According to new reports, dairy farmers, milk processors and grocery chains are starting to worry.
There has been an ongoing decline in U.S. milk consumption, and that decline is accelerating.
The industry “is coming to recognize this as a crisis,” says Tom Gallagher, CEO of Dairy Management Inc., a farmer-funded trade group that promotes milk products. “We cannot simply assume that we will always have a market.”
Per-capita U.S. milk consumption, which peaked around World War II, has fallen almost 30% since 1975, even as sales of yogurt, cheese, organic milk and other dairy products have risen, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics. Americans drank an average of 20.2 gallons of milk last year, a decline of 3.3% from the previous year and the biggest year-over-year slide since at least 1975, according to the USDA.
Why? Experts point to the increased popularity of bottled water, as well as the perception that milk is high calories. In addition, many people, particularly African Americans, are lactose-intolerant. Also, the recent increases in the price of milk, a result of the soaring costs for grains fed to dairy cows, hasn’t exactly helped matters.