Americans Are Drinking Less Milk, But Can’t Get Enough Cheese

Image courtesy of Eric Spiegel

Over the last few decades, Americans have been drinking less milk alongside our meals. Dairy farmers aren’t worried, though, because our glasses of water, juice, or soda sit next to plates piled high with cheese.

On average, we eat twice as much cheese every year as Americans did in 1980, or around 35 pounds each. There are more products on the market that incorporate real dairy products now: think of the many stuffed-crust pizzas available from chain pizzerias, and even McDonald’s is joining the party, with real butter on its Egg McMuffins instead of margarine.

“With the beverage market, there’s a lot more choices,” a dairy advisor in Wisconsin told Bloomberg News. “But you can’t replace cheese on a pizza.” While imitation cheeses have made improved in recent years, that improvement isn’t enough to stop us from gobbling cheese.

The dairy industry keeps cranking out milk and cheese, though: last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture bought up cheese and distributed it to food banks, and farmers dumped millions of gallons of unsold milk.

That oversupply might be what’s causing us to consume so much dairy: it forces prices lower, which is great for us and for the restaurants who are always devising new ways to serve us more cheese. It’s not as good for farmers, who get low prices for their products, which include milk and meat.

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.