Helmed by founder Miyoko Schinner, Miyoko’s Creamery has been producing plant-based dairy alternatives in the US since 2014. Her portfolio of vegan cheese alternatives and butter alternatives are made from a base of cashews sourced from Vietnam, and are sold nationwide.
The company is now looking to expand with a new line of cheese alternatives made from potatoes and legumes grown in the US. In this process, Schinner is seeking out new plant farmers to work with and support.
She told DairyReporter that she has noticed more and more dairy farms ‘collapsing or choosing to close down.’ Schinner lives in California and personally owns a cow from a local shuttered dairy.
In January 2019, Schinner spoke at the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and said a switch to plant agriculture can be how dairy farmers stay true to their land and “become part of the solution for a sustainable future.”
Elmhurst Dairy famously rebranded itself as Elmhurst 1925 in 2017 and switched from a full dairy to a producer of dairy alternatives. Similar, smaller-scale examples are happening, but it’s still a niche market.
Schinner is not working with any transitioning farms yet, but will be eliciting the advice of Farm Sanctuary on any future partnerships. Farm Sanctuary works to end cruelty toward farm animals and promote ‘compassionate vegan living.’
Gene Baur, co-founder of Farm Sanctuary, said, "We share Miyoko's vision for a compassionate food system and are looking forward to working with them to help farmers become part of a cruelty-free, more sustainable, plant based food future.”
In the agreement, any new transitioned farms would become part of Miyoko’s research and development efforts for new plant products, as well as supply chain for existing products.
Miyoko’s would compensate the farmer during their work and then further the partnership.
Schinner called it a ‘win-win opportunity’ for any newer companies following this trajectory, because the company will have new places to source crops and the farmers will have a place to sell their crops.
“We think it’s the responsibility of industry to provide solutions for hardworking people. So yes, there are farms that are doing it on their own. But we need them, and hopefully they need us,” Schinner said.
“They’re good people. They’re hardworking and they believe in what they’re doing. But the economy is changing, that’s the reality, and it’s going to continue changing.”
The USDA said between July 2018 and July 2019, US dairy farms lost 100,000 cows, and about 2,500 dairies went out of business in 2018. But despite low milk prices and declining consumption, dairy organizations are still fighting to keep dairy in the US diet.
Products like ultra-filtered milk and a2 milk are driving innovation in dairy, and school meal regulations are expanding to accommodate more dairy choices. There’s been a greater focus on cow health, wellness and sustainable farming practices to increase cow productivity and milk quality.