Archive for Milk Consumption

The Dairy Industry – Past, Present and the Future

Like many Bullvine readers I grew up on a small dairy farm, took part in 4H clubs and fell in love with a breed of cows.  I attended college and studied animal agriculture. I graduated during the Green Revolution, not green like we know it today, but green in the fact that the developed countries felt that they could ramp up production and feed the world without the need for developing countries to produce their own food.  And since that time animal agriculture has focused on animals producing more and more. Well the truth is that both of these models where animals produce more and more and where only developed countries need to produce food are broken. We ignored factors such as a country needing a strong agricultural base to be successful and more and more milk per cow leading to poor and poorer reproduction rates.  Furthermore the idea that the majority of the world’s population growth would occur in the developing nations never even crossed our radar screens back then.  How could we have been so wrong in our thinking? Are we thinking any clearer in 2013, when it comes to dairy feeding people in the years ahead?

Today’s Dairy World

Few of us are aware that India is the country that has the most cows (48 million) kept for milk production purposes. The production of India’s cows is low (1,200 lbs per year) but through improved husbandry there is great potential. China’s rapid growth as an importer of dry milk powders (whole and skimmed) is predicted to grow in 2013 by 12% and 18%. The USA in 2013 is exporting the equivalent of 15% of its annual production where just a few years ago it was thought that USA milk prices were too high for significant exportation to take place. USA cheese exports in 2013 will be double the exports in 2008 and that will make it the largest single exporting country for cheese. Cheese is the darling child of milk products when it comes to exports and EU countries which export almost half of the cheese globally are looking for new customers. To say the least, the world is hungry for dairy products. The demand for dairy is expected to increase at a rate faster than the world’s population growth. (Read more: “Got Milk” is becoming “Got More” and MILK MARKETING: How “Got Milk?” BECAME “Got Lost”)

Tomorrow’s World       

We have all seen the prediction that there will be 9 billion people by 2050. That is a 25% increase. If dairy is to fill more of the average global diet the world will need 30 to 35% more milk to be produced in 2050 than there is produced today. The rapidly expanding middle classes in China and India will consume more milk products as will consumers in Africa, SE Asia and Russia. At the processing industry level, expect new products (including low lactose and ingredient enriched milk products) and more uses for milk. At the farm level the rate of applying technology will be at an ever increasing rate. But the dairy industry does not exist on a vacuum.

Over the past few years besides population growth and environmental concerns, the major issue before all countries has been trade. (Read more: Why the Future of the North American Dairy Industry Depends On Supply and Demand) Trade is important in the EU which once had production quotas but where now farm prices are no longer guaranteed and narrower on-farm margins are resulting in increased herd sizes in order to efficiently apply technology and provide critical mass. In the future no country will be an island onto itself when it comes to producing milk and trading in milk products. Canadian dairy farmers are facing that matter after the Canada and the EU signed a tentative trade agreement last week in which more EU cheese will have access to the Canadian market.  Read more: (Read more: Canada, EU close to sealing trade deal with concessions on cheese, beef and Canada’s dairy farmers ‘angered and disappointed’ by EU trade deal that would double cheese imports)

Agenda: Theirs, Yours and Ours

Feeding the growing world population, the application of technology, the elimination of duplication and waste and the best use of all resources will be on every country’s agenda. Are these issues too big or too far away? We lose if dairy is replaced in the diet. All things dairy lose if we think too small, only nationally or only about self preservation. All dairy agendas are inter-related.

Tear Down the Silos. Ramp Up the Herd.

It is paradigm shift time. The big picture question is how can more milk be efficiently produced to feed a hungry world?

Are farmers, their organizations, their service providers, the milk processors and the global traders thinking in terms of mutual (collective) benefit or individual benefit? The survivors will be in supply chains that can provide a quality product at a price that consumers are willing to pay. Quality is the watchword. For those that are not prepared to work with others it will not be Who Moved My Cheese but who replaced my cheese with their product.

What will that look like? At the farm level the list of changes needed will be extensive but in the immediate future it is likely to include larger herds to take advantage of technology, information and critical mass. At the industry level our organization leaders will need to dismantle and re-create new organizations and structures to provide the best and most relevant services dairy farmers will need. If you are looking for an example read the announcement in the Bullvine last week to merge Dairylea Cooperative Inc. and the Dairy Farmers of America in the USA (Rad more: Dairylea announces proposed merger with DFA).

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Everyone in the dairy world will need to think collectively and globally. The rewards will go to those that can adapt, adopt and act. Cattle breeders in just ten years will be using technology and information that is hardly on the researcher’s bench just now. If you are looking for an example we need only to remember back five years to 2008 when we asked each other how to pronounce genomics. Today it is an important tool in breeding dairy cattle for the future. Will you and your farm be part of dairy’s future or part of its history?

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“Got Milk” is becoming “Got More”

“Drink your milk.”  Dairy farmers aren’t the only ones who have been raised with this mantra and its follow-up don’t-argue-with-me reasoning, “It’s good for you!”  There are many parenting proverbs that haven’t stood the test of time. but milk`s goodness has.

Milk has Already Got More Good Stuff

There is significant recent scientific research to prove that milk contains several disease- fighting compounds. Research is also evaluating the potential health benefits of proteins that are found in milk.

Cows are Putting More Good Stuff Into the Milk

With the proof of milks’ already healthy properties, comes the good news that scientists have learned that these properties can be increased by feeding cows specialized diets. The potential is definitely here for dairy farmers to change the way they feed their cows and thereby raise the health-enhancing properties of milk.

For example, in a recent study, Oregon State researchers were able to increase the level of omega-3 fatty acids in milk.  They also were able to decrease the amount of saturated fat.  Both these results came through feeding flaxseed to cows. This is great news for consumer health.  Less cholesterol and more omega-3 fatty acids in our human diet reduces the risk of heart disease.

What More Has Milk Got for Me?

Research trials have shown that consuming butter with elevated levels of CLA can reduce the size of cancerous tumors. CLA is Conjugated Linoleic Acid and is a naturally occurring anti-carcinogen. Researchers at several universities, including Cornell. have discovered they can increase the level of cis-9 trans-all CLA by feeding cows certain nutrients.

Other news from this area reports that a2 brand milk comes from cows specially selected to produce A2 beta-casein protein rather than A1. Most cow milk contains both types of beta-casein protein – A2 and A1. The A1 beta-casein protein has been linked with digestion and health issues so having more A2 is a plus.

A2 Corporation, the manufacturer of a2 brand milk products, targets three areas of growth: building its beverage business in Australia and New Zealand, capturing niche shares of global milk and dairy product markets and developing an infant formula business with an initial focus on China.  In April 2012, they announced a strategic agreement with Synlait Milk Limited in New Zealand to manufacture a2 brand nutritional powders, including milk powders and infant formulas for A2C.  According to A2C managing director Geoffrey Babidge, the a2 brand’s growing credibility will provide a platform for the firm’s expansion plans in the UK, Ireland and China. In December 2012 production of the China-destined a2 branded infant formula was set to begin.

Milk has Got to Have More Taste!

When a food has earned the label “good for us”, we sometimes choose not to eat or drink it claiming it doesn’t register on our taste scale.  Since the 1970s milk consumption has been declining and certainly consumer taste preferences are part of that statistic.  In the U.S. the volume of total liquid dairy is declining. Consumption of white milk is forecast to decline by 6.5% between 2011 and 2015.  But then comes the “good taste” news.  Consumption of flavored milk is growing and expected to increase to 9.5% by 2015. Flavored milk, the second most widely consumed Liquid Dairy Product (LDP) after white milk, is forecast to increase globally by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.1% between 2012 and 2015, rising from 17.0 billion liters to 19.2 billion liters.

The World Wants More Flavors

In the past five years, 2009 to 2013, four emerging countries – Brazil, China, India and Indonesia – are driving the increased demand for flavored milk. While developing countries accounted for 66% of flavored milk consumption, this is forecast to rise to 69% by 2015.

Research shows that China, South Asia and Southeast Asia drink more than half the world`s flavored milk. In fact, just six Asian countries – China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand – consume 47% of the world`s flavored milk.  This highlights that emerging economies are the growth engines of the dairy industry.

North America`s Got Apple Pie Milk and More

While not leading the consumption of flavored milk, North America is certainly not out of this tasteful picture.  Just in time for birthday celebrations on Independence Day Shatto Milk Co. of Osborn, Mo., stocked store shelves with apple pie-flavored milk to celebrate its own 10th anniversary.  Other flavors this flavorful company produces include cherry chocolate and mint chocolate milk. According to Dennis Jonsson, President and CEO of Tetra Pak Group “For consumers unwilling to compromise on taste, health or convenience, flavored milk is proving to be an increasingly popular alternative to other beverages.”

Flavored Milk’s Got More with Less Packaging

Cartons have become the established packaging format for flavored milk, according to Tetra Pak.  They accounted for 62% RTD (ready to drink) flavored milk packaging in 2012, up from 57% in 2009, and are expected to rise to above 64% in 2015. Portion packs are expected to reach 81% of RTD flavored milk consumption.

Milk’s Got More Added Value

Whether you`re attracted to milk for its high nutrition, health benefits or good taste, milk products today can meet a huge range of  needs.  It starts with the desire for nutritious and healthy food.  Developing countries are turning to nutrient-rich milk products.  In prosperous urbanized areas of the world the fast pace of modern life demands tasty, flavored milk in convenient packaging. Consumers are eager to try new and unusual food and drinks. New varieties of milk products will most definitely increase milk consumption.  Additionally, these “designer” dairy products could sell for premium prices.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Kudos to dairy producers, the scientific community and marketing wizards.  The production of milk with so many “Got-More” features means we are improving the health of the consumer and the health of the dairy industry simultaneously! Now that’s more like it!  So “Drink your milk!  It’s good for you!”

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DAIRY PRIDE: Presumed MISSing!

Today the average North American is three generations removed from a farm. Food is still being provided even though the numbers would suggest that dairy farmers themselves are going missing. Both husband Murray and I represent the fourth generation to live on the family dairy farm, which puts us among the 2 percent who still live on farms.  Although each succeeding generation has spent more time working off the farm, all three of our children are in agricultural careers in A.I., nutrition and ag marketing.

In the modern marketplace milk and the dairy industry are misjudged and misunderstood. (Read more: How got milk? Became got lost?) Those of us who remain are concerned about what happens to the milk they produce between the time it leaves the farm lane and takes up shelf space in the dairy aisle. This formerly “perfect food” is marked by a hit and miss journey that has many more misses than hits. Targeted by misconceptions, misinformation, and communication is it any wonder that there are days when both sides feel that dairy pride could be presumed missing?

MIStaken Identity

Every one of us who grew up with a farmer as a role model is astonished today at the metamorphosis from “Farmer in the Dell” to “The Farmer is the Devil”.  However on the farmer side of the fence, we too shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that the consumer is “the Big Bad Wolf.” ready to huff and puff and blow our dairy world down. None of these images fully portrays the real strengths, challenges and fears facing 21st Century farmers and their customers.


It’s extremely difficult to understand how some of the public perceives farmers as “MOST WANTED!” for abuses against our own animals.  The immediate question arises, “How can anyone imagine that people who work daily with livestock don’t care about the animals?” It would seem to be a no-brainer that only the best possible care allows animal handlers to survive and thrive on the farm.  Having said that, neither are financial reasons the main motivation. “You do it because you love the animals.  Otherwise why would you be up before sunrise and making final rounds after sunset day in and day out?”  You wouldn’t.


Over time, fewer and fewer find the rewards that are commensurate with the commitment and dedication that dairying demands.  For those who do have the desire, farming methods have become more efficient.  Technology has contributed to the sustainability.  Automated equipment, robotic milkers and GPS tractors are just a few of the tools that keep efficiency growing. As in any other industry, investing in new technology requires that the business, in this case the farm, must get bigger. In responding to the challenges, it is frustrating to be labeled with the implied derogatory term, “Factory Farmers.”  The truth is 98% of farms are family owned (what other business can claim that) and the goal is, as it has always been, to provide food …. for everyone.  Not selfish.  Not criminal.


It’s ironic in this day and age of mass production, mega stores and IMAX that big farms are judged to be bad. It’s hypocritical to accept the growth of computer assembled cars and think that food producers can remain at a static size. There was a time when one famer fed five.  Everyone respected their hard work. Today one farmer feeds 200 and it seems like everything from motives, to ethics to animal husbandry is being questioned.  Is there any other profession, where the consuming public insists on reverting to the past?  If you’re reading this, you are using a computer.  How many channels are available on your TV? Is your transportation provided by a “mom-and-pop” car shop? Do you drink your water from a pump in your yard or do you reach for a plastic bottle?


As an industry we need to accept responsibility for debunking myths that have taken hold in consumer understanding.  Jude Capper, assistant professor of dairy science at Washington State University spoke at the Alltech Symposium. “Organic dairy farming certainly has a very favorable consumer perception. But, productivity on the typical organic dairy farm is lower than conventional farms – anywhere from 14 to 45 percent lower in terms of milk yield per cow.” she said.  “What that means is that more cows are needed in the organic systems, along with more natural resources, to make the same amount of milk as the conventional systems. And, that increases the carbon footprint per pound of milk.”  Since 1944 the carbon footprint per pound of milk has been reduced by 63%.  Dairy farmers have made major progress and it is something they should be proud to declare and share.


For whatever reason – perhaps because of their agrarian forefathers – people feel quite comfortable assuming their expertise about modern farming. Where they might tread lightly in pronouncing how factories should be managed yet there are many “activists” who can speak against modern agricultural practices.  Genetically modified organisms deepen the divide between farmers and consumers.  GMOs are crops that have been scientifically altered to enhance the plant’s quality and resistance to elements and pesticides.  In a national survey 64 percent of people said they were unsure if eating GMOs was safe.  It is time for the dairy producer to stand proudly behind the products we produce, eat, drink and serve to ourselves and our children.


Farmers and consumers too often have an “us against you” mentality, which the media intensifies by focusing on negative instances that can colour the entire industry.  More consumers are asking questions about where their food comes from and about farming in general. That’s great. Just asking questions is the best way for the public to learn about farming.  Asking and getting an answer is the only way to bridge the gap between emotional finger pointing and mutual thumbs up!

MISSing the Opportunity

The time is long past, where we can rely on our good intentions to spread the good word to the consuming public.  It’s time to proactively take whatever role we are most comfortable with.  Rather than witness a loss in dairy and consumer confidence – I would rather stand on my soapbox, share great stories, teach what I believe in, and raise my voice at every opportunity.  It’s time to be the “change I wish to see!”

The Bullvine Bottom Line

It’s not easy being on the receiving end of blame. However whether producer or consumer it’s in our best interest to make sure that there are voices, from both sides, speaking with pride, about the products we produce and eat!


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MILK MARKETING: How “Got Milk?” BECAME “Got Lost”

taylor-swift-got-milk2013ectIt’s just eight days into a New Year and already I’m thinking about the ‘good ol’ days!”.  Remember when the dairy industry was at the top of the agricultural sustainable list, milk was the “perfect food” and milk moustaches were seen on celebrities and sports stars? Hmmm. Where has all the glory gone? In 2013, the dairy industry is fighting to stay alive, the North American diet, including milk, is under attack as obesity from babes to the elderly is out of control and, when all is said and done, milk is a slipping way down on the favorite beverage list!

The land of milk and money is gone. In the cold light of the soul searching brought on by a new year, it seems that this shocking state of affairs has happened suddenly and for no apparent reason.  In actual fact, the signs have been there for more than thirty years and we as an industry let it happen.

MILK OF AMNESIA – We forgot the basics

It took three steps for the milk market to evaporate!

  1. We forgot about the consumer.
    The first commandment of business, “The customer is always right!”  in the dairy industry has become “The cow always comes first!”
  2. We forgot about the product.
    Somewhere production, with the myriad of logistics in between, pulled out in front of the inherent value of our end product – milk.
  3. We forgot delivery.
    Despite the first two failures, we still expected that the product we produced could be delivered in boring, hard-to-open cardboard cartons, heavy jugs or even plastic bags and compete against the “cool” the “sexy” and the “handy” beverages provided by competitors – who wanted — and stole — our market share!

MISSING THE TARGET:  Where’s The Consumer? Where’s the market?

Consumer demand is the key to market sustainability. There’s no use producing a product if there is nobody to buy it. The truth is demand for milk has been in a free fall for the last three decades.  North American milk consumption has dropped a startling 36% since the 1970s. The continuing economic downturn has refocused consumers on value.  They not only are choosing private label products and discount store venues, they are seeking low calorie, reduced sugar and functional value in the beverages they consume. Milk – even though billions of pounds are being produced is losing out to fortified, organic, sports drinks and a myriad of better-for-you products. We are paying the piper for focusing on just one highly commoditized product, ignoring market trends, and trying valiantly to sell what we make rather than what people want.  If we don’t give consumers what they want, someone else will.

LOOK BEYOND THE PAIL: Think outside the box stall.

For decades industry strategy has been to make dairy operations more efficient.  It has succeeded: From 1970 to 2006, the number of cows declined 25%, output per cow more than doubled. But while the dairy industry focused on squeezing more milk out of fewer cows, they largely ignored the fact that demand was getting squeezed as well. That’s the nature of business. Where’s the competitive spirit that drives all the other parts of the dairy industry?  Even the perfect sire or model cow, needs to be marketed.  Our over-riding concern to “protect” ourselves from each other, the economy and even mother-nature, has made us put on blinders to the dangers of not being relevant to the marketplace.  Breeder beware! We could protect our industry right to zero!!


Three steps got us into this mess.  Let’s start with four to get us out.

  1. Pay Attention:
    With per-capita North American milk consumption down 36% between 1970 and 2011, it isn’t whether or not there is a problem. The fact is the dairy industry is in trouble.
  2. Make it Functional:
    You’ve got to get the drink – in our case milk – into consumers’ hands. This is no time for doing things the way they’ve always been done.  Look at Nestle.  They wanted their milk drink containing probiotic for children to have a shelf life of one year.  Realising that it is impossible to keep the probiotic alive at room temperature for more than a few days.  The solution was a shelf-stable nutritional drink with the probiotic in the straw, instead of in the drink.  Inside the patented straw of boost Kid Essentials is the probiotic lactobacillus reuteri ‘protectus’, released by the liquid when the consumer drinks through the straw! Now that’s functional!  On-the-go consumption is increasing. Milk packaging needs to conform to this trend.  Consumers are increasingly looking for a range of package sizes to suit different beverage types and thirst levels, as well as functional and aesthetically-pleasing packaging. Not my area, you say as a dairy farmer?  Whose is it?  Who cares?
  3. Make it Healthy:
    Whether it’s the health benefits you get from drinking milk or the environmental benefits of how it is packaged – the consumer cares about both! Parents are increasingly concerned about the nutrition and sugar content of the products consumed by their children.  This can work for us (with soft drink competition) or against us (sugar added milk products).  Again packaging enters the discussion. Studies in 2011 showed there is a substantial proportion of European consumers that would be prepared to pay extra for glass containers, especially for milk, yoghurts, juices and wine. “it may well be that consumers are willing to pay more as good packaging protects the health benefits and taste of the product for longer”. The health and wellness trend is not going away.  We have a healthy product but it won`t sell itself if we continue our milk-sells-itself mind set!
  4. New Products. New Location.
    We`ve got to ask ourselves what does the market want and then find innovative ways to provide it. Perhaps even before we answer those questions we have to zero in on “where” the market will be.  In a global marketplace, we need to consider the enormous potential of focusing on the end user – perhaps in another country!

LIVE OR DIE MILK BATTLE: Consumption is the Key

We can no longer rest on our milk stools. We have to compete for the marketplace with all the old beverages … and countless innovative new ones. That may seem to be a daunting task but it can no longer be ignored.  Again.  The world is waiting.  Look at the graphic below.  While our own markets are mature in the milk marketplace, there are HUGE opportunities for dairy in the global scene. 

Consider this: One glass of milk per day per child in China could surpass the milk consumption of the entire North American market. It’s a new frontier to be won!


We can’t continue to let narrow focus override finding the consumer and serving them the milk products they want. Laying blame won’t stem the downward trend of the dairy industry.  Remember when land-line phones had a monopoly on communication? Think about large phone companies (another almost monopolistic industry, especially in Canada). Where would they be today, if they had continued to whine about the intruders into the marketplace?  The faster we learn from their example, the sooner we’ll prove that the North American dairy industry isn’t ready to kick the milk bucket yet!

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