Milk Has Long Been a Staple of American Life, but Now The Dairy Industry is in Trouble

For much of the 20th century, milk was a simple part of daily life in the U.S., as farmers raised cows, milkmen delivered bottles and children chugged it at school. But those days are fading–a fact accentuated by the announcement on Jan. 5 by Borden Dairy, the milk processor with a cheery Elsie the cow on its label, that it is filing for bankruptcy protection. Borden, which said it was impacted by “market challenges facing the dairy industry,” follows Dean Foods, America’s largest milk producer, which filed for bankruptcy protection in November.

America has fallen out of love with drinking milk, as lower-calorie options have proliferated and people are substituting water bottles for milk cartons. Americans each drank an estimated 146 lb. of fluid milk–a category that includes products from skim to cream–in 2018, according to the USDA’s Economic Research Service. That may sound like a lot, but it’s down 26% just since 2000.

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