Magazine article Amber Waves

Trends in U.S. per Capita Consumption of Dairy Products, 1970-2012

Magazine article Amber Waves

Trends in U.S. per Capita Consumption of Dairy Products, 1970-2012

Article excerpt

Dairy products make important contributions to the American diet. They provide high-quality protein and are good sources of vitamins A, D, and B-12, as well as riboflavin, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and calcium. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the supporting MyPlate Food Guidance System recommend that Americans consume 2-3 cups of dairy products daily, depending on their age, gender, and level of physical activity. Despite these recommendations, per capita consumption of dairy products totaled 1.9 cups per day in 2012. While consumption of some dairy products-cheese, yogurt, and sour cream-has risen since the 1970s, declining milk consumption has caused total pounds of dairy products available to eat or drink annually to fall from 339.2 pounds per person in 1970 to 275.9 pounds in 2012.

ERS's food availability data calculate the annual supply of a commodity available for humans to eat by subtracting measurable nonfood use (farm inputs, exports, and ending stocks) from the sum of domestic supply (production, imports, and beginning stocks). Per capita estimates are determined by dividing the total annual supply of the commodity by the U.S. population for that year. Although these estimates do not directly measure actual quantities ingested, they serve as a proxy for Americans' food consumption over time.

Whole Milk Consumption Falling, Low-Fat Milk Consumption Steady

The bulk of the 63-pound decline in U.S. dairy availability between 1970 and 2012 stems from the decrease in fluid milk and cream availability, which decreased 75.1 pounds per person (9.2 gallons per person). Since fluid milk availability peaked at 42.3 gallons per person in 1945, availability has steadily fallen, reaching a record low of 19.6 gallons per person in 2012. Whole milk availability dropped to 5.4 gallons per person in 2012, almost a quarter of 1970's 25.3 gallons. In addition, lower fat milk availability has leveled off to an average of 14 gallons per person since 1998.

A 2013 ERS study found that while Americans continue to drink about 8 ounces of fluid milk when they drink milk, they are consuming it less frequently than in the past. Americans are especially less apt to drink milk at lunchtime and with dinner. National food consumption surveys reveal that Americans born in the early 1960s drank milk 1.5 times a day as teenagers, 0.7 times a day as young adults, and 0. …

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