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Friday, June 08, 2007Oh, what one little blog post can do...
Salon.com has picked up the story about Prolacta and the International Breast Milk Project and asks a few questions of their own about how everything is working.
Earlier this week, Prolacta and Youse attempted to clear the milky waters. According to Elster, all milk received from the inception of the IBMP project to May 31 of this year will go to Africa. After May 31, however, IBMP will send 25 percent of all donations received to Africa, and 75 percent will be sold to Prolacta for $1 an ounce. What kind of profit margin does this mean for Prolacta? Potentially a motherlode. If, as Elster told me, the average donation runs around 180 ounces, then that would mean that 135 ounces (75 percent) "sold" to Prolacta would generate around $4,725 (at $35 an ounce) for the company, or about $3,890 after subtracting the expense of donor processing (about $700 per donor) and the cash payment to IBMP.
Quite honestly, those numbers don't look much better than the ones I originally posted.
Basically, for every donor the International Breast Milk Project recruits, the IBMP will get 45 ounces of breast milk and $135. Prolacta, on the other hand would get 135 ounces of breast milk and up to $3,890 in sales.
Umm...that just doesn't seem right.
The article also touches on my question about the financial issues of shipping all that milk and includes a response from Jill.
Prolacta's profits aside, a question remains: Should we really be sending frozen breast milk to Africa? Given the shipping, the refrigeration, the sheer expense of transporting precious little of the precious liquid around the globe, is it more important as a symbol than as an effective solution? As Laycock observes: "Fifteen thousand ounces will feed three babies for six months. If those dollars spent processing and transporting milk could be spent setting up milk banking in a country, one can only imagine how much more they could accomplish."
In part, Youse agrees with this sentiment, though she adds that not all communities in Africa are good candidates for setting up local breast milk banks. In addition to widespread HIV infection among potential donors, there are cultural and practical obstacles. "In some places, it can work, in others it's never going to happen," says Youse. But in general she acknowledges that transporting milk safely to Africa is extremely expensive and not terribly efficient.
I wonder if Oprah will read that article in Salon...