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Dairy Consumption Climbs to All-time High

Total per capita dairy consumption took a huge jump last year despite a record-large loss in fluid consumption. New data from USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) showed consumption grew 12 lbs. per person from the previous year to 667 lbs. on a milkfat equivalent basis. Americans consumed 6.9% more dairy, on average, than they did in 1965 when USDA began tracking the data. Dairy consumption dropped in the late-1980s and 1990s during the low-fat craze. Since that fad faded, aside from a brief pause during the Great Recession, U.S. dairy consumption has enjoyed a 25-year upswing.

Consumers truly have an ongoing love of milkfat, evidenced by the popularity of pizza, cheese snacks, cheese-heavy charcuterie boards, and the even newer butter boards— serving platters slathered with butter, sweet or savory accoutrements, and herbs, served with crusty bread. Dairy products showing the strongest growth per capita last year included American-stye cheese, up 0.5 lbs., and butter, up 0.2 pounds. Per capita yogurt consumption grew even more, up 0.7 lbs., its fastest pace in a decade. American cheese consumption recorded its second-largest increase of the past decade, following 2017’s 0.7-lb. gain.

Not all dairy products fared as well, though. Fluid milk consumption posted its largest decline ever of 7 lbs.—more than three quarts—per person. Cheese consumption in the other-than-American category logged an annual loss of 0.3 lb. per capita. While consumers for continued to increase their intake of most high-fat products, they cut back their ice cream consumption in the second year of the pandemic, following a big bump in 2020, when they turned to ice cream for comfort during Covid restrictions.

Fortunately, over the past decade alone, annual per capita cheese consumption climbed 16% and butter consumption jumped 20%—more than enough to make up for changing tastes elsewhere in the dairy case.

October 6, 2022



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