Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Do You Drink Milk?

Milk does a body good. So why do Americans drink less milk each year? Over the past decade, per capita U.S. milk consumption decreased nearly two gallons. According to the USDA, milk consumption fell 21.5% from 1975 to 2009.

Top 5: 1) Water 26.5%, 2) Soda 20.9%, 3) Beer 9.5%, 4) Milk 9.3%, 5) Coffee 8.5%

Approximately 75% of milk consumption occurs at home. Breakfast is the meal we’re most likely to drink milk. Nearly 50% of milk consumption occurs in the morning, 20% at noon/afternoon and 30% in the evening. American’s busy, on-the-go lifestyle has us eating more meals away from home so less milk is being consumed.

Milk is packaged in a variety of sizes from gallon jugs to half gallon cartons to single serve. Currently, 70% to 75% of the drinking milk sold is in gallon containers which are consumed at home.

Jack enjoying some milk at home

“On average, 50% of people over the age of 18 don’t drink milk. Half of the people who don’t drink milk say they don’t because they believe they are lactose intolerant. Scientific studies show lactose-intolerance isn’t that prevalent. So a lot of people are not drinking milk who could be drinking it,” according to Tom Gallagher, CEO of Dairy Management Inc.

Milk has been an important part of a healthy diet for generations. Research supports disease prevention and health promotion from vitamin D, calcium, protein, probiotics, whey and the overall package of nutrients that milk provides. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommends consuming 3 servings of dairy daily and increasing our vitamin D intake.

The Dairy Research Institute, a non-profit organization affiliated with the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, published its top 2010-11 dairy research insights. Included on the list:
  • Adequate dairy intake may help reduce incidence of Type 2 diabetes.
  • Adequate dairy intake can improve key metabolic risk factors associated with obesity.
  • Dairy consumption may help reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • Establishing good milk drinking habits early in life can lead to improved nutrient intake into teen and later years.
  • Among beverages, milk has the highest nutrient density scores in relation to greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Dairy protein excels for nutrition and product value for food/beverage manufactures.
Studies show we’re consuming more dairy products, but less milk. With all the research pointing to the health benefits of milk, why the decrease in consumption? Is it cost, convenience, calories, taste, packaging, availability, marketing, beverage alternatives or a combination of all of these factors?

As dairy farmers, we produce a raw product that is shipped to a processing plant where it is pasteurized and made into a finished product like milk, cheese, butter, ice cream or yogurt. We dairy producers don’t control product packaging, labeling or marketing. We depend on milk processors to make products that meet consumer’s needs. Is the dairy industry succeeding at providing products consumers want? Are we packaging, labeling and marketing our products to reach their full potential? The numbers show milk consumption declining so I think we could do better. What do you think?


  1. My husband, whose 30, LOVES LOVES LOVES milk. I can barely keep a gallon of whole milk in the fridge longer than 2 days -- he guzzles it!!

  2. Thanks for the comment Allison. That's great to hear!

  3. I know for our family, we produce our own milk. I think this is a trend becoming more popular. People want more control on where their food comes from. Wether the government is in agreement or not, that seems to be the trend. This could be why you wee the decrease in the purchase of milk from the stores.

    God Bless

  4. I have my own Jersey cow, so my family drinks the best!

    Marilyn www.mylifeoncedarlane.blogspot.com

  5. Thanks for the comments. I understand the desire to know where your food comes from. It's a lot of work to own and care for a dairy cow so I'm a little surprised by this trend. The milk produced by U.S. dairy farmers (99% which are family owned and operated) is a good quality product. So for those who don't have their own cow, you can be confident you are drinking nutritious, quality milk.

    Marilyn - I enjoyed your blog. It looks like you have a great home, farm and family!

  6. I will share the reasons why my family is consuming about half the amount of milk that we were 1 year ago.

    Packaging - Milk comes with wasteful packaging. Plastic jugs and the plastic screw tops have a limited potential for recycling and reusing (most plastics can only be recycled 1 or 2 times). We try to avoid creating as much trash as possible, so we limit the beverages we buy that come in packaging (we buy 3 half gallons of milk a week, we used to buy 3 gallons).

    Cost - I prefer to buy organic because I appreciate the promise that the cows are allowed frequent and regular pasture grazing. I spend more per half gallon than I used to spend on one whole gallon. My husband and I limit our consumption (maybe 2 glasses a month). The kids are limited to 2 glasses at breakfast for the day. The rest of the time we drink water.

    Sustainability - In general we are trying to live in a more modest manner. We compost, we have a vegetable garden, we hang out the clothes, we turn off lights, and we try to eat foods that are simple and as sustainable as possible. We eat about one third the meat we did a year ago, and half the milk and twice the fruit, veggies and water.


  7. Thanks for sharing MJ. It’s true organic cows have a grazing requirement. Our traditional cows are housed in freestall barns with plenty of quality feed, fresh water, comfortable bedding and are cooled in the summer by fans and water misters. Cows can be comfortable and well cared for in a variety of settings inside and outside.

    The dairy industry has a great track record for sustainability. A 2010 report by the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) titled “Greenhouse Gas Emissions from the Dairy Sector” estimates global milk production, processing and transportation contributes just 2.7% of green house gas (GHG) emissions. The report focuses on the entire dairy food chain from feed production and on-farm emissions, to emissions associated with milk processing, packaging and transportation of dairy products to retailers.

    A 2009 study by Cornell University found over the past 60 years, U.S. dairy has reduced the carbon footprint of its products by 63 percent, thanks to improvements in animal genetics, feeding rations, animal health programs, cow comfort and overall farm management practices. In fact, more milk is produced today with only 9 million cows than with 26 million cows in 1944.

    In an effort to continue our earth-friendly values, U.S. dairy has set an industry-wide goal of achieving a 25% reduction in total greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

    I hope you’ll feel good about serving your family dairy knowing we dairy producers make animal care and sustainability a top priority just like you.

  8. "In fact, more milk is produced today with only 9 million cows than with 26 million cows in 1944." Isn't this because cows are now fed grain and are also treated with rbgh?

    How long does a dairy cow live and produce, on average, on your farm? I know the national average for industrial dairies is 5 years--or 3 productive years. In 1944 they expected cows to live and produce at least 15 years. So they actually produced a whole lot more food--measured in milk and calves, over their lives. Grain based diets also increase the incidence of mastitis and tendency toward milk fever.

    When we take that into consideration, increased milk production in the short term isn't so impressive.

  9. Cows are more productive today due to advances in nutrition, cow comfort, genetics, housing, medical care, etc. The national average of 5 years old you stated applies to dairies of all sizes, not just larger farms. What is the source of your stat about cows in the 1940's having a productive life of 15 years? That figure doesn't match the info experienced dairymen have shared with me.

    As I mentioned in another blog you commented on, cows require a balanced diet. This diet can include grass, grains, corn silage (which is a forage), and a variety of other feedstuffs depending on availability in your area.

  10. Look at any resource you care to name. You can even look it up in an encyclopedia, call a vet, or ask any dairy farmer older than 55. Cows average life expectancy is about 22 years old. Which would give them a productive range of about 20 years. Erring on the side of reason and true average, I said 15.


    Do your children drink the milk off your farm or do you buy them milk at the store?

  11. There is a difference between life expectancy and productive life. What my comment refers to is productive life.

  12. Dairy cows commonly calve at 15. Head over to the Keeping A Family Cow forum and ask them. They'll tell you. I know a cow, right down the road, who is 25. I can take a picture of her for you. She has arthritis and was retired five years ago. Left to her own devices, she just adopted a beef calf. He suckled and she's in milk again, just for him. God's honest truth.

    If you think cows only have 5 productive years, you are sorely mistaken. And I'm telling you, the modern practices of industrial dairies shorten the lives of cows dramatically. Its not my opinion. It's fairly common knowledge. I'm not trying to be argumentative just for fun. I think, if you are a real cowgirl, you need to know these things.

    I believe in feeding the people. I believe in you running a good dairy. I just think maybe you have some serious misinformation?

    Anyone who wants a picture of that cow and a statement from the 3rd generation dairy farmer who raised her and refuses to send her to the knacker can email me: willkat at gmail.com

  13. Lets look at this from your perspective. Why do the 7 year old cows on your farm suddenly become unproductive? Do they become infertile? Do they get sick? Do they suddenly become unable to make milk? What happens? Why would you send a healthy cow to slaughter? Or do your cows get lame by age 7? Again, I'm not trying to be unfair. I'm genuinely curious.

  14. Also, I'm really very curious to know if you children drink the milk off your farm or if you buy them milk at the store?

  15. Raising one family cow in your backyard is much different then raising many dairy cows on a working dairy farm. Do you think someone who's been involved in dairy farming for generations might have a pretty good idea of cow care, nutrition, health and behavior? I appreciate your interest in our farm, and the fact that you’ve left more than 10 comments today advising me how best to run our dairy, but I don’t need any advice regarding raising dairy cattle from you. I’m afraid you are the one who has been misinformed. You say you are interested in dialogue, but your comments don’t reflect that. You’re mind is made up. I respect the choices you make for your cow, please respect mine.

  16. Lactose intolerance is NOT rare. 70% of the world's adult population has it to some degree. It's only a minority among white people of northern European descent. I am American Indian and I cannot tolerate any more than greek yogurt and hard cheeses. Almost all of us are lactose intolerant after childhood. We also have one of the highest rates of diabetes and here we are getting fed the myth that eating more of these foods our bodies are NOT designed to process will help prevent that? Bull. I know it is scary for you as a dairy farmer, but there are real reasons people are drinking less milk. It doesn't do most bodies good.

    1. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics support the consumption of dairy foods calling them “natural nutrient-rich”. Research shows that people who have trouble digesting lactose can still enjoy dairy foods daily. Milk offers a powerful nutrient package providing nourishment to the human body. From what I’ve read, many people self-diagnose their lactose intolerance and may not actually be lactose intolerant. For those who are lactose intolerant, products like lactose-free milk, yogurt and hard cheese are good choices. I question your stats about lactose intolerance. Numerous studies prove the nutritional benefits of dairy products for adults and children.


Thank you for reading my blog and taking the time to comment! I’m opening the doors of our farm to share with you and enjoy engaging in discussion. Please be respectful in your comments. I reserve the right to remove posts that include name calling, slander, and vulgar language or contain links to websites that assault animal agriculture.

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