Saturday, November 15, 2014

Bringing A Glass of Milk From Idaho to the World

This article is published on the Idaho Dairy Council DairyWise blog, found at

Dairy farming is deeply rooted in American culture.  Many people around the country, particularly in our state of Idaho, have grown up near a dairy farm and consider it a part of our personal story.  Most of us carry on this story with the continued enjoyment of dairy throughout our lives, passing it down through family generations.  While we may imagine that cows grazing on green pasture is unique to America, dairy farming is a shared way of life around the world.  India, for example, produces more milk than the United States.  Although more milk in India is produced from buffalo than cattle, dairy is still part of their culture.  All across the globe societies have depended on dairy animals for their health and livelihood.

In developed countries, the popularity of dairy has been steadily high.  It is part of our collective diet and lifestyle.  In developing countries, however, the popularity of dairy is increasing as wealth grows and consumers can afford to buy and store it.  This makes sense as we consider the many nutritional benefits that dairy has to offer.  Countries including India, China, Brazil, as well as others in Latin America, Asia, and Africa are experiencing a rapid rise in consumption that is exceeding that of production.  

According to a 2012 report by the FAO, per capita dairy consumption in developing countries increased by 15% annually between 1987 and 2007, while production increased by only 4%.1  Dairy currently provides 3% of food energy in Asia and Africa, which is still less than the 9% in developed countries.  However, demand is expected to increase by 38% over the next 20 years, which would lead to a 20% increased demand for imports.2  Production in rural areas is challenged by transportation, refrigeration, and storage limitations, making it difficult to maintain a safe and reliable source of dairy products in developing countries.

Asia is among the leading growth markets globally, accounting for 34% of dairy imports in 2011.2  The majority of these imports are dried products, such as skim and whole milk powder.  While China is the third leading country in milk production, behind India and the United States, there are continuing concerns for food safety.  Many parents are willing to pay higher prices for imported dairy products, particularly infant formula, which they believe are safer.

In the United States, dairy is among the most regulated industries in the country, with some of the strictest safety regulations.  In Idaho particularly, milk consistently tests well under the limit for leukocytes , a marker for bacteria and infection.  Idaho is the third leading state in milk production in the country, producing 1,000 gallons of milk per Idaho resident per year (3 gallons per person per day).  As the global demand for dairy increases, so too will the demand for dairy from the United States.  

As Idahoans we realize the importance of dairy to our identity.  Around the globe, societies are striving to add diary into their own cultures.  With the abundance of safe and nutritious dairy products that our state has to offer, Idaho looks to expand and become a global presence so we can share with the world a part of what makes Idaho culture so endearing.
1 Milk availability, Trends in Production and Demand and Medium-Term Outlook. Food and Agriculture Organization. 2012.
2 China’s Dairy Dilemma, The Evolution and Future Trends of China’s Dairy Industry.  Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. 2014.

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