American Dairy Association North East Offers Tips for Talking to Consumers About Dairy Amidst Covid-19 Pandemic

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – During this unprecedented time in our nation, American Dairy Association North East encourages dairy farmers to share positive, science-based facts about the health benefits of milk and dairy products with consumers. The key message to remind consumers during the COVID-19 situation is that dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt are safe, nutritious and affordable foods for all families.

“Now more than ever, it’s crucial we share credible information from reputable sources because people are scared, and they aren’t sure who to trust,” said American Dairy Association CEO Rick Naczi. “That’s why health organizations like the Center for Disease Control and Prevention use simple, consistent messages with the most accurate information known at the time. Dairy farmers have so many great things to talk about, from the animals you raise to the nutritious, safe products you produce – let’s focus on that.”

During this time of social distancing, social media is the best way to communicate with consumers. Kelsey O’Shea of Mapleview Dairy in Madrid, N.Y., shared an excellent example of how to approach the topic. View her post here: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=525786118314701

In less than one minute, she conveyed several important messages including:
* Farms continue to operate “somewhat” business-as-usual
* Cows are still receiving top-notch care
* Farmers still supply a safe, quality product to grocery store shelves
* Farm staff and employees’ health and safety is a priority

Consider what families are dealing with – the uncertainty and confusion. Some of the information dairy farmers share could easily be misconstrued by those less informed about the dairy industry. For example, comments like farmers may have to dump milk could lead consumers to think the milk is tainted in some way, which is not true. Another example would be sharing that cows receive a vaccine for Coronavirus. Consumers could misinterpret this to mean that the virus must be prevalent in dairy cows and they should not drink milk. Again, an untrue statement.

Several social media posts have been circulating that indicate drinking milk will help people “stay strong against” COVID-19. Science-based research shows that a balanced diet that includes dairy is important for overall health and wellness, however, we highly caution against content that claims human immunity benefits from dairy and the protein found in dairy called lactoferrin.

Below are facts from Dr. Greg Miller, Chief Science Officer, Dairy Management, Inc.:

  • Lactoferrin is a glycoprotein found in dairy that has been demonstrated to have antiviral activity.
  • However, most of the research on this antiviral effect has been done in test tube or animal models.
  • Studies done in humans have been limited and with mixed results.
  • Human trials have also used pharmaceutical (doses much larger than obtained from the 3 servings of dairy recommended) levels of lactoferrin isolated from milk.
  • Thus, much more research is needed before claims could be made about its immune effects (or dairy foods).

Further positive messages that can help bolster consumer confidence in dairy farmers, dairy farms and dairy products at this difficult time are listed below:

Dairy and Overall Wellness

• Dairy foods are a source of high-quality protein because they contain the essential amino acids that the body cannot make on its own. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17403271)

• Milk is good for all ages, because it’s the #1 food source for calcium, vitamin D, and potassium – nutrients that many Americans, including children, are lacking in their diets.

Dairy and Immunity

  • Eating a balanced diet with a variety of foods to get essential nutrients is important to help maintain a healthy immune function.
  • Milk not only tastes great; it also is an affordable good/excellent source of 9 essential nutrients. But, did you know that three of the nutrients – vitamin A, vitamin D, and protein – are essential for a healthy immune function?
  • Vitamin A helps support healthy immune cells. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK222318/
  • There is emerging evidence that vitamin D plays a role in helping to maintain a healthy immune function, too. Research has shown that vitamin D can increase cellular immunity, which helps the body kill bad bacteria. (https://www.nap.edu/read/13050/chapter/5#91)
  • Proteins are the building blocks of all cells in the body – including immune cells and immune signaling molecules. Specifically, research has shown that amino acids can activate immune cells and stimulate the production of antibodies, cytokines and other cytotoxic substances that help keep us healthy.

Dairy and Food Storage

  • Pasteurized dairy foods are safe to eat as the pasteurization process gets rid of any harmful bacteria. In addition, pasteurization does not significantly change the nutritional value of milk.

If you see friends or fellow farmers sharing unverified claims, consider messaging them privately and ask them to remove or edit the post.

Please contact Beth Meyer ([email protected]), Director of Consumer Confidence at American Dairy Association North East, for further tips on communicating with consumers. 

ADA North East will continue to work on behalf of dairy farmers. If you have concerns or suggestions about addressing the challenges during this time, please call 315.472.9143.

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About American Dairy Association North East

American Dairy Association North East (ADA North East) is the dairy farmer-funded organization funded by participating dairy farmer’s checkoff investment to build demand and sales for milk and dairy foods throughout the local region. Representing more than 10,000 dairy farm families in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and northern Virginia, ADA North East develops and implements local programs to drive milk and dairy sales at retail outlets and in schools. The organization also conducts consumer education about dairy through events, traditional and social media, and in collaboration with health professionals through National Dairy Council®. ADA North East works closely with Dairy Management Inc.™, the national dairy checkoff organization, to support nutrition research, national partnerships and developing export markets for dairy to bring a fully integrated promotion program to the region. For more information, visit www.AmericanDairy.com, or call 315.472.9143.