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Dairy and Non-dairy Milk

November 5, 2021
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WRITTEN BY Eleni Bickell

Executive Summary

Although dairy milk production has risen over the last several years, dairy milk retail sales are dropping as Americans increasingly consume alternatives to traditional dairy products, such as dairy-free cheese and yogurt, and dairy alternative beverages. Simultaneously, sales of non-dairy milks, such as soy, almond, or oat milk, have been rising in the United States. Several state legislatures have passed legislation that prohibit the use of dairy terminology (e.g., milk, yogurt, or cheese) for non-dairy alternatives. Missouri has special requirements for meat product alternatives that do not come from livestock or poultry. However, it does not have legislation pertaining to the use of milk terminology on non-dairy products.


  • While the number of U.S. dairy farms has decreased over the last few decades, today’s overall volume of dairy milk production has increased due to large herd sizes and high milk output.
  • In the last 20 years, the number of Missouri dairy farms and size of cow populations have decreased by 70% and 50%, respectively.
  • Missouri’s dairy industry generates about $205 million in milk cash receipts annually (as of 2019).
  • Non-dairy milk accounts for 15% of total retail milk sales in the U.S. and is purchased by 39% of U.S. households.


  • Trends in dairy milk production and consumption differ based on the timeframe used for comparison.
    • For example, U.S. per capita consumption of dairy fluid milk products has increased by 22% since 1975, but has decreased since 2000.
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