
It seems the USDA wants to have their cheese and eat it too, but at the expense of a confused and largely overweight population.
Who is Dairy Management Inc.?
Lest you think this is a new creation, DMI was actually the brains behind the legendary “Got Milk?” campaign and the bogus ‘milk equals weight loss’ campaign. They have ballooned to employ 162 professionals specializing in product development and marketing, with The Dairy Council at their disposal for research and communications.
Source: New York Times, “While Warning About Fat, U.S. Pushes Cheese Sales” by Michael Moss, November 6, 2010.
Image: Domino’s via AP
Article by Alisa Fleming, founder of GoDairyFree.org and author of Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance and Casein-Free Living. You can also follow Alisa's recipes at AlisaCooks.com and her health findings at DairyFreeandFit.com.