The Ups and Downs in the Dairy Aisle

May 7, 2018

A roller coaster and working in agriculture have a lot in common. What goes up must come down. Farmers know this is part of what they bargained for and they plan accordingly. The most recent example is the current state of the dairy economy.

Some dairy farmers are breaking even while many are operating in the red as milk prices have been falling for months. The very innovation and expertise of dairy farmers that we enthusiastically applaud actually contributes to the dilemma. They’ve optimized cow health through things like improved genetics and nutrition, which leads to increased milk production and lower prices. The result is more milk while using fewer resources – again a positive for the environment and cow health – but, there’s too much milk on the market right now.

I see a lot of social media posts urging people to support dairy farmers during such a difficult time. I join them in urging people to buy an extra gallon of milk or find more uses for dairy products in their weekly meal planning.

Consumers take many things into consideration when grocery shopping – taste, nutrition, convenience and price chief among them. Caring for our natural resources – sustainability – is another issue that is gaining prominence. Research shows millennials tend to buy foods they feel are good for people, animals and the environment. And, dairy has a good story to tell.

Over the last six decades, U.S. dairy farmers have reduced their overall carbon footprint by 63 percent according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. American dairy farms vent about 45 percent less greenhouse gas per unit of milk produced compared to the global average and take two-thirds less water to produce a glass of milk.

Milk is considered a key part of a healthy diet for kids, as it is a good source of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. This “mom blog” provides an extensive list of reasons why it’s a good idea to encourage children to drink their milk. This site offers of variety of ways to include dairy products in your meals.

Butter has traditionally gotten a bad rap when it comes to talking about healthy foods. But, a recent study looked at people’s butter consumption and their risk for chronic disease and found no link to heart disease. Some people in the study even had a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The researchers note more study is needed to understand why, but it may be due in part to the fact that dairy fat also contains monounsaturated fats that can improve blood sugar and insulin sensitivity.

American dairy farms are producing a high-quality product while ensuring their cows are healthy, and that’s something we all support. New technology, animal health products, and modern management techniques, as I discussed in a blog last fall, help them operate at peak efficiency.

Before your next trip to the grocery store, I urge everyone to take time to explore farming blogs, like this one, to read from farmers themselves about what they do and why. They accept the economic risks of farming to do what they love, with very little to no control over the prices they are paid for what they produce. Imagine working in a job where you don’t know how much you’ll be paid each month – your paycheck will vary dramatically, despite your long hours and 100 percent commitment every day. That’s the reality for dairy farmers. Keep that in mind the next time you walk past the dairy coolers and see all the healthy, affordable products at your fingertips.

I welcome your thoughts and questions. Please feel free to send me an email at or call me at 844-288-3623. You can also browse our Resource Library to learn more about this important topic.