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Moving milk campaigns beyond the mustache.

Photo by iStock.

Photo by iStock.

Checkoff fees are the duties paid by meat and dairy producers to produce such advertising campaigns as “Got Milk?” and “Pork: The Other White Meat.” By purchasing these products, you’re indirectly supporting efforts encouraging others to do the same. But when it comes to dairy products, something has broken down in this ingenious feedback loop. According to a 2013 report by the USDA, Americans – especially millennials – are drinking less and less milk in favor of other beverages, whether it’s because of individual preferences or lingering concerns about antibiotics or hormones in the slurry.

Hoping to allay such fears, farmer-funded Dairy Management Inc. partnered with an unlikely prankster, satire publication The Onion, to launch “The Udder Truth,” a pro-dairy video series that has trickled through as sponsored links at theonion.com. In one upbeat video, Annie Link of SwissLane Farms in Alto, Mich., says, with respect to farms run by big, unfeeling corporations, “All the farms around here are family-owned and -operated,” including her own. And she flatly denies animal mistreatment, which she says has a fiscal disincentive: “The more relaxed a cow is, the more comfortable they are, the more milk they’re going to give.”

Such is the modern equivalent of the “Got Milk?” campaign. “The dairy industry had to do something, as they are seeing more people walking away from mass-produced dairy products to alternatives,” says Joette Rockow, a senior lecturer on advertising and public relations at UW-Milwaukee. “The videos on The Udder Truth don’t really take into consideration other aspects such as the existential lives of these animals. … If I was a cow, I suspect I would want to be able to go outside, walk on some grass and be a cow.”

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‘Got PR?’ appears in the February 2016 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find the February issue on newsstands beginning Feb. 1.

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