Americans Continue to Drink Less Dairy Milk

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Americans Continue to Drink Less Dairy Milk

Here is something that on second thought comes as no surprise:  Americans continue to drink less and less of dairy milk.  According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), since 1970, per capita consumption of fluid milk has fallen from almost 1 cup (8 fl. oz.) to 0.6 cups per day. The chart on the left is from the USDA and spells out the bad news for cow’s milk. While yogurt sales continue to rise in recent years, the so-called “milk cliff”, according to dairy industry analysts, is soon coming and the dairy industry hopes the current Farm Bill before Congress may come to the rescue of milk producers.

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A summary (and a copy) of the USDA report can be found at: http://www.ers.usda.gov/amber-waves/2013-september/americans-not-drinking-milk-as-often-as-their-parents-did.aspx#.UjpNLbzuCJh

The USDA report looks primarily at the generational differences of milk drinkers and the wide availability of competing drinks such as bottled water.  With hats off to the dairy industry’s grip on the USDA, interestingly, the report does not mention another likely reason for this rapid decline: lactose intolerance. How many people have become lactose intolerant over the years? How has that happened? As for other possible reasons, this month the prestigious American Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics, published a study by Harvard researcher and pediatrician, David Ludwig, who concludes that most flavored and reduced fat milks are so laced with sugar that consuming them cancels out any reasoning for drinking low fat milks and similar dairy products.  See http://archpedi.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1704826

Hank Cardello, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, in a Forbes business magazine piece written earlier this year, states that “the [dairy] industry has nobody to blame but itself. It’s in trouble because it has focused on cows instead of consumers.” In other words, the dairy industry has been stuck on being a milk producer than defining itself as a nutrition provider. See http://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesleadershipforum/2013/01/04/how-the-milk-industry-went-sour-and-what-every-business-can-learn-from-it/

Of course, dairy milk has it supporters.  Oprah’s website (oprah.com) has published articles on the health benefits of dairy milk. See http://www.oprah.com/food/The-Health-Benefits-of-Milk . Mark Hyman, a national physician, has argued there is little evidence for milk’s benefits. See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mark-hyman/milk-health-benefits_b_3551079.html  A balanced and good discussion of the pros and cons of drinking milk can be found on the popular website WebMD. See http://www.webmd.com/diet/healthy-kitchen-11/dairy-truths

Nonetheless, it’s clear that the long held assumption in our society that milk is a healthy option is rapidly receiving greater scrutiny by consumers and medical researchers. That the famous marketing question “Got Milk?” is no longer the assumption in today’s beverage market.

 

Kirk Schroder / Food Advocate / foodadvocate@ellwoodthompsons.com