It’s no secret that per capita fluid milk consumption continues to decline, and is at its lowest level in 4 decades. What’s often not noted, however, is per capita cheese consumption has more than offset this decline.
Changes in other dairy consumption patterns, notably yogurt and butter, have also helped spark an increase in total per capita dairy consumption. “Consumption of all dairy products on a milk equivalent basis grew by 104 lb/person (19.3%), increasing from 539 lb in 1975 to 643 lb in 2017,” report economists with Central Federal Order. The total consumption number did slip 2 lb from 2016, however.
The good news is that cheese consumption is now at 37 lb/capita, more than double the level that it was in the 1970s. Mozzarella is the big winner, going from 2.1 lb in 1975 to 11.6 lb/capita in 2017. That’s an increase just shy of 450%. Other cheese varieties have nearly tripled in that time period as well.
Cheese has gone from 25% of all U.S. per capita dairy consumption in the 1970s to 58% today, notes Mark Stephenson, a dairy economist with the University of Wisconsin. “And if you look at that graph [of growth], it doesn’t look like we’re running out of steam,” he says. Countries such as Germany and France consume 50 lb of cheese per capita, he notes.
Yogurt consumption has also skyrocketed over the past 40 years, growing from 2 lb/capita in 1975 to 13.7 lb last year. Yogurt consumption per capita peaked in 2013 at nearly 15 lb/capita.
The other big news is butter. In the last 20 years, butter consumption per person is up 35.7% to 5.7 lb/capita.
Fluid milk consumption in 2017 was just 149 lb/capita, a decrease of 40% from 1975 when it stood at 250 lb/capita and drop of nearly 25% from 2000.