It is a different world that confronts the U.S. dairy industry than that of 70 years ago when June Dairy Month was established, says a University of Illinois Extension dairy specialist.
"Seventy years ago, milk production exceeded consumption and most dairy cows consumed lush pastures," says Mike Hutjens. "Today, milk production continues to surpass consumption and June Dairy Month challenges people to drink more milk and consume more dairy products."
The impact on the average consumer, based on the latest data (2004), reveals:
- drank 180 pounds of fluid milk of which 33% was whole milk, 32% reduced fat milk, 11% low-fat milk, 14% non-fat milk, 7% flavored fat-reduced milk, and 2% flavored whole milk;
- consumed 31.2 pounds of cheese;
- consumed 4.6 pounds of butter;
- consumed 23.2 pounds of ice cream and frozen products; and
- consumed 2.6 pounds of cottage cheese.
"The U.S. dairy industry is a big business," says Hutjens. "In the United States, there are 52,341 dairy producers with 9.01 million dairy cows producing over 171 billion pounds of milk. Cheese manufacturing alone employs 37,700 people with a payroll of $1.61 billion and a wholesale value of $20.1 billion."
U.S. consumers spend $328 per capita on dairy products annually.
Hutjens says that some dairy products continue to gain market share while others fall behind.
"Winners from 2002 to 2004 included cheese, which was up 2.6%; low-fat ice cream, up 4.5%; yogurt, up 13.5%; sour cream and dips, up 3.1%, and flavored milk, up by 1%," he says.
"Losers included fat-free milk, down 1.4%; reduced and low-fat milk, down 1.3%; whole milk, down 3.9%; cottage cheese, down 3.7%; and regular ice cream, down 9.2%."
The milk consumption capital of America remains in Des Moines, Iowa, where the average person drinks 17.5 gallons per year. Although it represents less than 1% of total sales, organic milk continues to draw consumer support, he notes.
Vanilla tops the list when it comes to ice cream accounting for 26% of total sales, while chocolate is second at 12.9%. Neapolitan ranks third at 4.8%.
"We're importing 5.3% of our total cheese production while exports account for only 1.5% of our domestic production," Hutjens says. "Butter imports are 7.3% of production while butter exports are also only 1.5% of domestic production. Mexico, Japan, Canada, and Korea are the major importers of U.S. cheese."
Hutjens says dairy products have a number of things to offer consumers.
"They are available in various levels of fat to meet consumer demands and needs, including organic sources," he says. "Low-fat flavored milks are promising. Dairy products can reduce weight, and the calcium in milk can improve mineral balance."
U.S. consumers, he says, appear to be fat and calorie-conscious SOME of the time. U.S. consumers also want convenience, and flavor is an important factor.
"We need to develop new products to stimulate dairy consumption. We really need another home run like pizza," he says. "On the positive side, changes instituted by many schools in regards to soda availability should increase dairy consumption."
Federal school programs, he adds, distributed 5.4% of total milk consumed in the United States.