How did you become interested in the subject of milk and dairy?
It was my personal allergy to milk and milk products that led me to investigate this subject. It was a very big surprise when I came across the massive amounts of research and studies claiming cow’s milk consumption was a health risk. My passion intensified as I read about the devastating effect of dairies on the environment; the dire straits of today’s farmers; and the preponderance of lactose intolerance, especially in African Americans and Native Americans. I uncovered so much information about milk that it overwhelmed me. But the more I learned, the deeper into the rabbit hole I went and the harder it was to turn the other way.
How did you decide to frame the film around a “road trip” leading to the USDA’s office in Washington?
I called the USDA office multiple times before our road trip to schedule a meeting, and on the phone someone said, ‘just come to the research center.’ I thought – this is fabulous! We will drive there and they will answer all our questions! There must be a logical reason for all of this!
Based on the opening scene of the movie that presents an audio recording with what we understand to be a representative of the USDA, how difficult was it to obtain facts and information from sources within the dairy industry and the US government?
As seen in the film the USDA response was far from what we had anticipated. It was extremely difficult. A lot of my time was spent not only reading the research but also looking into who funded the research, which will tell a lot about the integrity of the research.
Many studies that the dairy industry relies on are studies paid for by them. Here is what happens. The dairy industry pays a lab to find something they can market. Intrigued by the shocking findings, other independent studies are performed to look further and confirm these findings, yet they yield very different results. The already yearlong successful run of this milk campaign gets ordered by the Federal Trade Commission to be pulled. The dairy industry obliges and immediately comes up with a new one. This has been going on for years.
That is why we believe that milk is good for the bones, will help us lose weight, will reduce menstrual cramps, will make our skin shiny and our faces beautiful. The dairy industry had to pull its ‘milk builds strong bones’ campaign due to insufficient evidence, like its ‘milk helps with weight loss’ campaign due to insufficient evidence. It is just great marketing.
What were some of the best sources for the information presented in the film?
Our sources came from top experts in the field of nutrition like nutritional researcher T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. who has dedicated multiple decades on milk protein research, John McDougall, M.D., a physician and nutrition expert. Other medical and scientific authorities in the film include diet/health experts Jennifer K. Reilly, R.D. and Amy Joy Lanou, Ph.D.; physicians Neal Barnard, M.D. and Joel Fuhrman M.D; large animal veterinarian Mira L. McGregor, V.M.D.; environmental researcher Victor E Cabrera, Ph.D.; and physicist Noam Mohr.
What was the most compelling fact you discovered in your research for the film? Where did it come from?
I think the one that made me fall off my seat was when I found out where they actually get the vitamin D that they add to the milk. My reaction is at the end of the film with Dr. Joel Furman.
What is the biggest myth that the film uncovers about milk?
The one that is most engrained in us is the calcium myth. In the film the experts show that milk does not help promote healthy bones, nor does it increase your calcium intake. On the contrary – it depletes your body of calcium. Countries with the highest intake of dairy products have the highest rate of osteoporosis.
Have you had any feedback from dairy industry officials attempting to counter or attack your film? If so, how have you addressed them?
They have been trying to counter the film by sending reporters to different research studies that promote their numerous health claims, but all the studies they are referencing were funded by the dairy industry. It’s like the tobacco industry referencing research that proves that smoking helps with stress.
How many film festivals have you entered the Milk Documentary in? Which were the most important for gaining greater visibility for the film?
We were at a number of festivals and won the audience award at the International Rhode Island Film Festival. The DocAviv film festival was our first and the Israeli News did a 20 minute weekend special on it. The one that moved me the most was the South Korean Film Festival in Seoul, where a doctor stood up after the screening and thanked me for making him a better doctor for his patients. Furthermore that evening a riot broke out regarding the import of American dairy and beef into South Korea. It was very moving.
What is the best advice you have for most people out there that are literally addicted to dairy?
If a person feels they are addicted but want to try to get off dairy to improve their health, know that there are many non-dairy alternatives that make up for the cravings that taste pretty darn good. There are non-dairy cheeses, ice-cream and even butter. Today eating non-dairy is a lot easier that it was 6 years ago; there are so many alternatives that have become main stream that it is really easy. You just need to look in a different section at your grocery store.
If someone has the guts and willpower, put your body to the test, go off dairy completely for two weeks (no milk, no cheese, no yogurt, no butter) and then to go back on it and feel the difference. Your body will tell you what feels good.
What is the best way we can get off of dairy?
For some it is knowing about the puss cells in milk that got them to rethink milk, for others it was seeing how milk is truly produced. Each person is different. I advise apart from watching the documentary, to read up on the subject and educate yourself, for you and your family. Take it one step at a time, replace one item at a time, it gets easier. Try Almond milk instead of cows’ milk in your coffee and cereal, once you have mastered that try changing up another.