Milk Production. From 2002 to 2021, milk production in the U.S. increased 10X faster than cow populations (NASS n.d.) due to:
Missouri ranks 26th among U.S. states for milk production but 45th in milk production per cow.
Milk & Dairy Consumption. Most of the milk produced in the U.S. is used to manufacture dairy products such as cheese, butter, frozen products like ice cream and sherbet, yogurt, whey protein, and nonfat dry milk (ERS 1 2022).
Plant-based milk is derived from water extraction of plant materials and can imitate cow’s milk in appearance and consistency (Sethi 2016). 42% of households purchased plant-based milk in 2021 (GFI n.d.). The highest selling plant milks include almond (59%) and oat (15%) (GFI n.d.). Soy, coconut, and plant milk blends are also commonly sold.
When a household purchases a gallon of plant-based milk, it replaces the same amount of cow’s milk (Stewart 2020). From 2013 to 2017, the increase plant-based milk sales was equal to one-fifth of the decrease in cow’s milk sales (Figure 1). Therefore, plant-based milk is not likely to be the main driver of decreasing cow’s milk sales.
Motivations for choosing plant-based milk include the lack of lactose, a desire to consume fewer animal products, and beliefs about the treatment of cows and/or the environmental effects of milk production (McCarthy 2017).
The nutritional value of plant-based milk varies. Almond, soy, and coconut milk have fewer calories, carbohydrates, fat, and cholesterol than cow’s milk (Vanga 2017).
Figure 1. Cow’s milk and plant-based milk product purchases. Figure from (Stewart 2020).
It is not clear whether the use of the term ‘milk’ on labels for plant-based milk causes sales to benefit from its association with cow’s milk. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration intends to develop guidance for the industry on the labeling of plant-based milk (FDA 2022).
North Carolina and Maryland have passed legislation restricting the ability of plant-based milk to use the term “milk” in their labeling. However, in order to not violate the U.S. Commerce Clause, these bills are written so they will not go into effect until 11 states from the southeast U.S. also pass similar laws.
There are no laws in MO governing the labeling of plant-based milk
The Good Food Institute (GFI). (n.d.). U.S. retail market data for the plant-based industry. Retrieved January 3, 2023, from https://gfi.org/marketresearch/#segment-insights
McCarthy, K. S., Parker, M., Ameerally, A., Drake, S. L., & Drake, M. A. (2017). Drivers of choice for fluid milk versus plant-based alternatives: What are consumer perceptions of Fluid Milk? Journal of Dairy Science, 100(8), 6125–6138. https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.2016-12519
Mercer, M. (2020, March 2). Stop milking it, dairy farmers tell plant-based competitors. The Pew Charitable Trusts. Retrieved January 11, 2023, from https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2020/03/02/stop-milking-it-dairy-farmers-tell-plant-based-competitors
Njuki, E. (2022, March 22). U.S. dairy productivity increased faster in large farms and across Southwestern states. United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service (ERS). Retrieved January 3, 2023, from https://www.ers.usda.gov/amber-waves/2022/march/u-s-dairy-productivity-increased-faster-in-large-farms-and-across-southwestern-states/
Sethi, S., Tyagi, S. K., & Anurag, R. K. (2016). Plant-based milk alternatives an emerging segment of Functional Beverages: A Review. Journal of Food Science and Technology, 53(9), 3408–3423. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13197-016-2328-3
Stewart, H. (2020, December 7). Plant-based products replacing cow's milk, but the impact is small. Retrieved January 3, 2023, from https://www.ers.usda.gov/amber-waves/2020/december/plant-based-products-replacing-cow-s-milk-but-the-impact-is-small/
Stewart, H., & Kuchler, F. (2022, June 21). Fluid milk consumption continues downward trend, proving difficult to reverse. Retrieved January 3, 2023, from https://www.ers.usda.gov/amber-waves/2022/june/fluid-milk-consumption-continues-downward-trend-proving-difficult-to-reverse/
United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service (ERS 1). (2022, August 30). Dairy Background. Retrieved January 3, 2023, from https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/animal-products/dairy/background/
United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service (ERS 2). (2022, September 30). Dairy products: Per capita consumption, United States (Annual). Retrieved January 3, 2023, from https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/dairy-data/.
United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). (2003). (rep.). Milk Production. Retrieved January 3, 2023, from https://downloads.usda.library.cornell.edu/usda-esmis/files/h989r321c/t722hb07c/70795890w/MilkProd-02-14-2003.pdf.
United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). (2022). (rep.). Milk Production. Retrieved January 3, 2023, from https://downloads.usda.library.cornell.edu/usda-esmis/files/h989r321c/7d279w693/f7624g40c/mkpr0222.pdf.
United States Department of Agriculture National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS). (n.d.). Quick Stats. Retrieved January 3, 2023, from https://quickstats.nass.usda.gov/
United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (2022, September 6). Foods program guidance under development. Retrieved January 3, 2023, from https://www.fda.gov/food/guidance-documents-regulatory-information-topic-food-and-dietary-supplements/foods-program-guidance-under-development
University of Missouri Extension (UM). (n.d.). Missouri Dairy Industry Snapshot. Retrieved January 3, 2023, from https://extension.missouri.edu/programs/dairy-extension/missouri-dairy-industry-snapshot
Vanga, S. K., & Raghavan, V. (2017). How well do plant based alternatives fare nutritionally compared to cow’s milk? Journal of Food Science and Technology, 55(1), 10–20. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13197-017-2915-y