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Reflections after nearly 50 years of farming 22-08-2016 11:33

Bram Prins ;President Global Dairy Farmers | In 1968 I started as a dairy farmer with my father in a 1st generation dairy farm in the Netherlands.

Since then I experienced a lot of changes in my life.

Food habits changed tremendously. In the sixties main food was bread, potatoes, vegetables and milk. There were no obesity problems for 90% of the consumers, because they needed heaps of energy for doing their daily work. So a lot of physical exercise. Obesity was only known in the upper class of society, because they have little to no physical exercise. 

With this in mind, the following question came to mind: why are milk, meat and potatoes currently claimed to be unhealthy by certain (influential) people and organizations? Isn’t it in fact the lack of physical exercise? 


The definition of health is changed because the focus is much more on being free of pesticides and antibiotic. Indeed, in the nineties of last century the use of health and food improvers was not well defined and we did not know about resistance for antibiotics. But use of these stuffs is tremendous decreased in my country. One of the ‘problems’ is the availability of new measuring technics. We can measure the existence of ingredients in such low concentrations, that even ingredients that are naturally present are seen as unhealthy.  

GMO is not-done, because (even tough it is not proven) GMOs have negative influence on your health. People tend to forget the positive effects on producing medicines, fight against diseases, better food production and more, which were (and are) made possible though GMO


Children in western countries grow up in such sterile circumstances, that there is not any resistance for diseases in other regions. For example, visiting African countries leads to diarrhea with 2/3 of the visitors. (Children living at farms in my country do have more resistance on diseases as so called city children) This raises by me the question: what is the balance?

Good developments are the change in packaging, comfort and ready to eat. My mother needed at least a couple of hours in preparing the main hot meal, my wife is using lesser then ½ an hour and my daughters’ generation is using only the microwave or out of home meals. Only during weekend, they are spending time in the kitchen preparing ’special dinner’.

More and more links are created between production of food and nature, animal welfare and for example reduction of Global Warming. To my opinion this is leading to excessive measures, such as obligated “cows in pasture”.


We are using and eating food from all parts of the world. In the past milk could not be transported over long distances, because of decomposition.  Now fresh milk can be transported over long distances in a couple of hours. Milk from Western Australian is cooled to 0.5 degrees and stored in 20 tons isolated containers. After a flight of 8 hours it is in Manilla on the Philippines. Transportation costs are decreased tremendously. For example, costs for transportation of milk powder from Bayern Germany to the harbour Hamburg are double of the costs from Hamburg to Hong Kong by container ship.

The upcoming middle class in Asian countries likes to spend much more on western food. Their demands on quality and food safety can not be fully met by the local quality. For example, in India 80 % of the produced milk is so called “street milk”. This is milk not controlled on any quality.

The lower class is still satisfied with this milk.

Consequences of the easiness of people movement are also the possibilities for living outside your place (or even country) of birth. In Amsterdam (NL) at least 65 % of the inhabitants are immigrants from over 10 different cultures. These cultures do have each their own habits for food and so comprise different markets

Population growth in developing countries is much faster as in developed countries, mainly due to culture and stand. With many children your retirement is better guaranteed.

This all results in bigger differences between rich and poor thanfifty years ago.


My lessons are:

The society changed from local to global. People and food move over the whole world fast: in a couple of hours and days with extreme low transport costs.

Food habits are totally different, especially for the middle class of the society. Instead of being based on survival and health, it is nowadays influenced by new health trends and emotion.

Differences in wealth are even bigger than fifty years ago. There are more poor people with a shortage of food all over the world.


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