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Got Milk? U.S. consumption is on the decline

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For a growing number of consumers, milk isn’t the nutritional standard it once was, the Star Tribune reports, which has had an effect on milk consumption in the United States.

Americans are drinking less milk due to cultural changes and a rise in the consumption of other beverages – many consumers are turning to milk alternatives like coconut milk, almond milk and soy milk, the Star Tribune says.

Per capita milk consumption has been falling for years – it dropped 25 percent from 1975 through 2012, the Star Tribune reports. Milk's rate of decline in 2011 and 2012 was the highest in more than a decade, the newspaper says.

What's alarming for the dairy industry is kids, known to be the most devoted milk drinkers, aren't drinking as much as they once did, the Star Tribune reports. The number of preteens who didn't drink any milk on a given day rose from 12 percent to 24 percent between 1978 and 2008, according to a report from the Department of Agriculture. Also, the number of preteens who drank milk three times or more a day has dropped from 31 percent to 18 percent.

The Department of Agriculture's report says younger generations are less likely to drink milk with their meals compared to their older generations. This will likely lead to a continuous decline in the consumption of milk, the report says.

Fluid milk sales are down, but milk exports (especially to Asia, which is driving up milk prices in the U.S., according to the Los Angeles Times) and cheese production are up, The Farmer's Exchange reports. Cheese consumption over the past four decades has nearly tripled, the Star Tribune says, but the dairy industry hasn't been able to halt the slide in milk demand.

The Midwest has big stakes in the dairy industry – Wisconsin is the No. 2 milk producer in the country, while Minnesota ranks No. 7, according Midwest Dairy. It 's Minnesota's fourth-largest agricultural commodity – there are 3,952 licensed dairy herds which generate $1.8 billion in milk sales annually.

The decline in milk consumption has had an effect on Minnesotans – last September, over 30 dairy workers in Duluth lost their jobs because of it.

The decline has also led to changes in the way the dairy industry markets its product. The "Got Milk" slogan was recently nixed, according to the Los Angeles Times. The Milk Processor Education Program, funded by milk processors, launched a new ad campaign – "Milk Life" – that aims to emphasize milk's protein content to get Americans to drink more milk, the newspaper reports.

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