"What is produced from garbage is garbage."
Guo Benheng [file photo]
So says Guo Benheng, president of Bright Dairy & Food, who recently told Sina that China has one of the lowest standards in the world for its raw milk. Before, in June, Wang Dingmian, president of Guangzhou Dairy Association, had made a similar comment at a dairy forum: "The China dairy industry's new standards are the lowest in the world."
Almost immediately after they made the comments, both men retracted their statements. Guo blamed the media for exaggerating facts, while Wang said he was pressured by public relations campaigns.
From the pressure on Guo and Wang, we can get a glimpse of the unhealthy trends and evil practices within China's milk industry. Instead of responding to concerns by rebuilding consumer confidence, industry officials merely blamed the whistle-blowers. In this sense, they are increasingly looking like China's soccer association. Their problems have become too difficult and complex for them to self-correct.
Dairy companies, many of which made fortunes overnight, are still trying to eliminate competition by selling low-quality products at lower prices. But after the melamine scandal, those days are over. Consumers will no longer fall for their ubiquitous advertisements and are now voting with their stomachs – many have quit buying Chinese products or are buying imported milk.
In his reversal, Guo also claimed that China's dairy processing standards have reached an advanced level on par with international standards. This may be true: The majority of processing equipment used by Chinese dairy companies is imported. But even with the most advanced machines, if the quality of the raw milk is bad, then only low-quality milk will be produced.
Most dairy companies in China buy raw milk from dairy farmers, among the worst sources for raw milk in the world. Dairy cows live in extremely crowded conditions with little room to exercise. They do not eat grass but are fed formula feed that contain all sorts of additives. They exist only to produce milk.
In such an unhealthy environment, it is likely that cows and their milk will not be safe and healthy. In Europe, cows must have enough room to move and be grass-fed. It is seen as a healthy way for cows to produce high-quality milk.
Many Chinese dairy companies are willing to invest a huge amount of money in advertising that show cows walking in picturesque prairies. But they are stingy to dairy farmers, trying their best to lower the price they pay the farmers for the raw milk, which prevent them from being able to raising healthy cows.
In China's milk industry, like in its soccer industry, people are only interested in making money. They have stopped trying to improve it. But unlike in soccer, where match-fixing is only injurious to justice, low-quality milk will impair our health. It's really hard to have faith in such an industry.
(This post was first published in Chinese and translated by Li Huiru.)
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