Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

The Dairy Revolution: Vegan CEO of Miyoko's Kitchen Is Also Helping Dairy Farmers to Transition

Business

This is part one of a three-part interview series with Miyoko Schinner, CEO and Founder of plant dairy startup, Miyoko's Kitchen.

Food Tank sat down with Miyoko Schinner and her two rescue dogs, Koan and Kaiti, in the office of her company's 30,000 square-foot facility in Petaluma, CA. The first thing she wants to tell our readers may come as a surprise given her company's mission to revolutionize dairy by "creating a new economy based on plants" instead of other animals.


"We want to help American farmers by going to ones who are struggling. The average dairy farmer makes $30,000 a year." Almost 3,000 dairy farms closed down in 2018 alone, and 42,000 dairy farms have gone out of business since 2000. Miyoko continues, "We'd like to partner with some of those struggling dairy farmers and actually help them transition to becoming our supply chain, to growing crops for us, such as potatoes. We need a very specific potato with a certain starch profile. We need farmers to grow those potatoes and we would help them monetarily transition … We would take the money out of our marketing budget to help them transition to a new livelihood and then they would have an ensured livelihood because they would be supply chain for us. These are some of the programs that we want to initiate over the next year." Miyoko thinks it's important to "have the courage to cross the aisle and talk to people who may seem like enemies."

But why would a vegan cheese company want to reach across the aisle to help the competition? Well, because far from any kind of vegan utopia, Miyoko lives in Nicasio, California, or "ag land" as she calls it. In 2015 she started an animal sanctuary in the area called Rancho Compasión, where 70 rescued farmed animals now reside. Visiting the sanctuary, surrounded by ranches where animals are still raised for food, one realizes that Miyoko's ideals live on the ground, where she builds upon current infrastructure to transition toward what she believes is a more compassionate food system.

Miyoko's Kitchen is no different: the offices, R&D kitchen, and impressive production facility all sit right next to the corporate office for an animal-dairy company. In the parking lot, the pungent smell of cows comes from nearby farms.

As an ethical and political vegan, Miyoko believes that "the dairy industry is ugly," forcibly separating calves from their mothers at birth and keeping cows in a constant cycle of pregnancy and lactation for five years, then selling them for hamburger meat once they're "spent."

Miyoko explains: "And I do speak out about it, but I don't want to call the people in the industry evil or bad. It's the practices, it's the industry … The fact is the people in the industry, such as the farmers in my neck of the woods, a lot of them consider themselves to be good people. They're good Christians who are just feeding America, just doing what their ancestors have done. This is how people have eaten in the Western world for a long time. So now their livelihood's being threatened, they believe, by people in our sector. And so rather than being the threat, I want to show them that we're the solution. I want to show them that this is coming from a place of compassion."

Miyoko recalls one particular rancher from whom she rescued Angel, a former dairy cow who is now a lifetime member of Miyoko's extended interspecies family at Rancho Compasión.

"I was speaking to this rancher and he said, 'Yeah, I just couldn't retire. I kept putting off retirement because I kept thinking if I retire, how am I going to feed America?'"

"To him, he was feeding America … He was doing the good deed. There are a lot of people like that. There are of course the more conniving ones that are bigger. But a lot of the smaller farmers selling their milk to the co-ops are just farmers trying to pay their bills and struggling. And so why not partner with them? Why not transform America that way? Why not tell that story to inspire Americans?"

"That's how I look at revolutionizing things on a true scale, not just ignoring them and saying, 'Well, we're going to bulldoze over you and create a new economy that's based on plants. So screw you.' That's not the approach we want to take. How can we actually revolutionize the entire dairy landscape? We can revolutionize by helping farmers transform their dairies into new enterprises and then we're helping ourselves and we're helping them. We're helping the world."

Reposted with permission from Food Tank.

Former U.S. Sec. of Energy Ernest Moniz listens during the National Clean Energy Summit 9.0 on October 13, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Isaac Brekken / Getty Images for National Clean Energy Summit

By Jake Johnson

Amid reports that oil industry-friendly former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz remains under consideration to return to his old post in the incoming Biden administration, a diverse coalition of environmental groups is mobilizing for an "all-out push" to keep Moniz away from the White House and demand a cabinet willing to boldly confront the corporations responsible for the climate emergency.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Climate change can evoke intense feelings, but a conversational approach can help. Reed Kaestner / Getty Images

Anger, anxiety, overwhelm … climate change can evoke intense feelings.

"It's easy to feel dwarfed in the context of such a global systemic issue," says psychologist Renée Lertzman.

She says that when people experience these feelings, they often shut down and push information away. So to encourage climate action, she advises not bombarding people with frightening facts.

"When we lead with information, we are actually unwittingly walking right into a situation that is set up to undermine our efforts," she says.

She says if you want to engage people on the topic, take a compassionate approach. Ask people what they know and want to learn. Then have a conversation.

This conversational approach may seem at odds with the urgency of the issue, but Lertzman says it can get results faster.

"When we take a compassion-based approach, we are actively disarming defenses so that people are actually more willing and able to respond and engage quicker," she says. "And we don't have time right now to mess around, and so I do actually come to this topic with a sense of urgency… We do not have time to not take this approach."

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media
Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.

Trending

A rare North Atlantic right whale is seen off Cape Cod Bay on April 14, 2019 near Provincetown, Massachusetts. Don Emmert / AFP / Getty Images

An extremely rare North Atlantic right whale calf was found dead off the North Carolina coast on Friday.

Read More Show Less
Sprinklers irrigate a field of onions near a Castilian village in Spain. According to a new study, the average farm size in the EU has almost doubled since the 1960s. miguelangelortega / Moment / Getty Images

By Andrea Germanos

A new report released Tuesday details the "shocking" state of global land equality, saying the problem is worse than thought, rising, and "cannot be ignored."

Read More Show Less
Members of the San Carlos Apache Nation protest to protect parts of Oak Flat from a copper mining company on July 22, 2015 in Washington, DC. Brendan Smialowski / AFP / Getty Images

In yet another attack on the environment before leaving office, the Trump administration is seeking to transfer ownership of San Carlos Apache holy ground in Oak Flat, Arizona, to a copper mining company.

Read More Show Less