Once upon a time dairy farming was practiced only on a small-scale and milk was considered a simple by-product of owning cows. It was not until after the Industrial Revolution, when the world started to function on a free-market capitalist economy, that dairying evolved into the industry it is today. In the 1999-2000 period, a total of 47.4 million hectolitres of industrial milk and cream were produced in Canada alone (Canadian Dairy Association, 2000). As herds become larger, so does the demand for their basic requirements. Because dairy cattle require a protein rich diet that cannot always be met by simple grazing, their feed needs to be supplemented with grains. Consequently farmers have been under increased pressure from the market to produce cash crops and become more specialized, and have given way to mass industrialized farming (During, 1991).
Currently only a few firms control the modern industrial livestock production, and small producers are being driven out of the market (Durning, 1991). Between March 1998 and March 2001 alone, there were 496 mergers or acquisitions in the dairy industry worldwide (Australian Dairy, 2001) (See Appendix 2). According to the World Bank (2002) “costs of production must be competitive with border milk prices and high capacity utilization is important given relatively high capital costs.” Thus, the effect of globalization on small family producers in the developed world has been destabilizing.
“The turn away from the farm for essentials coincided with the general cultural reorientation outward, away from the farm, for cultural ties, market opportunities, and employment. As the farm enterprise itself dissolved into loosely connected pieces, so did the household itself…” (McMurry, 1995)
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, world dairy production nears 6 billion tonnes of milk every year (World Bank, 2002). The industry continues to consolidate and globalize rapidly “as major players grow through acquisition and expansion into emerging markets” (World Bank, 2002).
Prior to 1850, factorization in the dairy industry was virtually unheard of in North America. In fact, the first modern cheese factory in the United States was erected in 1851 (McMurry, 1995). Preceding the industrialization of the process, dairy-related jobs were performed mainly by women, who, in so doing, controlled this small sector of the economy. Though some
“see factory consolidation as a positive event for women, alleviating burdensome labor, … [m]ore recent historians … are more critical. They see in dairy factory centralization a loss for women, since men both took over control of production and claimed the income… In Canadian dairying … the increased importance of capital in dairying, combined with patriarchal household structure, allowed men to assert control” (McMurry, 1995).