A visit to the Michinoku Milk Company gave us insights into Japan’s dairy food sector. It’s chief brand name is MegMilk, which can be widely seen on milk cartons and dairy drinks across the country. The company, founded in 1993, is located in Osaki City in the northwestern part of Miyagi prefecture and produces a wide variety of dairy foods and drinks.
On average, the company pays farmers 100 Yen per litre of milk (approx. $0.86 CDN). At retail, that same litre of milk sells for 174 Yen/litre in Honshu (central Japan) and 165 Yen/litre in Japan’s northern region of Hokkaido, where the majority of the country’s dairy industry is concentrated.
Milk consumption has been decreasing in Japan in recent years, especially with young people who believe that drinking milk will make them fat, and those worried about cholesterol. So Michinoku Milk introduced low fat and skim milk products. About 10% of their milk now goes into low fat and non-fat milk products. They have also started removing oxygen from milk in order to make it more tasty for consumers, and are switching to different packaging to extend shelf-life.
As we learned at other stops as well, food safety is paramount. Milk is carefully tested for various things, including e.coli and antibiotic residues. If milk tests positive for either of these, the shipment is rejected.
Here, Kim Waalderbos poses at the entrance to the company’s board room, where they hosted us for a presentation and sampling of some of their wares. In addition to dairy products, they also manufacture jelly, juices and puddings – all non-dairy and part of their strategy of diversification.
Kim is attending the Japan congress as winner of the 2007 Canadian Farm Writers Federation travel bursary, sponsored by Monsanto.