Social media is full of photos of empty dairy cases in grocery stores. Maybe you’ve even seen stores sold out of milk yourself or have had members of your community ask about the problem. While it can be frustrating, it’s important to assure consumers there is not a milk shortage.
“Dairy supplies aren’t experiencing production interruptions at this time, and dairy farmers and processors will continue to do what they do best: produce safe, quality products every day for consumers in the U.S. and worldwide,” said the National Milk Producers Federation in a statement. “We will vigilantly work with all aspects of the dairy supply chain to ensure these products get to everyone who needs them and that — as has always been true — dairy will remain something consumers can count on.”
If there aren’t production interruptions, what’s causing the empty shelves and consumer frustration? The short answer: logistics.
A grocery store places their weekly order with the plant. The store might run out because of increased consumer demand as we’ve seen recently, explains Kristen Coady of Dairy Farmers of America. Once they run out, they place another order with the plant. Then the plant has to fill that order.
“There were isolated occasions when demand at stores was outpacing what the ability to process and deliver the product ,” she explains. “It's almost like the snowstorm effect: Everyone goes out and buys milk or bread and then the store runs out for a short time.”
Coady says DFA is still seeing retail customers increase fluid milk orders, and the cooperative is running extra shifts in their plants to help prevent a similar issue this week. Still, milk logistics are more complicated than most think.
“To address the spike in demand, we’re having to shift raw milk supply that might have been going to a powder plant, for example, to a fluid milk plant,” she says.
Fluid milk and several varieties of cheese freeze well, says Lisa McComb with Dairy Management Inc. If your local grocery store keeps running low, it might be worth it to purchase extra and freeze it for later use.