When I lived in Baltimore, I would go to the store, generally Safeway, and buy milk. It did not matter if it was whole milk, skim milk, or some variation of lowfat milk, it was all the same price. Now, over the past few years that price got higher and higher, which is also upsetting, but that is really the subject for a different rant. Despite the fact that in 2005 I could get generally get milk on sale for $2.50 a gallon, and when I moved in 2010 it was about $4, at least it was all the same price!
Now that I live in Vermont, for some reason, the milk here is priced on a bizarre fattening pyramid. It costs less overall, which is nice, but the whole milk is more expensive than the other milk. This, to me, makes no sense. So today at Hannaford’s, whole milk was $2.89, 2% milk was $2.79, 1% milk was $2.69 and skim milk was $2.59. But shouldn’t the whole milk cost less?
As far as I know, whole milk just means “milk.” As in, they didn’t do anything too weird to it. Lowfat or skim milk means that they had to process it in some way to get the fat out, which ought to make it costlier to produce lower fat milk than whole milk, right? Not only that, but if they are removing something from the milk, then doesn’t it follow that it would take more straight up milk to make a gallon of skim than a gallon of whole? i.e. one gallon of whole milk = one gallon of whole milk, but maybe 1.1 gallons of whole milk = one gallon of skim, plus .1 gallons of fat? Obviously I don’t know the ratios, but do you see what I’m saying? I googled all of this of course, and did not find much, hence the blog.
My thoughts are this:
1) Supply and Demand – Maybe they just sell more skim milk, so they can charge less for it? But it seems odd that they would sell mostly skim, then 1%, then 2% and then whole, in tidy 10 cent increments. I don’t think this is the answer, but maybe.
2) The Premium Effect – You know when you walk into a store and see two nearly identical products, but one costs a lot more? You just assume the more expensive one is nicer, unless you have a read a lot of Consumer Reports. Maybe they want whole milk to be the “premium” type of milk, and thus charge a little more for it? I don’t know. That sounds a little silly.
3) They Are Just Messing With Us – Maybe they just do it because they can. Maybe there are a bunch of guys sitting in a room somewhere, smoking cigars and laughing at all of us idiots paying thirty cents more for plain old milk. This seems the most plausible explanation so far…
4) What They Take Out Is Worth More Than What It Costs to Take It Out – They only thing I can think of that really makes sense to me at this point, is that when they take the fat out of the milk, that fat is worth something to those guys. I’m no dairy farmer, but maybe they use it for butter, or something else that they can sell, and so the whole milk costs more because they can’t harvest any of its delicious fat.
Either way, it still does not explain why all milk costs the same in Baltimore and it is oddly priced in Vermont. Does anyone actually know the answer to this question? It’s really annoying me today, so if you know the answer, please, the comments section is all yours.