Dairy milk consumption down, plant milk trending

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CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. (WEAU) – The US Dept. of Agriculture says most Ameiricans don’t consume enough dairy. At the same time, more people are turning to lactose free alternatives, like soy or almond milk.

According to the USDA, milk consumption went down from 237 pounds in 1987 to 195 pounds in 2012. Wisconsin is the number 2 dairy producer in the country with California the only other state that produces more.

But whether you're drinking soy or dairy milk, educators say you get calcium, protein and vitamins. Dairy farmers say while plant milk may be trendy, there's nothing like a cold glass of Wisconsin dairy milk.

Jeff Peck of Chippewa Falls got out of the military in 2008. Since then, he's been a herdsman at Peck Farms in Chippewa Falls.
“We roughly have 10,000 pounds of milk every day,” said Peck. There are 180 dairy cows at the farm.

Peck said he prefers the taste of dairy milk.

“There’s a novelty market that likes almond and soy milk and actually when it was in Iraq, that’s kind of what we had to drink because for whatever reason, they didn't have a strong dairy industry in the middle of the desert. So I know what it tastes like and it can say it personally was very happy to come back home and get a nice glass of real milk,” said Peck.

Peck said the reason consumption of fluid milk may have gone down because more people are consuming soda, water and fruit juices.

“However that is more than made up for by our increases in butter, yogurt and cheese. Those have all substantially grown in the last 25 years and the dairy industry is still a solid partner with American families,” said Peck.

Mary Geissler with Chippewa County UW-Extension said she's most concerned about growing children.

“Young children, they're in a critical time when they're forming bones, teeth and muscles. So it’s really important that our children continue to get their protein and calcium from whatever source they can,” she said.

Sources like almond, soy, flax, rice and coconut milk have become a health trend.

“Supermarkets today offer a lot of options and different types of soy based milk. They can be almond, rice, oat, but most of them don't come close to the taste or the price of dairy based milk,” said Geissler.

The cost of coconut milk is about double the price of dairy milk. But it’s trending for a reason.

“There are a growing number of individuals who are lactose intolerant in the United States, plus the fact that more Americans are turning to vegan diets these days,” said Geissler. There are also health concerns, which she says are often misconstrued. “Sometimes dairy milk has been unfairly targeted for causing acne, asthma, a host of diseases plus the fact that a lot of Americans are turning to vegan diets these days.

She said it also is a taste preference. People may like the taste of chocolate soymilk instead of dairy milk.

“Americans just don’t consume the cold cereal that they used to. Everybody used to have a bowl of cereal and pour their milk on it they don’t do that anymore. They're drinking fruit smoothies, yogurt and artisan breads for breakfast,” said Geissler.

She also said people may not order milk at a restaurant because there are no free refills for milk. But she said restaurants like McDonald’s have developed milk containers that fit into high chairs so that milk can be option for children.

Peck said even with the popularity in plant milk, it doesn’t compare to the dairy industry.

“The almond and the soy industry have grown but not as much as people might think because there's such a small percentage of people that do it and there is still 94 percent of U.S. households that have dairy milk in their refrigerators,” said Peck.

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