Per Capita Dairy Consumption a Tale of Two Commodities

‘It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” This time-honored quote by Charles Dickens in his “Tale of Two Cities” aptly describes the differences in cheese and fluid milk consumption by U.S. consumers.

Per capita cheese consumption reached almost 39 pounds in 2019, up 30% since 2000 and up 170% since 1975. Italian cheese varieties, primarily Mozzarella, is up nearly 400%. (Mozzarella is up almost 500%, growing from 2 lb/capita in 1975 to 12.5 lb in 2019.)

In the “worst of times” category comes fluid milk declining 43% since 1975, and 28% since 2000. “Per capita consumption of fluid milk during 2019 was 141 lb, which is 2.8% lower than 2018 and the lowest amount recorded during the 1975 through 2019 time frame,” report economists with the Central Federal Milk Marketing Order.

Ice cream, cottage cheese and processed cheese products are also trending downward. Butter and sour cream, however, are seeing a resurgence. Since 1997, butter consumption is up almost 50%, growing from 4.2 lb to 6.2 lb/person in 2019. Yogurt consumption grew exponentially between 1990 and 2012. But it has since plateaued and then declined over the past 5 years.

The overall trend in dairy consumption as been positive over the past 45 years. The milk-equivalent consumption (on a milk-fat basis) reached 653 lb/person in 2019, up from its low-point of 535 lb/person in 1974. Keep in mind, though, that per capita dairy consumption in the United States actually peaked during World War II, when it reached 851 lb/person in 1942. 

You can view more per capita dairy consumption data, split out by product, here.


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