Sunday, November 7, 2010

U.S.D.A.: To Market and Protect

Today's New York Times online features an excellent article on Dairy Management Inc., a marketing division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and its efforts to promote increased cheese consumption among American consumers. You may remember Dairy Management's successful "Got Milk?" campaign, which began in the early nineties and rapidly became a contender for the "most parodied advertisement of all time." Although the "Got Milk?" campaign has since faded into obscurity, the position of Dairy Management Inc. may be stranger and more ironic than ever before. Today the irony is this: at the same time that its dairy marketing division is attempting to increase the amount of milk and cheese eaten by Americans, the U.S.D.A. is one of the key participants in the Obama administration's anti-obesity campaign, which actively discourages excess consumption of foods high in saturated fat -- including milk and cheese.

Rarely does one find a single institution so neatly divided against itself, attempting to undo with one hand what it does with the other. From the Times: "Urged on by government warnings about saturated fat, Americans have been moving toward low-fat milk for decades, leaving a surplus of whole milk and milk fat. Yet the government, through Dairy Management, is engaged in an effort to find ways to get dairy back into Americans’ diets, primarily through cheese."

One question that springs to mind is this: Why does the federal government play a role in the marketing of dairy products to begin with? It may be that the root irony is not about health per se, but about the existence of a branch of the federal government tasked with both protecting consumers and selling to them.

For more info an Dairy Management Inc., see their official web page, some of their other marketing efforts here and here, and this scanty Wikipedia entry.

And enjoy this blast of cheesy goodness:

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