While milk mustaches may have never really caught on as a fashion trend, the days of this symbolic foamy white upper lip may be numbered. In fact, right now, the dairy industry may be facing its biggest sales threat to date: younger generations with a world of information readily available at their fingertips along with countless dairy-free options available to them.
In as little time as it takes to type “Google,” consumers are discovering the charade built up by millions of dollars of savvy marketing–and they’re learning that, despite what they were taught in school, dairy products are actually harmful to our health. Not to mention how dairy factory farms are wreaking havoc on our environment while also causing tremendous cruelty to animals. That’s not all. In 2011, Animal Outlook uncovered an alleged $9.5 billion dollar price-fixing scheme within the dairy industry that involved killing 500,000 young cows in order to inflate the cost of milk.
How are consumers responding to all of this information? A recent report by US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Economic Research Service confirms that Americans are drinking less and less milk, and each generation consumes less than the prior one.
With all other factors remaining constant, this trend dates back as far back as the 1940s. Further, as newer generations continue to drink less milk, and as these generations gradually replace older ones, the U.S. population’s level of consumption is expected to continue dropping. Because the habit change is largely generational, the report states, it becomes unlikely that these trends will reverse.
To share some hard numbers: since 1970, per capita milk consumption has fallen from 0.96 cup-equivalents per day to about 0.61 cup-equivalents per day. In 2007-08, preadolescent children drank, on average, 30 percent less milk than children in 1977-78 drank while Americans over the age of 13 drank 25 percent less milk.
Is the dairy industry worried about this trend? Seems like it, but there’s no use crying over spilled milk, right? Despite its best advertising campaigns (Got Milk?), government-sponsored programs that push milk, and even ridiculous efforts to slam non-dairy alternatives, milk consumption continues to decline. Americans are moving on, reaching for healthier and more humane dairy-free options. Maybe it’s time for the dairy industry to move on, too.
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