Milk and the Responsibilities of Big Business
AlterNet recently put out an interesting article about the true cost of the current factory-farming practices of companies like Starbucks and the disturbing aspects of how this model is not just unsustainable, but contributes to damages to humans, animals and the environment alike in a cyclical, disappointing cycle. This isn’t exactly new news, but it does shine light on an example company that has proven flexible in the past – that is to say that consumer ‘outrage’ has altered their business practices in-line with the demands of its customers.
More than 60 million customers visit Starbucks…every week. […] By switching from conventional to organic milk, Starbucks can make a huge positive impact in several critical areas. […] 2 million people become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria every year, resulting in 23,000 deaths.
Again, there’s no surprise that there’s a calculable correlation between farming practices that are used to source animal products like milk en-masse, and disease, particularly with something as fearsome as antibiotic-resistant bacteria. What’s important here is that the author, Reynard Loki, suggests that Starbucks, a global company with locations on all but one continent (Antarctica), “purchases 140 million gallons of ill-gotten milk from factory farms” and that “the company listened to its customers in 2008 when it decided to stop sourcing milk from cows given artificial growth hormones…”
Loki then provides several examples where it is indeed possible for Starbucks to switch their milk supply to an organic source that will significantly reduce problems with the environment and subsequently, human health. Not only can they switch but the cost isn’t nearly as intimidating as some make it out to be, noting that “making a public commitment that Starbucks wants to transition to organic milk, along with collaboration with the dairy farmers it uses, will signal to the farms that they will have secure contracts” and that “Starbucks owns a coffee cafe…called La Boulange which serves organic coffee and organic milk. A large latte costs $3.75…and a grande latte at Starbucks costs $3.45” Loki further cites a side-by-side comparison here that shows cafe chain Pret-A-Manger has found success in organic coffee (and milk) in both availability and price (their latte’s cost less than Starbucks).
While I’ll have to cite a past article regarding the problematic nature of “organic” as a marketing term, Loki’s take on a consumer base that generally seems to care about the environment and long-term health of the citizens of Earth alongside a large, global corporation’s tendency to act when it’s customers have demands that other companies have deemed “undoable” could yield excellent results that will jump start other companies bidding for the business of the socially responsible and health-conscious through sustainable practices.
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