Milk Prices Hitting Record Highs, No End In Sight

Good news for the American Dairy Farmer, bad news for you: Milk prices are hitting record highs and there’s no end in sight as increased demand from new markets such as China and India drive prices through the roof.

From the Chicago Tribune:

Reasons include growing appetites for dairy foods in China and elsewhere in Asia where fast-food and coffee chains are introducing taste buds to cheeseburgers and lattes, as well as rising costs for animal feed and shrinking European stocks.

Paying more for milk, a source of nutrients such as calcium, is causing an uproar in Germany and other countries where many families consider providing children with an affordable glass of milk a fundamental right. Prices are likely to remain high until dairy farmers add more cows or shift production to powders, more easily traded than the liquid stuff.

Milk prices in the U.S. hit a record high in July, according to the Agriculture Department, which forecasts that prices will stay high throughout the year.

In China, milk consumption has soared along with rising incomes, a massive expansion of the dairy industry and the increasing familiarity with, and taste for, non-native foods among young urbanites. The Dairy Association of China estimates consumption will rise by 15 percent to 20 percent annually in coming years.

Not much you can do about it, other than drink less milk or perhaps freeze your cheese?

(Full Disclosure: We don’t really drink milk, so we’re afraid we have a lack of helpful advice on the topic. We do know that milk doesn’t freeze particularly well and tastes all gross when you thaw it out, because our parents used to do this and, consequently, we now hate the taste of milk and refuse to drink it.)

Let’s open this one back up for discussion: How do you save money on milk, butter and cheese?

Milk prices hitting records as richer Asia acquires taste [Chicago Tribune]


Edit Your Comment

  1. roche says:

    I blame the cows

  2. badgeman46 says:

    I thought people of asian heritage were lactose intolorant. At least that is what PETA says. Anywho, looks like you granola crunchers are gonna save the planet by making the population starve to death with ethanol driving up the price of everything.

  3. philipbarrett says:

    Surely the rising price of corn has also contributed?

  4. pinkbunnyslippers says:

    You could always go the route of dry milk! Or start stocking up on Viactiv and calcium pills. :)

  5. Nilt says:

    I haven’t checked in the past week but I save by buying my milk at Costco. I get 2 gallons there for a bit less than what any local grocery store sells one gallon for. As an added bonus it comes from smaller local dairies at my Costco. That may vary in other areas, though.

  6. enm4r says:

    All the more reason to drink soy milk. With soy milk falling slowly, and true dairy rising quickly, I’ll have all the excuse I need when they’re the same price to buy soy. The 1.5x-2x that soy costs will be narrowed down in no time.

  7. jaredgood1 says:

    It’s all just a ploy to raise gas prices.

    Seriously though, it’s probably a combination of rising population and rising corn prices. Double edged sword for me, as I need milk in my coffee but my family grows corn (splits about 50/50 feed for our cattle and selling the rest to the ethanol plant).

    No good tips for saving money aside from stocking up during sales.

  8. nffcnnr says:

    In order to lessen the demand, we could do two things for starters: (1) poison the milk we ship to China. (2) tell Borden to stop spilling thier product all over America’s highways. Sheesh!

  9. humphrmi says:

    What the article is missing is, what are considered “high” prices and what did they used to be before that?

    I go to my local Jewel, I think this week I paid $2.99 per gallon for skim. I seem to recall paying around $2.00 at some time in the past. So I’m paying a buck more a week. I gotta say, this sort of increase doesn’t keep me awake at night. Is the impact harder in other places? Maybe Chicago gets a break on their milk prices because we pay more for gas? :)

  10. Nemesis_Enforcer says:

    @enm4r: Dude thats just gross. Its not soy milk its soy juice. Beans can not produce milk, I think it should be illegal to call it milk. If it doesent come from a mammal its not milk period. Just the thought of soy juice makes me throw up a little in my mouth…bleecchhhhkkkk. And BTW I don’t drink moo cow milk either I don’t like the taste or smell. But I can grub on some cheese and ice cream.

  11. LiC says:

    My dad believes that the increases in milk prices are related to the increases in the minimum wage. He worked in the grocery business for 15 years and he just started associating them with each other.

    Dillons, or Krogers, usually runs 2/$3 specials on the 2% half-gallons every couple of weeks.

  12. bluegus32 says:

    Somehow, someway, it’s Bush’s fault. Who’s with me?

  13. etinterrapax says:

    For now, I’m buying where it’s cheapest, but not doing anything else. We have a toddler, so we go through a lot of it. But it’s still not so high that we have to make changes. Interesting, though: milk is going up and up, but butter was falling at my grocery. A few weeks ago, it was $2, then $1.67, and now $1.50. You can stock up on butter and freeze it, thank goodness.

  14. enm4r says:

    @Nemesis_Enforcer: Call it what you want, I think vanilla soy juice tastes most excellent with cereals, which is 95% of the reason I ever buy milk.

    Cheese and ice cream have no substitute…

  15. humphrmi says:

    @Nemesis_Enforcer: C’mon, you can finish the Lewis Black bit: “It’s NOT soy ‘milk’. It’s soy JUICE! You know why? Because there’s no soy tit!” :)

  16. B says:

    Drink beer.

  17. homerjay says:

    @etinterrapax: maybe it would be best to stock up on butter and then turn it back into milk??

    Milk prices aren’t keeping me up at night either. My family goes through 2 or 3 gallons a week. An increase of $2-3 each week isn’t going to kill me. They can raise milk prices all they want- just do something about gas prices.

  18. BillyShears says:

    As a lactose-intolerant, but feverish milk drinker – I buy the value pack of Lactaid pills from Walgreens – this is kind of disappointing, but whatever. 99% of the milk I buy comes in glass containers, so I just return them for the deposit and eventually I get a gallon of milk for “free.”

    (I’m also one of those hippie, hateful bastards that spends even more to buy the locally produced stuff.)

  19. acambras says:


    Its not soy milk its soy juice. Beans can not produce milk

    “Well, you can milk just about anything with nipples.” – Gaylord Focker

    Yeah, I grew up in the suburbs, but I don’t *think* soybeans have nipples. ;-)

  20. skittlbrau says:

    I personally prefer rice milk over soy milk, but yeah, both are juice.

    And living with someone lactose intolerant has drastically cut back my milk consumption. If I pay another $1 or so every week or two, I’m cool with it.

  21. Amtrack says:

    I live on Oahu, in Hawaii. Before the milk even touches our shore it is jacked up in price! The wholesale price of milk is determined by a formula tied to California milk prices! Ive seen a gallon for over 9 dollars here. Although you can get it for cheaper if you look (8 dollars), people have become accustomed to seeing that high.

  22. SOhp101 says:

    Increases in milk prices are becuase… rising corn prices!

    @badgeman46: Most Asian people are lactose intolerant but I think it’s more because Asian cultures do not push drinking milk the way the US does. If you’re lactose intolerant prone (I know I am) and you stop drinking milk, eventually your body loses the ability to make lactase. It takes a really long time for your body to get used to it again, which is not a pleasant task to accomplish.

    @enm4r: Soy milk is gross, not because of the taste, but because of the sheer amount of plant estrogens you’re ingesting. If you’re a woman, fine, but don’t ask your bf to drink it.

    @bluegus32: It really is Bush’s fault. Pushing ethanol will be one of the biggest jokes in history, up there with the Iraq war, No Child Left Behind, and Hurricane Katrina.

  23. millcitymodern says:

    I am a little afraid of soy “milk” considering the studies that are coming out about unfermented soy consumption and whackety-whack hormonal changes. I still find good prices on milk and dairy products at Costco and Trader Joes.

  24. skittlbrau says:

    @Amtrack: I would never drink milk again, for that much $$

  25. bbbici says:

    Dairy product sales have been artificially inflated from subsidized production, fixed low pricing (for milk), and intensive lobbying of the FDA (dietary guidelines) by dairy associations.

    The dairy (and cattle) industry is one of the most environmentally unsustainable agricultures.

    Health wise, adults really don’t need to consume as much dairy as they do.

    Maybe women should breast feed until the kid is 18.

  26. Red_Eye says:

    Its funny my wife and a friend of hers have been picture phoning milk prices back and forth for a month or so we live about 70 miles apart and there is nearly $1 difference between the area prices for Vitamin D whole Milk at WalMart. They are paying $4.99/gal and we are paying around $3.99 or less. Unfortunately I am one of those types that consumes a ton of milk. I could easily do 2 – 3 gallons a week if it weren’t so expensive so I have to slow myself.

  27. valthun says:

    Soy milk is nasty, I decided to try some, couldn’t stand it by itself, it was nasty mixed with chocolate, and didn’t help much in cereal. I just don’t like almond flavored milk in my cereal.

    I don’t buy milk often though, and when I do it’s never a gallon. because A) i won’t finish it and B) I don’t want to drain the rotten milk.

  28. @badgeman46: I think any racial group whose ancestors did not raise herd animals and drink their milk are supposed to be lactose intolerant. At least more lactose intolerant than those whose ancestors did but then don’t most people lose their tolerance for milk at some point any way?

  29. phrygian says:

    I already spend $7-8/gallon on milk each week. I spent a lot of time researching to find an “organic” diary that treats its animals ethically. I’m not going to switch to cheaper milk just because the price is fluctuating. I really, really like milk, but I’m willing to put my money where my mouth is when it comes to certain things.

  30. Nemesis_Enforcer says:

    @enm4r: Dude even 1% tastes good with cereal, and its just cloudy water.
    @humphrmi: Yeah I could have but I figured what the hell might as well throw in my own thoughts….Kinda like using your own words…

  31. supra606 says:

    The increase in milk prices might not seem like a big deal to some people (it does to me) but does anyone else notice the prices of all sorts of food at the grocery store going up faster than normal?

  32. xskeptictankx says:

    Frozen milk IS disgusting to drink, but it’s actually a pretty good method when you’ll be using milk (or cheese) to cook with. It’s worth it to pay a little extra for fresh drinking milk, but freeze some separate cooking milk when you find a good deal at the market.

  33. bohemian says:

    Were paying about $8 a gallon here too. We buy organic. The sky high price of milk is bad enough but every time I go to the store I see other things going up 20-50 cents every time I go to the store. Crackers, prepackaged sauces, you name it. The over all effect of everything going up and a house full of people with medical dietary restrictions is enough to make me go postal.

    We started freezing milk, it really is not that bad. It is not as super fresh as a just in from the dairy jug of local organic but it still tastes better than most hormone injected really stale grocery store brand milk. When I see it go on sale I grab extras and freeze them. We have also started hoarding butter and ice cream in the freezer when they are on sale.

  34. Don Roberto says:

    So no one at consumerist drinks milk?

  35. bohemian says:

    I started tracking our grocery purchases but I was only tracking the highest price to compare to the sales flyers. Just about everything is going up every week. It is insane.

  36. @supra606: Yes. :(

  37. trillium says:

    Remember – cheese doesnt go bad (really) so you can just cut off the moldy parts and it will be as good as new!

    Good little link of freezing:

  38. forever_knight says:

    can someone please explain how China and the rest of Asia is to blame for rising milk costs. i can understand how products like oil and copper increase because of the limited supply, but we aren’t shipping milk to Asia so why are we blaming the increase in milk prices on them?

  39. KenyG says:

    I go through about 4 gallons a week. My family loves milk, with the kids home in the summer – we go through even more now. I love a tall glass of cold milk myself. Lately I have been paying upwards of $3.50 a gallon – and payed $3.99 at a conviencence store one day (thats the fat-free skim kind).


  40. superlayne says:

    Buy a cow.

  41. kenposan says:

    My twins just got weened off of milk. Apparently good timing.

  42. jstonemo says:

    How does the price of milk in China affect us in America? I don’t ever remember seeing any specials on the Discovery channel about how they build those giant milk tanker ships.

    There is no way they are exporting milk as far away as China. Cheese or other milk solids – I can wrap my brain around that.

  43. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    @humphrmi: Only a dollar? It’s MY dollar. If it don’t matter to you, send it to ME (hee hee hee hee hee hee).

  44. ab3i says:

    maybe you are referring to ‘east asians (china, japan, korea etc). Indian, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal etc. are all Asian countries (South-East), and their Diet is HEAVY on dairy and dairy products, so it would be unfair (and ignorant) to call ALL Asians lactose intolerant.

  45. ab3i says:

    uhm.. i meant India, not Indian.

  46. Chicago7 says:


    Yeah, and do they even DRINK milk in India?? I thought cows were sacred.

  47. Chicago7 says:

    If you pay proper attention to your girlfriend’s breasts, SHE will start producing milk!

    /It’s true, I’ve done it!

  48. stre says:

    some good news for the dairy farmers of wisconsin. for years, the price of milk paid to the farmers has been directly related to distance from Eau Claire, WI.

    while this had the desired effect of spurring mild production on the coasts (see: california is now the #1 dairy producing state), the law hasn’t be changed to reflect the expanding dairy industry. now family dairy farms in wisconsin are having trouble making ends meet while the farmers in california are running dairy businesses that make millions every year. as a native of wisconsin, i’m happy to pay an extra $1 a week to keep the dairy farmers in business.

  49. synergy says:

    When I was a kid I remember milk gallons were, I think, $1. When I started college they were around $1.50-$1.79. That’s about 50¢-80¢ increase over ~20 years. In the last 4 years it’s gone up from $1.79 to $2.99 or $3.29. That’s $1 to $1.50 in a fifth of the time! Ridiculous.

  50. Maurs says:

    My chocolate milk has become so expensive!

  51. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    I don’t like the price rising any more than anyone else, but compared to the recent increase in my gasoline and heating bills over the last few years, the extra $8 a month I pay for milk is the least of my worries. Besides, if milk gets too expensive, I’ll stop drinking it.

    (Do we really export that much milk to China? I don’t buy that as an explanation.)

  52. dieZukunft says:

    I only eat cheese and jogurt, and with a household of two, I’m not worried by the price increase. We only use milk for cooking occasionally, and a half liter goes bad before we can use most of it.

    People can easily just consume less if it gets too expensive. Isn’t everyone grumbling about being too fat anyway?

  53. hoo_foot says:

    My significant other and I started drinking coffee black a few weeks ago so that we could save money on half-n-half. It actually wasn’t a difficult transition to make, and it’s healthier.

    Also, I don’t even drink milk or eat cheese that often, but the price of butter is killing me. It is now cheaper for me to buy gourmet IMPORTED Irish butter at my local bakery than it is to buy an equivalent amount of Land O’Lakes at my local grocery store. Generic store brand butter only offers a savings of 10 cents, at those pitiful savings, you might as well spring for the delicious European butter.

    I’m still flabbergasted that it is cheaper to buy imported, gourmet dairy than domestic products in my area. Readers might want to check out some of the smaller bakeries or ethnic markets in their area to see if they can get similar deals.

  54. kable2 says:

    Milk is just plain gross. I know a guy that works for a place that makes ice cream and milk. He told me about the amount of puss and blood they seperate out from the final product. He wont touch the stuff or let his kids drink it.

    The calcium in milk is actually hard for the body to process and a tums is better for you. Who was the first idiot that thought drinking the body fluids from a animal was a good idea?

    And no I am not a peta fool, i love meat. (i still sometimes eat ice cream)

  55. gusgus says:

    1. You can freeze butter (or use other perhaps healthier oils).
    2. Frozen blocks of cheese tend to get crumbly. Good for casseroles, not so much for a slice on your sandwich.
    3. Frozen milk reportedly works fine for cooking if you mix it up again.

  56. zolielo says:

    $3.14 per US gal in CA. Still cheap… Meg stop believing the hype… It is a local market matter not a nation wide problem…

  57. Sidecutter says:

    @forever_knight: Seems fairly obvious from the article that we are, in fact, shipping milk to Asia.

  58. MrEvil says:

    I’m sure if you indexed the price to inflation of what a typical consumer gave for a gallon of milk in the 1960’s it’d end up costing MORE than it does today. I’d also be inclined to think that the wholesale price my grandfather got for milk back in the 60’s was more than a gallon at retail. (That’s hard to figure though, milk is sold to the creamery by the pound)

    Everybody just got spoiled on cheap food and now that alot of old time farmers have retired and nobody’s replaced them coupled with that increased demand from other countries…People think the world is coming to an end. Everybody is just lucky there’s no ration stamps like they had during World War 2…that’s how little food there was to go around just 60 years ago.

  59. Tonguetied says:

    “rising costs for animal feed”

    The Law of Unintended Consequences. Give thanks to all the politicians subsidizing ethanol production which if it were really worth it wouldn’t need subsidizing…

  60. DamnGn00bs says:


    I live in Kansas. Even though there is a herd of cows grazing less than 1/2 mile south of us, milk is $4.48/gal here.

    Yes, this is a national problem.

  61. esea says:

    soy does not change your hormonal make up. That is absurd.

    Milk CAN change your hormonal balance, and it is disgusting. Eat more leafy greens- they are much cheaper than dairy.

  62. mrearly2 says:

    That processed poison they call milk should not be consumed by anyone. Only raw milk is any good for humans, anyway.
    Soy beverages and non-fermented soy products are not fit for human consumption, either:
    [Anti-nutrients in soy block enzymes needed for digestion, and naturally occurring phytates block absorption of essential minerals. This is most worrisome for vegans and vegetarians who eat soy as their main source of protein, and for women in menopause who up their soy intake through supplements.
    Soy contains phytochemicals–plant nutrients with disease-fighting activity–called isoflavones. Studies claim isoflavones can mimic the body’s own estrogens, raising a woman’s estrogen levels, which fall after menopause, causing hot flashes and other symptoms. On the other hand, isoflavones may also block the body’s estrogens, which can help reduce high estrogen levels, therefore reducing risk for breast cancer or uterine cancer before menopause. (High estrogen levels have been linked to cancers of the reproductive system in women.)]–used without permission from “The Dark Side of Soy”