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May 17, 2008 07:43 PM

Milk prices

I got this from the internet ->

Division of Milk Control & Dairy Services

TO: Retailers of Milk

DATE: April 18, 2008

SUBJECT: Announcement of threshold price relative to milk price gouging law, effective MAY 2008.

For MAY 2008, threshold prices for milk, lowfat milk, or skim milk offered for retail sale in the state are:

Gallon Half Gallon Quart

$3.66 $1.88 $0.97


Yet Supersol is advertising as a "special" New Square milk for $2.69 a half gallon. Is this in violation of the price gouging law? I assume that since they are advertising this as a special price that their regular price would be even higher! I notice that Gourmet Glatt is advertising Tuscan half gallon milk for $1.69, within the New York State anti-gouging law.

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  1. Organic milks are also significantly more expensive (although I don't have numbers off the top of my head). Perhaps 'special' milks like chalav yisrael and organic are exempt from the milk price threshold?

    19 Replies
    1. re: GilaB

      You are right, organic milk is off the chart, $4 a half gallon! What a meshugas when regular goes for $1.69, anyway, I thought that cholov yisroel milk is simply milk that comes from a farm that is owned by a jew, does that exempt one from adhearing to the anti-gouging law? This is apparently a law that either has no teeth or that has loopholes that one can drive a (milk) truck through. I did notice that there were lots of news reports that show that most retailers are in violation of this law.

      1. re: MartyB

        I believed that cholev yisrael milks weren't exempt from the price restrictions, but Fairway also had New Square milk for significantly more expensive than the regular brand, so perhaps it is more expensive?

        1. re: MartyB

          CY does not come from Jewish-owned farms, it comes from farms where there is a permanent mashgiach, who must be paid enough to make it worth living out in woop-woop and working at the hashgacha 7 days a week (the cows are milked on shabbos too, and the mashgiach must be there to see it). It's also processed by smaller companies, who therefore have to spread their overhead across a lower volume.

          1. re: zsero

            So let me understand, the cost to cover the salary for one mashgiach translates to a 60% ($1 premium) for every half gallon container of milk sold? What kind of salary is a mashgiach being paid these days?

            1. re: MartyB

              It's one mashgiach *per farm*. And they have to be paid a decent wage or they wouldn't agree to live out there and do this work.

              Then there are the overheads, which have to be spread over a smaller volume than the major companies.

              1. re: zsero

                The high-cost nature of cy is obvious. I don't know if the NY milk price law grants an exemption for cy though.

                1. re: zsero

                  So the added cost of one more employee on a farm translates to a 50+% premium wow.

                  I am curious, just what does the mashgiach do? When I went visiting a farm, from what I saw was that someone places an apparatus on the business end of a cow and the milk gets transported via a tube to a collection tank. I assume the collected milk then gets transported to a location (I would assume not necessarily on the farm) where it gets pasturized / homoginized and bottled. Considering that a good percentage of frum jews purchase non cholev yisroel milk, why the careful, seven day supervision. As an example, here in the 5 towns we have a kosher dunkin donuts, they are open seven days a week, and all frum people would not eat at dunkin donuts without a supervision, I don't think that there is 24/7 supervision there. I would assume there would be more things to supervise then the milking of cows. My point is why is there a need for one mashgiach per farm rather than one mashgiach rotating and doing his "mashgiach" thing among many farms on a spot check basis (I obviously have no idea what a mashgiach does on a farm and what the mashgiach does for dunkin donuts).

                  1. re: MartyB

                    Because the halacha is that "milk that a non-Jew milked without a Jew seeing him" is forbidden. That is explicit halacha in Shulchan Aruch, with no exceptions; chalav akum is treif. Now there are various arguments given by major poskim (such as R Moshe Feinstein) for why the milk sold in cartons in our groceries is not covered by this prohibition, and the major hechsherim rely on these arguments. But for those who choose not to, it is necessary to have a mashgiach watching every milking.

                    (There are proposals for a more modernised system where the mashgiach "sees" the milking through a series of webcams, so that one mashgiach can supervise many farms, while living a normal life in a Jewish neighbourhood, but this has not yet been implemented in the USA.)

                    (PS: R Moshe Feinstein, the major posek on which the hechsherim rely for permitting non-cy milk, explicitly rules that if you go to a non-Jewish farm and buy fresh milk out of the tank whose milking you did not observe, it is TREIF and there is no possible heter for it.)

                    1. re: zsero

                      "There are proposals for a more modernised system where the mashgiach "sees" the milking through a series of webcams, so that one mashgiach can supervise many farms, while living a normal life in a Jewish neighbourhood, but this has not yet been implemented in the USA"

                      Looks like a golden business opportunity with wireless webcams and internet connectivity almost everywhere, whoever comes out with such a system can offer it to current farms and sign on even more farms since the cost factor should be quite low compared to the salary of a dedicated live in mashgiach. Just out of curiosity, does the observation have to be done in real-time or can it be recorded and played back at a later time and pass the supervision mustard. I think this would be even better since the entire process can be supervised and if the mashgiach has to go to the bathroom, no hanky panky can go on in his absence since he can pause the tape and resume when he returns.

                      1. re: MartyB

                        The expression is "pass muster," NOT "pass mustard" . . . unless you're at a picnic, of course.
                        As for the question of recordings, I would assume you would NOT be allowed to view a recording. In this digital age, I imagine recordings are fairly easy to manipulate/change.

                        1. re: queenscook

                          > I imagine recordings are fairly easy to manipulate/change.

                          No you are mistaken; the recording would take place at the mashgiach's location, not at the farm. The web cam images would be fed real-time to the mashgiach's location and can be viewed while it is being recorded. The advantage is that a mashgiach will be able to observe the milking process of many farms within the 9-5 work day (for example) even if two farms are quite some distance apart and have overlapping milking schedules. There is no reason to suspect that someone will break into the mashgiach's location and tamper with the recordings. You would be right if the recordings would be at the farm and later collected from there.

                        2. re: MartyB

                          The mashgiach doesn't have to actually watch the entire process. He must be there before the milking and check that the tank is empty (or the seal he put on it after the last milking hasn't been tampered with), and he must be present during the entire milking so the people doing the milking know that they can't get away with smuggling a mare into the milking parlour, but he doesn't have to actually have his eyes glued to the action. He can read, go to the bathroom, etc.

                          If this webcam system is approved by the machshirim, there could be one camera pointed constantly at the tank, so it can be verified that it was empty before each milking and nobody tipped anything in in between milkings, and several cams aimed at the parlour so the supervisor at the other end would see if anything other than a cow was being milked. If the cameras are prominent and all the workers know that they're being watched and can't get away with anything, it wouldn't seem to matter if for some period there was nobody on the other end actually watching. It's not as if we really think they're going to be milking mares or sows, it's that the halacha requires us to make *sure* this doesn't happen. (The halacha specifically applies even if there is no non-kosher animal on the entire farm!)

                          1. re: zsero

                            Does this mean that if such a system gets implemented and if cholev yisroel milk prices gets lowered significantly then will, as a consequence, the entire line of cholev yisroel products (cheese, sour cream etc.) prices get lowered? I guess what I am asking - is cholev yisroel sour cream, for example, just sour cream made from cholev yisroel milk or is there a "cholev yisroel" process being applied as well? Are the cholev yisroel companies real companies or shell companies who simply provide labels and packages to "real companies" who does the processing and packaging/bottling. I am skeptical because of the pesach stick margarine fiasco which clearly showed that all the cholel yisroel companies were just shells and had no manufacturing capabilities behind them and simply provided the wrappers and boxes for the margarine to the real manufacturers.

                            1. re: MartyB

                              Yes, CY products are just those products made with CY milk, pasteurised on CY machines, etc. The companies do it all themselves, but there aren't as many companies as it seems, because they each have several brand names. For instance, Morning Select, New Square, Ahava, Best Moo, and Golans are all the same company.

                          2. re: MartyB

                            Except that cameras are generally not considered acceptable "witnesses," so what would be all too likely is two "tiers" of CY -- the IRL-mashgiach tier, and the "Memorex" mashgiach tier.

                            1. re: rivkag

                              I don't see the difference between watching in real-time via a camera vs watching while wearing glasses.

                              If anything I would trust a system that has a video history, this way if the mashgiach has any questions he can refer the video to his supervisor, or higher authority to clarify any kashruth issues that may occur.

                              1. re: MartyB

                                Clearly, you have not watched nearly enough teenagers-gone-wild movies. ;) It is all too easy for someone to substitute a pre-recorded feed for your supposed live one.

                                There is nothing quite like being there in person.

                                1. re: rivkag

                                  " ... It is all too easy for someone to substitute a pre-recorded feed for your supposed live one ..."

                                  Why in g-d name would one do that? Just what do you think would be the reason for someone to do that? What would they be hiding that would prompt them to go through all the trouble and expose one to legal troubles? We are talking about milk here for goodness sake, not heroin. Talk about being paronid!

                                  1. re: MartyB

                                    Personally, I rely on the heter to drink chalav stam. However, for those who do not consider that heter acceptable, why would relying on a camera be any more acceptable?

                                    As for why anyone would bother, look at the price difference mentioned in the OP.

            2. from the website of the NY State Dept of Agriculture and Markets:

              Milk Price Gouging Law, Retail Milk Price Survey & Oversight

              The Division conducts a monthly retail milk price in cities across the state and oversees enforcement of the milk price gouging law 396-rr of the NYS General Business Law. This law protects consumers from excessively high retail milk prices. The Division calculates a "threshold" price each month as a benchmark for evaluating retail prices.

              Retail stores that price above the threshold price may be subject to legal action based upon referral by our Department to the Attorney General if they cannot establish that the prices they charge are justified by actual costs. The threshold price is a price that is 200 percent of the farm price for Class I milk. Monitoring retailers compliance with the law has been primarily carried out through milk price survey data of supermarkets.