For a brief, beautiful moment, my heart fluttered. It started when I heard murmurings of a new website called, ‘Where Is My Milk From?,’ that rumor had it, allowed you to enter the code stamped on every milk carton to gloriously reveal where, in fact, the milk in that carton, is from.
My goodness, I thought. Could it be? A force of transparency quietly unleashed to shed light on the notoriously opaque supply chain that delivers commodity milk from the udder to your mouth? Could it be? I mean, this would be significant.
With quickened breath, I jump over to WhereIsMyMilkFrom.com. “Whoo,” I gently whistle, “This is one nice looking website.” I admire the page title, “Find the source of your milk” and take a moment to linger on the splashy pastoral cartoon, depicting a bucolic farm scene, complete with red barn and silo nestled in rolling green hills whose reassuringly round crests catch the last golden rays of the setting sun, while a cute little dairy truck cheerfully navigates a smooth dirt road, “to me,” I think.
Below that? ‘How it works.’ Exactly what I want to know. And it is simple. And there is beauty in simplicity:
Now this is interesting. These WIMMF? bros seem to be suggesting that they’re gonna connect the dots from the cold glass of white milky love we’re about to raise to our lips right back to the udder from which it was squeezed. It’s actually going to tell us where it’s from. This. Is. Fantastic. A victory for transparency. Who are these guys?
Hmmm, let’s click over to this ‘Local Dairies’ page, where WIMMF? shows me dairies in my area. I’m thinking, “There are tons of dairy farms upstate.” And…wait…hold on…Long Island City? Rutherford, New Jersey? Jamaica, Queens? PERTH AMBOY? Hold on now. These places do not look like your pretty picture promised! This is NOT where my milk is from. This is NOT ‘the source‘ of my milk.
Maybe I’m not doing it right, I think. So, as directed by the clear, simple directions back on the homepage, I enter the code on the label of a container of milk from my fridge to find out. Where my milk is from! Boom….Ohhhh. Say it ain’t so. Jamacia, Queens? No, no, no. Maybe it’s broken.
What’s going on here? Let me look at this. Let me think. Ooooooooooohhhhh. OK. Now I get it. Did you try to get one over on me, WIMMF? You’re not telling me WMF’ingMisF. You’re not telling me what dairy FARM it’s from. You’re telling me what dairy PLANT my milk was processed and packaged at before being sent on a truck to my local Key Food.
Look WIMMF?, I apologize for this misunderstanding. When you made googly eyes at me with your pretty picture and lulled me with your ‘Udder to pail, Pail to dairy, Dairy to grocery store, Grocery store to fridge, Fridge to mouth’ siren song, and told me you were going to tell me where my milk is from, I did not read it to mean that you were actually going to tell me the name and location of the factory plant at which my milk was packaged. I thought you were going to tell me where my milk was from. My bad. I see it now – “You’ll instantly know which DAIRY your milk came from!” You didn’t mean dairy farm. You meant dairy plant. I got it now. Look, I was stupid.
But you know, come to think of it, I am getting a little suspicious of your pretty little picture. It’s starting to remind me of the omnipresent branding strategy we find emblazoned across food packaging everywhere to fake us into thinking mass-produced, highly-processed foods actually come straight to us from cartoon farms where wholesome, circumspect-but-wise fifty-something farmers surf across their fields perched on old single-blade plows hauled by fleet-footed golden oxen that never shit, while their virile male offspring pile perfectly-proportioned yellow haystack domes in the middle of verdant green fields, and their alluring blonde daughters in cutoff jeans and red and white checked shirts roll up their sleeves to make pies and frolic with lambs. Birds singing. You know…hypnotizing our gaze away from the ugly factory part of the picture in that Obi Wan, “These are not the droids you are looking for” way they do what they do.
Maybe I’m overreacting. Let’s look at your Facebook page. What’s this?
Something weird about that WIMMF?. Maybe it’s my over-driven obsession with rhetoric, but that cheerful “Not much!” you slipped into the middle of that post makes me think you’re trying to wink-wink, nod-nod me that the ‘fancy stuff’ does indeed come from the same ‘place’ as the ‘cheap-o milk.’ And I think you’re signalling me that’s it’s ok for my mind to take a little sleigh ride down the snowy slope of extension to assume it not only comes from the same ‘place,’ but that since it comes from the same ‘place,’ it’s basically all the same stuff. Did I misunderstand your point?
I get now that when you say ‘place’ in reference to where my milk ‘comes from,’ you mean a processing and packaging dairy plant, not a farm. But I can’t bring myself to believe that you’d try to make me think the ‘cheap-o milk’ (by which I’m going to go ahead and assume you mean mass-produced, non-organic, hormone and antibiotic laden milk from confined cows) and the ‘fancy stuff’ (by which I’m going to assume you mean organic, or the even fancier milk from small local dairy farms that don’t use hormones or antibiotics and let their cows graze on pasture), are the same thing. Because I know you wouldn’t try to play me like that WIMMF?.
Oh look, I almost didn’t notice that you had a blog. Maybe your private musings will clear things up. What’s this post?
Oh, see now I’m feeling you. I thought you were my type. But now I see that it’s just not going to work. It’s my fault. I fell for you before I really knew you. With your pretty, pretty picture and your helpful name with its implicit promise of substantive transparency, I thought we had something in common. I thought there could be something between us. But I was wrong. It’s not you, it’s me.
But wait, who are you WIMMF? I want to know the real you. Let’s scroll down here and see…
Oh. So you’re an independent third party. An independent third party who’s going to tell me you’re going to tell me where my milk is from, but you’re actually going to tell me the location of the dairy PLANT where the milk in my carton was put in its carton. Not where my milk is from.
WIMMF?, I don’t know you the way I once hoped I would, so I will give you the benefit of the doubt. I have no reason to believe you would try to mesmerize me with your pretty picture to intentionally mislead me into believing that you are telling me the location of the farm from which my milk comes, to shed transparency and light on the labrynthine food system full of obfuscation and deceit that holds our nation in a headlock, when in fact you are telling me the location of the always-local-for-logistical-advantages processing and packaging plant at which milk from many, many ‘places’ is mixed and put into a carton, all to trick my stupid ass into thinking my milk is from a local farm.
I would not accuse you of playing this game to deceive me into thinking my milk comes from a cow only a few miles away, in order to promote the consumption of the ‘cheap-o’ commodity stuff by undermining the benefits of the ‘fancy’ good stuff by making us believe it’s all the same, and it all comes from the same bulging udder swinging over the bucolic, local pastures of Queens.
I’m sure you wouldn’t be devious and manipulative like that, WIMMF?. But I’m sorry. I just don’t feel like I can trust you anymore. I’m not sure you respect me, so it’s just not gonna work out. Like I said, it’s not you, it’s me. It’s my fault. I was just stupid.
You know what WIMMF?? I want you to understand me. Here’s our breakdown of where milk is from. Let’s leave it at that. Air kisses. Don’t touch me. Out.