The Romans imagine they are still in charge while the Visigoths & Ostrogoths fight over the spoils of conquest
SAN FRANCISCO, California––Imagine the U.S. dairy industry as the Roman empire, Miyoko Schinner as Alaric the Visigoth, who sacked Rome in 410 A.D., and the venture capitalists who ousted her from Miyoko’s Creamery in a recent hostile takeover as the rival Ostrogoths.
History may recall this time as the decline and fall of a rancid, corrupt cow’s milk-based regime surviving only through institutionalized cruelty, or as the Dark Ages of vegan enterprise, when contenders to succeed dairy products on supermarket shelves stab each other in the back.
Lawyers armed for battle
Instead of armies, the contenders have lawyers. Miyoko’s Creamery has the high-end San Francisco law firm Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo P.C.; Schinner now has Lisa Bloom.
More about her soon.
The dairy empire has all the legal mercenary help that a $164-billion-a-year industry can hire. But as Rome discovered, mercenaries cannot hold together a crumbling empire rotten to the care.
The dairy empire still imagines that hereditary stature and governmental influence can save it, but Schinner as Alaric has already figuratively grabbed considerable gold, and the Ostrogoths are trying to depose her to grab it themselves.
The gold, of course, is the already lucrative and fast-growing market for plant-based gourmet cheeses.
Comparing vegan to dairy milks
The milk-based dairy industry, the cheese industry included, might have thought they won something when the U.S. Food & Drug Administration in mid-February 2023 issued “draft guidance” on labeling plant-based milks and cheeses which includes, VegNews senior news editor Anna Starostinetskaya summarized, “a recommendation that companies using these terms include voluntary nutrition statements that compare vegan milk to dairy milk as a standard.
“The FDA suggests using the terminology ‘contains a lower amount of [insert nutrient] than milk,’” Starostinetskaya wrote.
Of course that could cut in several directions not necessarily advantageous to the cow’s milk industry. Plant-based milk, for instance, usually contains a lower amount of fat and always a lower amount of pus and residual bovine excreta than cow’s milk.
How the respective products compare in content of insect parts, on average, probably has yet to be determined.
“The guidance is premised on the idea that consumers are somehow confused by plant-based milks’ nutrition, despite the fact that FDA already requires key nutrients to be included on the Nutrition Facts panel,” Good Food Institute senior regulatory attorney Madeline Cohen told Starostinetskaya.
“The guidance compares plant-based milks to one standardized milk product,” Cohen continued, “even though the FDA has never required any particular nutrient content for cow’s milk. Moreover, the guidance urges disclosures about nutrients that are not under-consumed by Americans, such as magnesium, and even nutrients that are overconsumed by some groups, such as protein.”
The FDA guidance, in short, proceeds under the delusion that what customers for plant-based milks and cheeses want most is what was already available to them.
This is why buggy-makers lost the sales battle to Model T Fords a century ago, even after turning to making cars that were essentially motorized buggies.
This is also why Alaric the Visigoth failed to re-establish the Roman empire with his own appointed emperor in charge of it. Having rid themselves of one sadistic, corrupt tyrannical bureaucracy, the surviving Romans wanted no part of another.
Starostinetskaya of VegNews went on to quote Dan Buckstaff, identified as chief marketing officer for the data technology company SPINS, who seemed to understand the decline and fall of the Roman empire in principle, if not necessarily as a metaphor.
“While plant-based products are not ‘dairy’ in the traditional sense,” Buckstaff told Starostinetskaya, “their placement in the dairy aisle plays an important role in how consumers understand these products. A shopper is more likely to pick up a product that includes the same terminology as their other products because they see it as a direct alternative and option to replace their previous purchases.”
Plant-based milk and cheese sales, Buckstaff perceived, “is driven by consumer values, from their desired diet,” such as vegan, vegetarian, or flexitarian, “to their social causes,” such as (sustainability and animal rights or welfare, “and part of its appeal comes from its ability to compare itself to animal-based products for consumers who are expressing their values in what they purchase.”
Cow’s milk already lost to soft drinks
This is where cow’s milk-based dairy products have already lost their former near monopoly on milk-and-cheese-like foods, no matter what gobbledy-gook appears in the fine print on the bottle, box, or foil wrapper.
If nutritional labeling was the first consideration of most consumers looking for something to drink, the U.S. soft drink market share would not be $416 billion, triple the market for cow’s milk products.
As of 2020, Americans spent $2.4 billion on plant-based milks, a pittance compared to expenditure for cow’s milk products, but up from $1.5 billion in 2010.
A third of U.S. households now purchase plant-based milks, with younger consumers buying the most, even as heavy cow’s milk product consumers are aging out of the market.
Miyoko Schinner beat the doors down
U.S. per capita milk consumption has fallen 30% since 2000.
With plant-based milks now in every supermarket, occupying almost as much shelf space as cow’s milk, the Visigoths are already inside the Roman gates, with the Ostrogoths casting covetous eyes on the booty.
Miyoko’s Creamery founder Miyoko Schinner beat the doors down after the California Department of Food & Agriculture in 2020 filed an injunction against the Miyoko Creamery use of terms usually applied to cow’s milk products, such as milk, butter, and cheese.
Miyoko’s Creamery decisively won that round in court, without a celebrity lawyer: just a good case.
“As the Cheese Wheel Turns”
Miyoko Schinner, 65, as of the last exciting ANIMALS 24-7 episode of “As The Cheese Wheel Turns,” had been forced from her leadership position at Miyoko’s Creamery, the plant-based cheese-making company she founded in 2014.
The venture capitalists who pushed Schinner aside and took over the company had also sued Schinner for alleged breach of contract, violation of the Defend Trade Secrets Act, violation of the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, breach of duty of loyalty, and breach of promissory note.
(See Canned Miyoko: the ballad of Jon Blair & Miyoko Schinner, How Miyoko Schinner got the same shaft as Paul Watson, Miyoko’s Creamery sues Miyoko Schinner for allegedly stealing recipes and What Miyoko’s Creamery lawsuit alleges Miyoko Schinner did.)
Public opinion appeared to be clearly on Schinner’s side. As ANIMALS 24-7 pointed out, perhaps the most surprising part of Miyoko’s PBC vs. Miyoko Schinner, the lawsuit filed against Schinner on February 16, 2022 by Miyoko’s Creamery, is the demand for a jury trial.
A spontaneously organized boycott of Miyoko’s Creamery products in her support soon followed the lawsuit.
If the corporados creaming Schinner to capture more of the $260 million a year market for Miyoko’s Creamery products hoped to push Schinner out of the way, in order to flip the company to say Kraft Heinz, Agropur, or Saputo, the boycott might significantly deflate the Miyoko’s Creamery sale value.
Schinner, meanwhile, appearing to confirm that the battle against the Miyoko’s Creamery takeover will be fought at least as much in the court of public opinion as in courts of law, retained celebrity attorney Lisa Bloom to represent her side of the case.
Bloom, 61, in her early career sued the Boy Scouts of America, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Los Angeles Police Department in high profile cases, with mixed outcomes.
Bloom then spent a decade as a legal news analyst for CBS News, CNN, and MSNBC, beginning in 2001, and anchored the two-hour Lisa Bloom: Open Court television program from 2006 to 2009.
Suing Who’s Who
Returning to law practice, Bloom sued former Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly for sexual harassment, bringing his exit from Fox; sued comedian Bill Cosby in a defamation case; sued celebrity Rob Kardashian on behalf of model Blac Chyna; during the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign offered to represent four women who alleged sexual harassment by former president Donald Trump; briefly advised film producer Harvey Weinstein after he was accused to sexual misconduct in October 2017; and is currently representing former Twitter workers laid off by billionaire Elon Musk.
This is just a short list of cases handled by the Bloom Firm.
“We will be filing our own claims soon”
Win or lose, Bloom Firm cases tend to make a whole lot of noise.
Said Bloom, in a media release distributed by Michele Simon, an attorney and Miyoko’s Creamery board member aligned with Schinner, “I am proud to represent Miyoko Schinner in this important fight for justice for her, and for all women founders.
“I have just filed my appearance as her attorney with the federal court,” Bloom affirmed.
Support for Schinner
“The company’s behavior in forcing her out of the company she created and built, then trashing her via an outrageously malicious and misleading lawsuit, will be met with facts and witnesses showing that Miyoko’s own complaints of toxic and sexist behavior by certain male executives were swept under the rug, and then she was demoted and fired.
“We will be filing our own claims soon,” Bloom promised, suggesting an imminent countersuit.
“We thank everyone for the tidal waves of support and love for Miyoko, and assure all of her fans that we will not rest until we achieve full and complete justice for her,” Bloom finished.
What became of Alaric?
Alaric the Visigoth lived less than six months after sacking Rome, apparently dying of malaria at age 40, but the Roman empire never recovered.
Whether the Visigoths or the Ostrogoths ruled the ruins turned out to make little difference in the long run.
Win or lose in the Miyoko’s Creamery vs. Miyoko Schinner case, the dairy empire is losing the bigger battle.
Schinner herself, however, would appear to have much better prospects for longevity and political and economic success than a barbarian general in 411 A.D., who apparently did not even have a lawyer, or a press agent.
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Jamaka Petzak says
Sharing with gratitude and hope for success for Miyoko!
S, Chinny Krishna says
Miyoko Schinner was a success because she believed in what she was doing – providing healthy plant-based alternatives to animal products. The venture capitalists, on the other hand, invested in Miyoko’s Creamery for only one reason – to make more money. And while it can be debated whether the Creamery could have been run and managed better by Ms. Schinner, the VCs would rather cut off their noses to spite their faces – to set an example to other start-ups they invest in. There are businessmen and then there are ethical businessmen. Too bad Miyoko Schinner chose the wrong VCs.
After the FDA’s decision regarding plant-based milks, Big Dairy has apparently run crying to the legislators they pay off–the “Dairy PRIDE Act” has been reintroduced. This would ban the use of any dairy-related words such as “milk” on the packaging of plant-based products.
Big animal ag really takes the cake in pathetic and duplicitous moves. They can’t be content with being a multibillion dollar industry that already enjoys subsidies, tax breaks, and near-exclusive access to schools and other public institutions. One would think that if they see grocery store shelf space shrinking to plant-based products, maybe they’d get in on that market and start diversifying their product offerings to stay relevant. Wouldn’t that make the most sense?