Greek Yogurt Comes with a Price for New York

August 09, 2012 at 4:00 am

There is an increasing demand for Greek-style yogurt, which is high in protein and low in carbs and makes for a tangier, less sweet, creamier and healthier snack. With New York  State’s Greek yogurt maker Chobani getting national air-time as a Team USA Olympic sponsor, it has the attention of New York State’s milk producers. They’d like to take advantage of consumers’ new taste for Greek yogurt, but the expense of producing milk is a conundrum that has been dubbed “The Chobani paradox” by The Wall Street Journal.

“There’s a lot of opportunity and we would like to see New York farmers take a first shot at it,” said Cathy Mural, Senior Associate Director of Public Policy, New York Farm Bureau.

In order to take advantage of the state’s developing yogurt industry, extra milk production is needed, which isn’t an easy or low-priced task for dairy farmers. The New York Farm Bureau estimates farmers would need to increase milk output by 15 percent just to keep up with consumer demand.  More milk production means more cows, and feeding those cows. But the cost of corn feed on the open market has skyrocketed thanks to demand from the ethanol industry, combined with this year’s drought.


The Capitol Report’s Susan Arbetter reports on the obstacles New York State dairy farmers face if they want to increase their milk production. The “Chobani paradox” refers to the success of Greek-style yogurt in the current market, but the high cost of producing more milk.

Another cost has very little to do with mother nature.

“There’s too many regulations,” explained Assemblyman George Amedore, candidate for NYS Senate. “Here’s a business, a farmer who’s got up to 200 head of cattle and cows to milk, if they go beyond that, to 201 heads of cattle it puts them completely in a different category.”

If farmers want to expand their herd to over 200 cows, they must meet an additional level of compliance and the costs are currently considered too high by many. Even a popular and profitable company like Chobani doesn’t want to deal with the cost. Instead of expanding in New York, the business decided to expand to Idaho where there is cheaper land and larger dairy farms.

New York dairy farmers plan to explore the issue in Albany next week at the “Yogurt Summit” hosted by Governor Andrew Cuomo.


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