First, the California dairy industry fights to remove the word "milk" from labels of plant-based products like the popular brand, Miyoko's Creamery. Now comes the latest dairy-backed contrivance to get consumers to think that drinking cow's milk is a good idea. The California Milk Advisory Board just released its latest PR stunt and the reaction was, safe to say, not what they were going for.

In a press release titled “Calling All CBD (California Based Dairy) Fans; The World's First Dairy Dispensary Is Set to Launch In Los Angeles.” At the crux of the campaign, The California Milk Advisory Board will run a pop-up shop on Abbot Kinney, the popular thoroughfare in Venice Beach. From February 20th through 22nd, they will be selling dairy products in a cannabis dispensary-like fashion, highlighting “mood-enhancing” dairy products, flavored milk, and providing education from “dairy docents.”

The New Campaign for a Milk Dispensary Is Met with Disbelief

The dairy industry has had a tough go the last several years as it continues to lose market share to plant-based alternatives. Cow's milk sales plunged by $1.1 billion in 2018 (as revealed by the Dairy Farmers of America in its annual meeting last year). Losses are widely attributed to consumers shifting away from dairy as the availability of plant-based alternatives increases. The industry has been so damaged by new offerings like oat and pea milk that dairy lobbyists have attempted to ban terminology like “milk” and “cheese” on plant-based labels.

While Dean Foods went out of business and Borden went into bankruptcy, Elmhurst has decided if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, and ditched dairy altogether in order to pivot to make plant-based products. California’s dairy producers may have the most to lose as sales of cow's milk dwindle. The state leads the nation in total milk production, responsible for more than one-fifth of the nation's total output. With dairy’s largest market at stake, it’s no wonder they have poured big bucks into expensive (if ill-conceived) PR stunts like the latest “Dairy Dispensary.”

Cannabis Dispensaries Are Popular, Milk Not So Much.

The California Milk Advisory Board says the pop-up “dispensary” will focus on promoting the mood-enhancing properties of California dairy foods such as cheese, micro-dosed butter, flavor-infused yogurts, and rolled ice cream which they say has “all the TLC without the THC.”  While the California dairy industry is attempting a light-hearted play on the now legal cannabis dispensary of cannabis, they broke the first rule of marketing "know your audience."

Cannabis products were first approved for medical use, helping to alieve symptoms as varied as sleep deprivation, anxiety, side effects of chemo and epilepsy. “It’s almost a slap in the face to folks who rely on cannabis while they are fighting various diseases,” says Michael Scherr, CEO of Arbor Hemp, who has been in the cannabis space for nearly 12 years. “People have moved across state lines to get access to this medicine, or they’ve had to risk getting it on the black market to relieve their ailments. There’s a level of insensitivity here around the hardships that the industry has overcome and is still overcoming throughout the past several decades, fighting for legalization.”

Scherr points out that there is no “black milk market,” and people aren’t sitting in jail for nonviolent dairy crimes. “Until someone gets arrested for underaged use of Gouda, I’d consider it unethical for the California Milk Advisory Board to use the hype of cannabis and CBD for their own advertorial benefit.”

Perhaps Dairy Should Only Be Sold With a Doctor's Rx

Cannabis—legal for recreational use in 11 states, and medical use in 23 states—is used to help with medical conditions, while dairy is linked to diseases such as heart disease and certain cancers, as well as type-2 diabetes and various other conditions. Dr. T. Colin Campbell published “The China Study,” in 2004, (and a significant paper ), that provided scientific research that connected casein, the protein in animal dairy, with the growth of cancer cells.

study published by the National Cancer Institute found that women who ate the highest amount of cheese had a 53 percent increased risk for breast cancer recurrence, due in part to the hormones in dairy, which appear to be a factor in hormone-related cancers such as breast, prostate, uterine, and ovarian. A large portion of the population is lactose sensitive and suffers from GI distress after consuming dairy. When eliminating dairy from their diet people report having better digestion and a general feeling of better gut health.

This is Dairy's "Desperate Attempt" to Reverse the Trend Away from  Cow's Milk

“The dairy industry has had a stranglehold on our food systems for so long and took it for granted that dairy would always be the center of the American diet,” says Judie Mancuso, founder and president of the California Plant Based Association (CPBA), a California-based lobbying group that launched this year. “But as we all learn of the negative effects of dairy on our health, on our planet, and on the poor cows, we are moving away from dairy, and moving away quickly. Especially younger generations, and this is the dairy's desperate attempt to reverse that trend.”

Beyond campaigns, the milk industry is lobbying state legislatures to pass draconian labeling laws to prevent plant-based companies from using common-sense language. “The dairy industry is deeply embedded in our government and has influence that is grossly disproportionate compared to other kinds of food industries,” Mancuso told The Beet.

“For decades, milk has had marketing access to schools. The ‘Got Milk’ campaign is an example, where you would see posters with the slogan in school cafeterias across America. Last year we advocated for schools in California to be reimbursed a small amount of money for plant-based milk alternatives to be served. The dairy industry lobbied against this because they argued there would be ‘vegan propaganda’ in schools if this program were implemented. The dairy industry is fine with their propaganda... while hiding the negative effects on climate change and other environmental impacts and the gross abuse of animals in their industry.” Mancuso notes that the industry still has a tight grip on the California State Capitol, but this is why she helped lead the effort and create CPBA. “We need to shift the balance of power.”

While gimmicks like a “Dairy Dispensary” might catch people's attention and headlines for a moment, tasteless stunts remind us that consumers hold the purchasing power and no amount of creativity will save a dwindling dairy industry.