Isle Dairy Industry Keeps It Fresh

Yu Shing Ting
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Friday - June 30, 2010
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In recognition of June as National Dairy Month, it’s only right to honor our local dairy farms Island Dairy and Clover Leaf Dairy, and processing plants Meadow Gold Hawaii and Meadow Gold Oahu.

When it comes to milk, buying local has many benefits. First, there’s the freshness of it, especially with milk spoiling so easily. And second, buying local supports not only the business itself, but an entire community. For example, Meadow Gold, which has been in business for more than 100 years, is a major contributor to our economy and participates in many local charities and events such as AYSO Soccer, the Healthy Baby Contest and the Hawaii Foodbank drives.

We have the option to buy milk that has been locally produced and processed, but it’s something we can’t take for granted as the local dairy industry is not what it used to be. Think sugar and pineapples.


According to Richard Walrack, consultant for Island Dairy, millions of dollars of investments in dairies and millions of dollars in high-paying jobs have gone to California over the past 10 years, decimating Hawaii’s dairy industry. Gone are 37 dairy farms with an estimated investment in land and equipment of $250 million, and 8,000 cows with a value of an estimated $24 million.

In a December 2007 Department of Agriculture report to the state Legislature, it was stated that dairy industry sales decreased from $32.2 million to $14.5 million in less than two decades, with this decline attributed to environmental issues, feed costs, transportation, milk prices to farmers, an aging ownership in the industry and changing dynamics in the marketplace. It also noted that in 1980, the Islands were totally self-sufficient in milk, but by the end of 2007 would produce less than 20 percent of our fluid milk needs.

“The demise of the Hawaii dairy industry primarily is blamed on imported milk from California coops with surplus milk and large California national supermarket chains with which local supermarkets and processors were forced to compete,” says Walrack. “Sen. Daniel Inouye, the state and many of our Hawaii leaders recognize the importance of the state being self-sufficient. Communities that recognize and stress self-sufficiency have remained the most prosperous; hence, many are supporting an effort to revive the dairy industry by encouraging more milk production in Hawaii.”

Recently, Island Dairy has expanded its herd, built new facilities and introduced Island Fresh Milk on Oahu. It has licensed Meadow Gold to process and distribute Island Fresh Milk, which is being offered to all Oahu supermarkets.

Meadow Gold continues to make milk fun by urging customers to drink milk and perhaps win money in the process. It recently launched a campaign called Below Zero Hero, featuring milk and ice cream, and is offering customers a chance to win $10,000 by submitting their favorite milkshake recipes online at

I love milk. My 2-year-old son and I go through three gallons a week. And let’s not forget: “It does a body good.”

“Milk is definitely a nutrient powerhouse when it comes to beverages,” says Mia Inoshita, registered dietitian at Meadow Gold Dairies. “It is packed with bone-building nutrients such as calcium and vita-min D, important B vita-mins and high-quality protein. With such a solid nutrition profile, it’s more than a beverage that one can drink for pleasure, it’s food that fuels the body for good health.”

“Got Milk?”

Thankfully, Hawaii can still answer that with a yes. Let’s keep it that way.

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