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Why Are Americans Drinking Way Less Milk?

Why Are Americans Drinking Way Less Milk?

I don’t drink nearly as much milk as I did when I was a child, but, then again, I am an adult and adults tend not to order milk with a meal. But my child really doesn’t like milk, and when I look around, none of his friends drink all that much milk (at least electively). So as these indicators might predict, milk consumption in the good old US of A is down, way down. It seems Americans are drinking less and less milk over time and the USDA, along with the dairy industry, really want to know the reason why.

A recent USDA study shows that there has been a steady declining consumption of milk since the 1970s and more recent generations of Americans show greater decreases in consumption frequency, holding constant other factors such as education and race. What does this mean you may ask? Well it is not about lactose intolerance, as some might suspect. Believe it or not, a lot of it has to do with race, according to this study. The declining majority of white people has something to do with it as well as the multivariate analysis that shows that being black or Latino is indeed negatively correlated with milk consumption.

The study, as is the nature of most of these studies, goes to great lengths to identify the reason why fewer people are drinking milk but doesn’t provide a satisfying conclusion other than young people are just not super jazzed about having milk as a regular part of their drinking regimen. Maybe it has something to do with the rise of lactose intolerance, or maybe we have been spooked by heath scares, or have just found better modes of calcium delivery?

Are you still an avid milk drinker or has your consumption waned greatly? Have you noticed a falling off of milk’s popularity? If so, what is your theory?

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.


+ add your own
2:38AM PDT on Sep 2, 2013

I never liked the taste of milk, plus it makes my stomach hurt.
But, my husband is a different story! He drinks a glass of milk every day! I keep telling him he is drinking a baby calf's milk, but he ignores me! Then, I tell him he is too old to drink milk (he's 62) and he turns away from me as he drinks it on down!

10:54PM PDT on Aug 13, 2013

I'm not fond of milk for a couple of reasons, it makes me feel ill in the stomach and it is also stealing from baby cows.

4:36PM PDT on Jul 11, 2013

No dairy milk here.

8:26AM PDT on Jul 11, 2013

Similar to other comments, I drank milk as a child but stopped when I moved out on my own because it went bad quickly. I found I preferred the taste and the shelf life of plant milks like soy or almond. Now knowing what I do about the dairy industry, I wouldn't go back.

11:44PM PDT on Jul 10, 2013

Breast milk is best for infants but after that water is best, we do not need to drink milk, esp another animals milk, we are the only species that i am aware of that drinks milk after toddler years, we can derive calcium from so many other sources, milk only contains about 3 percent calcium anyway, so not good source. people are becoming more aware of the actual contents of milk,

11:04PM PDT on Jul 8, 2013


10:43PM PDT on Jul 8, 2013

Personally, I stopped drinking milk when I considered that cow's milk is for calves, and they grow into 1000 pound animals. My choice of drinking other, healthier, drinks was reinforced when I realized how many hormones, antibiotics, and other bad stuff is fed to cattle, which is bound to come out in their milk. I have also stopped eating beef, partly because of what they're fed, but also for other personal reasons.
If someone likes the taste and texture of drinking cow's milk, there are many alternatives out there that are much better for us, as long as it's organic. Soy milk, almond milk, and rice milk are what come to mind.
The dairy industry needs to get back to basics and start feeding their cattle real food, not pharmaceuticals. Maybe then people will reconsider, but by then people may have moved on and found a better product.

8:37PM PDT on Jul 8, 2013

I've always hated milk. My mother made me drink it when I was a kid, but I resisted. It'd put it in my breakfast cereal, but the only way I'd drink milk straight was with Hershey's chocolate syrup in it. Once I moved out on my own, I would buy milk only for cereal, but since I rarely ate cereal, the milk would go bad because I never used it. I finally realized I was wasting a lot of money on milk I wasn't using. I decided to try soymilk in my cereal, and liked the results. I've also tried rice milk and almond milk. These days my preference is vanilla flavored almond milk in my cereal and chocolate soymilk on the very rare occasions when I want to drink milk. I haven't had dairy milk in years, and I don't miss it.

5:27PM PDT on Jul 8, 2013

Noted... I never was a milk fan.

10:19AM PDT on Jul 8, 2013

Blame it on Skyrim, Milk Drinker.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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Great way to get much healthier foods into out diets such as fruits and veggies with more nutritiona…

Love to support local farmers! Thanks


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