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Starbucks to go with 2% milk in espresso

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Starbucks is going all 2 percent, all the time. The Seattle-based coffee company said Thursday that it plans to switch all of its U.S. and Canadian stores from whole milk to 2 percent milk for espresso-based drinks. Customers, however, can request whole, skim or soy milk for their beverages, and U.S. stores also offer organic milk.

"It's what customers want," said Brandon Borrman, a company spokesman. "We did tests in four markets, and we had overwhelming positive results."

Starbucks Corp. in February had tested the change in 300-company owned stores in Oregon; Orange County, Calif.; Jacksonville, Fla.; and London, Ontario. Those markets will permanently make the switch, and New York City stores will make the conversion June 5. An exact date to make the transition in Seattle has not been set. Starbucks, as of April 1, had 9,814 stores in the U.S. and 546 Canadian stores.

Borrman said the change will not affect prices, but it will lower calories.

A switch from whole milk to 2 percent lowers the number of calories by 30 in tall (small size) and grande (medium size) lattes, the company said.

But don't expect to lose a lot of weight.

To lose a pound, a person must eliminate 3,500 calories. For a latte-a-day drinkers, it would take a year to lose 3 pounds.

Meanwhile, Borrman said that by the end of the year, Starbucks in all its stores plans to use milk products without an artificial growth hormone called Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone, or rBGH.

The company in January had stopped using rBGH milk in company-owned stores in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska, Montana, Northern California and New England.

The government-approved supplement is given to dairy cows to produce more milk, but critics contend the supplement can be harmful to cows and humans.

Borrman said 51 percent of fluid dairy, milk, half and half, whipped cream and eggnog that Starbucks buys already is rBGH-free. That's up from 37 percent in January.

"Some of the suppliers are changing on their own," Borrman said. "Because we are in the process of rolling this out, we are working with suppliers to assess what, if any, cost impact there will be as we continue to go forward."

Borrman said the two dairy announcements are not related.

"One is not driving the change for the other," Borrman said.

But Blair Thompson, a spokesman for the Washington Dairy Products Commission, isn't so sure.

He said 2 percent milk costs less than whole milk, but rBGH-free milk is more costly than that with the hormone.

"I'm wondering if one of the reasons to back off on whole milk is to buy no-rBGH milk," Thompson said. "Maybe they are looking at a financial situation to trade off cost."

Patty Lovera, assistant director of Food and Water Watch, said her organization is focusing on urging businesses to quit using rBGH milk after failing to get the federal government to ban the use.

"When it comes to Starbucks, they buy an awful lot of milk," said Lovera, whose group is based in Washington, D.C.

"If we can get big users of milk to put their foot down that this hormone shouldn't be used, that will shift the market."

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