The University of Wisconsin-Madison Babcock dairy plant will no longer certify that its fluid milk supplies come from herds that avoid use of supplemental bovine somatotropin (BST).
Tom Blattner, administrative director of Babcock dairy, says the plant will work to provide alternative fluid milk supplies for as long as it is possible to locate supplemental BST-free supplies in the marketplace and as long as demand exists. Primary university customers for Babcock milk include the residence halls, student unions and the hospital.
“We will continue to purchase our milk supplies based on the highest quality and safety standards possible to ensure continued quality of our fluid milk, ice cream and cheese,” Blattner says.
Since consumer concerns over this production technology arose more than 10 years ago, the Babcock plant has sought to meet its fluid milk needs from herds not receiving supplemental BST. BST is a naturally occurring protein found in all milk, even milk from cattle not receiving supplemental BST. BST is also known as bovine growth hormone.
The Babcock dairy plant decision, according to Blattner, mirrors decisions made by other Wisconsin dairy processing plants that once separated their milk supplies on the basis of herd use of supplemental BST. Most dairy plants that supply Wisconsin”s fluid milk have found it is increasingly difficult to segregate milk supplies on the basis of supplemental BST use and, as a result, no longer guarantee that all of their fluid milk is from untreated herds.
In Wisconsin, the supply of quality milk from untreated herds continues to decrease. The reasons for that, dairy processors note, are that there is an increased acceptance and use of supplemental BST as well as extensive scientific studies of human and animal safety, and the reluctance of farmers to sign notarized affidavits about supplemental BST use in their herds.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, after extensive scientific study, determined that milk from cows receiving supplemental BST is no different from milk produced by cows not receiving supplemental BST. The American Medical Association, the American Dietetic Association, the World Health Organization, and many regulatory agencies share the view that supplemental BST use is safe.
The UW-Madison dairy plant has not promoted or labeled its fluid milk products as coming from herds not receiving supplemental BST. “We have detected very little consumer concern in recent years about the BST issue,” Blattner says.
Since supplemental recombinant BST was first approved for commercial use in 1994, many other technologies involving genetic modification have been approved for use in the nation”s food production and processing systems.
The Babcock dairy plant operates as a research, instruction and outreach facility of the UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. Babcock ice cream is one of the plant”s most popular products, enjoyed by students, faculty and staff, alumni, campus visitors, and customers in the Madison area.