Americans drink about one-third less fluid milk today than they did in 1975. Other classes of dairy products – particularly yogurt and cheese – have experienced soaring consumption rates in that same timeframe. But the decrease in fluid milk consumption is a troubling trend that no doubt contributes to current milk prices and dairy producer profitability.
Two efforts currently are underway to protect and promote fluid milk.
In North Carolina, state legislators are working to disallow labeling of plant-based beverages as “milk.” They point to decades-old federal regulations that require milk to “come from a hoofed animal.” If they succeed, drinks made from plants, including almonds, coconuts and soybeans, would no longer be allowed to carry the label of “milk” after January 1, 2019.
North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxel said Canada and the countries that make up the European Union already are among the nearly 200 countries worldwide that do not allow beverages to be labeled as “milk” unless they are animal-sourced. Some U.S. retailers, including Trader Joe’s, already label their plant-based beverages as a “drink” rather than “milk.”
If the milk-labeling language in the North Carolina General Assembly’s 2018 Farm Bill remains intact and the bill is passed, North Carolina would become the first state in the union to enforce such labeling regulations. “It would be an enforcement of a federal law, not a new requirement,” said Troxel. “I hope other states will adopt the same requirement.”
At the same time, Dairy Management, Inc. and the MilkPEP dairy processor industry coalition are flooding social and broadcast media with a new campaign to promote the benefits of fluid milk, focusing on 5 key messages:
- Milk is a nutrient powerhouse – and it’s not just for kids.
- Milk is a real, wholesome and local product from family farms across the nation.
- Milk contains a lot that’s good, without the “bad” that some people think (like excess calories and fat).
- Milk is simple – especially compared to plant-based beverages that can have more than 10 ingredients.
- Milk provides high-quality protein (almond and other non-dairy drinks may have just 1 gram of protein).
The “Pour More Milk” campaign includes 15- to 30-second television commercials directed toward moms, pointing out why their kids need the nutrients in milk, as well as more ways to serve the beverage.
MilkPEP points out America’s children are facing a scary nutritional reality -- one out of two kids ages 9 and up falls short when it comes to intake of calcium, vitamin D and potassium — essential nutrients they need to grow strong. Moreover, most kids younger than 9 do not get enough vitamin D and potassium. According to MilkPEP, moms could unknowingly be setting up their kids for serious health implications by not serving enough milk in their diets.