After a three-year run when annual U.S. per capita dairy product consumption rose from the year before, 2017 yielded a small decline in overall consumption. The decrease was mostly attributed to a continuing drop in fluid milk consumption.

Natzke dave
Editor / Progressive Dairy

Annual USDA Economic Research Service data shows 2017 U.S. per capita consumption of dairy products (on a milk-equivalent, milkfat basis) slipped 2 pounds to 643 pounds (Table 1). The disappointing 2017 numbers followed three years in which per capita consumption had jumped 38 pounds, from 607 pounds in 2013 to 645 pounds in 2016.

 091118 per capita milk tb1

Fluid milk continues slide

U.S. per capita consumption of fluid milk was estimated at 149 pounds in 2017, down 5 pounds from 2016 and down about 50 pounds in the past two decades. U.S. per capita fluid milk consumption is now down nearly 100 pounds since 1975.

Unlike recent years, the decline in fluid milk consumption was not offset by robust gains in a combination of other dairy products.

Final cheese category per capita consumption estimates will be released in late September, but preliminary indications are U.S. cheese consumption did rise slightly from last year’s record to about 37 pounds. American cheese consumption rose to about 15.1 pounds per person, up 0.8 pounds. However, consumption of other cheeses slipped about 0.1 pounds to 21.9 pounds per person.


Per capita consumption of yogurt (13.7 pounds) and butter (5.7 pounds) were unchanged from the year before, but consumption of nonfat dry milk declined.

One bright spot in the fluid milk data was whole milk, where 2017 annual sales were up 383 million pounds to 15.75 billion pounds. Sales of flavored milk increased fractionally, up about 110 million pounds, but that was offset by a combined 1.5-billion-pound decline in sales of reduced fat (2 percent), low fat (1 percent) and skim milk. Total fluid milk sales, at 48.63 billion, were down 1.07 billion pounds from 2016.

The number of plants processing milk in 2017 increased by two to 448, but the average milk volume per plant declined about 3 million pounds to 108.5 million pounds per year.  end mark

Dave Natzke