A new research report from the Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture seeks to understand why most Americans do not consume enough dairy products. Even though cheese consumption is rising, the report said per capita dairy consumption has remained steady at approximately 1.5 cup-equivalents per day for several decades because Americans are progressively drinking less fluid milk.

The report, “Why Are Americans Consuming Less Fluid Milk? A Look at Generation Differences in Intake Frequency,” examines trends in fluid milk consumption, including average portion sizes and generational differences that might contribute to the frequency of drinking milk. According to the report, there has been a “slow, continuous shift downward” in milk drinking since the 1940s, with each generation drinking less fluid milk than the one before it.  

“These findings may reflect the persistence of childhood habits – each successive generation grows up less accustomed than their parents to drinking fluid milk and carries that habit forward into adult life,” the report notes.

The report considers other actions as well that could be contributing to the decline. Looking at USDA dietary intake surveys from 1970 into the 2000s, researchers note that Americans are drinking milk fewer times during the day and using fluid milk in different ways. Many, for example, are consuming milk in coffee drinks but drinking it less often as a beverage at meals.

The report concludes with an overview of the potential health implications to lower milk consumption and the need to halt the decline among children.

For more information, contact Bob Yonkers, IDFA chief economist, at byonkers@idfa.org.