Skilled as it is at unintentional self-parody, the food world can’t hold a candle — even a candle made from the wax of bees living in splendor on a Bushwick rooftop — to the fashion industry. Lest we forget that, The Wall Street Journal is here to remind us with the enlightening tale of Arethusa Farm Dairy.
Arethusa is owned by George Malkemus and Tony Yurgaitis, two executives of Manolo Blahnik, a luxury shoe brand favored by Sex and the City devotees and women who don’t mind spending the equivalent of airline fare on a pair of stilettos. How is Arethusa different from other dairies?
Well, let’s take a look.
— Arethusa’s milk sells for “$4.49 per half-gallon, or more than twice the national retail average.”
— The farm’s cows live in a barn that is affixed with a sign reading “Every cow in this barn is a lady, please treat her as such.”
— The cows eat “the finest, protein-enriched hay and rest upon soft wood shavings from Canada.”
— Every day, their bodies are vacuumed by workers in a “spa-like room.” Dark-haired cows are shampooed with Artec shampoo; those with lighter follicles get Pantene. “There’s not a single fly,” according to Malkemus. The manure also smells like lilacs.
— Its proprietors absolutely refuse to be sucked into tawdry trends: “Are we going to do some kind of berry granola crunch yogurt? No!” says Mr. Malkemus, who prefers to stick with the classics in both of his businesses. “We don’t do platforms,” he adds, dismissing the top shoe trend of the past three years.
But shockingly, Arethusa’s milk doesn’t qualify as organic because it’s not antibiotic-free. This has inspired scorn in rival dairy farmers like Dante Hesse, whose Milk Thistle Farms milk is both organic and, at $7 per half-gallon, even more expensive than Arethusa’s.
Malkemus’s response to the criticism: “Much like in the fashion world, there’s a great deal of jealousy and rivalry in dairy farming.”
Here’s another view of the matter, from an executive at the National Dairy Council: “All milk is pretty much processed very similarly. … So, it’s hard to see where the value might come from for some of these products.”
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 26, 2011