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The Dairy Industry is Slowly Dying

Ellie Chivers tells us more about why the dairy industry is failing and the factors contributing to it's demise.

Photo by Josh Redd

Dairy companies are feeling the shift in consumer trends and paying the price for their unsustainable, and arguably unethical business models, with some of the biggest names in the industry filing for bankruptcy.

When you make your morning bowl of cereal, is it corn flakes or milk first? When you’re making a cuppa at teatime, is it milk before teabag or the other way around? And is it cow’s milk, or a milk alternative? If it’s the latter, whether that’s soya, oat, almond or coconut milk, you’re not the only one. In fact, a lack of demand for real milk has caused the demise of a number of America’s dairy companies.

The Death of Dairy

Founded in 1925, Dean Foods was the largest dairy company in the USA, with 66 manufacturing facilities operating in 32 states, distributing produce around every state in America. In November 2019, it filed for bankruptcy.It's blaming a drop in milk consumption across America.

In 2014, data from the USDA revealed the amount of whole milk drunk per capita in the country had fallen 78% since 1970, which equates to Americans drinking less than 0.24 cups a day compared to 1.1 nearly 50 years ago.

As of January 2020, Borden Dairy Co, another one of America’s oldest and largest dairy companies has also become the second major producer to file for bankruptcy.

Some might say it’s a sad story for Dean Foods and Borden Diary, but others would say that its encouraging news to see a change in the trend of the exploitation of animals for products, with many sentient cows now be spared a life of slavery and trauma for human consumption.

Drop in British Milk Consumption

It’s not just America seeing a shift towards milk alternatives. Stats unveiled in 2019 show that of 2000 Brits surveyed online, 27% of 16-34 year olds say they no longer drink cow’s milk, 37% cited health benefits as the reason behind their switch, while 36% prioritised environmental concerns.

That being said, it’s clear that the majority of older consumers are sticking to tradition, as milk alternatives still only account for 4% of volume sales across the whole UK, and 8% of value sales. There is a long way to go before Britons abandon dairy completely.

Ethical and Environmental Concerns

Environmental concerns seem to permeate through more issues than just the product inside the packaging. A growing awareness for health, ethical and environmental factors is arguably part of this shift.

33% of consumers stating that they want containers to be made wholly or at least partially from recycled plastics, and 27% want a guarantee the milk they buy is at least sustainably farmed.

The new consumer trend is about more than just the product, it's a sign that collectively human consciousness is shifting towards being more aware and taking action towards a more responsible and sustainable society.

Hopefully, with what seems to be the beginning of the end for the dairy industry, this should push companies within this sector to take more ethical and sustainable choices when choosing a business path in the future.

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