June is National Dairy Month

Published on Wed, 05/26/2010 - 8:36am

National Dairy Month started out as National Milk Month in 1937 as a way to promote drinking milk. It was initially created to stabilize the dairy demand when production was at a surplus, but has now developed into an annual tradition that celebrates the contributions the dairy industry has made to the world.
From field trips to dairy farms to swapping favorite cheesecake recipes, National Dairy Month is celebrated in many different ways across the United States. Highly nutritious, tasty and versatile, milk is often characterized as “nature’s most nearly perfect food.”
It is a good time to take a moment and acknowledge the contribution the dairy industry has made to the U.S.
A Brief History of the Dairy Industry in America
Milk and milk products have played an important role in America’s history since 1611, when the first cows were brought to Jamestown, Virginia. Since those early days, the industry has successfully continued to serve the nutritional needs of a growing nation with a wide selection of products.
Today’s dairy industry includes the farmers, who produce the milk; processors and manufacturers, who provide all the services needed to turn out a variety of wholesome, refreshing dairy foods; and the retailers and foodservice operators, who bring these products directly to consumers.
Because milk and milk products are now readily available and frequently consumed in the U.S., a steady supply
of these foods is often taken for granted. However, until fairly recently, milk was not always so readily available. 
The milk bottle was invented by Dr. Hervey Thatcher in Potsdam, New York in 1884 and it was not until 1895 that commercial pasteurizing machines were introduced. Thanks to the many advancements and improvements achieved by the entire industry in the areas of processing, packaging, refrigeration and distribution, a wide range of dairy products is now available to everyone.
A Growing Industry
Another key development in the growth of the dairy industry has been the important research and experimentation which has resulted in improved methods of selection, breeding and feeding of cows.
According to the most recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the number of U.S. milk cows continues its growth trend. In 2008 there was an increase of 26,000 cows over 2007. At the same time, the national average milk per cow rose to 20,396 pounds, setting a record for a seventh year straight.
Two western states lead the nation in per cow production efficiency; Arizona maintained its lead for the second year in a row, producing 23,382 pounds of milk per cow in 2008. The State of Washington was second, producing at 23,344 pounds.
Regional trends in 2008 showed strong increases in production, with California, continuing to lead the nation in farm milk production. All but one of the top 10 milk producing states increased their output over 2007. Texas had the largest percentage increase in output of the top 10 producing states with an increase of 14 percent in 2008; New Mexico increased its output by 7.9 percent, and Idaho increased its output by 6.63 percent. The top 10 states accounted for 73 percent of all U.S. milk production.
Nearly 41 percent of the U.S. milk supply produced in 2008 was used to make cheese. Approximately 15 percent of the milk supply was used for fluid milk, while 8 percent went into the production of frozen desert. Butter accounted for about 19 percent of the milk supply. The demand for milk for cheese making has risen dramatically over the past few decades. In 1960, cheese making accounted for about 11 percent of all milk produced in the United States; in 1998, this became the dominant use of milk, and now accounts for more than a majority of milk utilization.
Fluid Milk Sales and Consumption Overview
While total sales of fluid milk products in the United States have changed little during the past 20 years, the recent trend away from whole milk to lower-fat milks continues. Supermarket data provided by Information Resources, Inc., shows that the sale of reduced-, low- and fat-free white milk demonstrated a very modest growth in 2008, while the sale of whole white milk decreased by approximately 0.3 percent in 2008. However, low-fat flavored milk showed an increase of 0.4 percent in 2008 and accounts for approximately 42.3 percent of all flavored milk sales through supermarkets.
According to USDA’s Economic Research Service, total per capita consumption of all fluid milk products was 179.9 pounds in 2008, a decrease of less than 0.1 percent from 2007. Sales of U.S. fluid milk products fell 0.9 percent to approximately 20.86 gallons per capita.
Meanwhile, sales of cream and specialty dairy products, such as yogurt and cottage cheese, dropped slightly in 2008. However, yogurt sales showed a growth of 3.44 percent, based on health benefits, new flavors and increased variety in packaged servings.
Nutrient Powerhouse
Milk is packed with nine essential nutrients important for your health. In fact, without milk in your diet, it’s difficult to get the right amounts of the nutrients you need. Numerous studies have shown that milk drinkers have healthier diets compared to non-milk drinkers.
In fact, a recent study confirmed that cow’s milk and milk products are America’s top source of Vitamin D. Researchers found that milk supplies half of all the Vitamin D in the American diet. Using the latest national data on what more than 16 thousand Americans over the age of 2 eat, researchers looked at the contribution of each food group to the total vitamin D intake. No other food item came close to supplying the vitamin D punch that milk and milk products provide. In fact, for kids ages 2 to 18, milk provided nearly two-thirds of all vitamin D in their diet.
This study reinforces that it’s important to get the recommended three 8 ounce glasses of milk each day -- it provides 75 percent of the dairy value of vitamin D. Milk also provides eight other essential nutrients including calcium, potassium and Vitamin A.
So this June -- National Dairy Month -- let’s all raise a nice cold glass of milk to good health.
History of Cheese
No one really knows who made the first cheese. According to an ancient legend, it was made accidentally by an Arabian merchant who put his supply of milk into a pouch made from a sheep's stomach, as he set out on a day's journey across the desert. The rennet in the lining of the pouch, combined with the heat of the sun, caused the milk to separate into curd and whey. That night he found that the whey satisfied his thirst, and the cheese (curd) had a delightful flavor, which satisfied his hunger.
Cheese making flourish in Europe and became an established food. In fact, the Pilgrims included cheese in the Mayflower's supplies when they made their voyage to America in 1620. The making of cheese quickly spread in the New World, but until the 19th century it remained a local farm industry. It wasn't until 1851 that the first cheese factory in the United States was built by Jesse Williams in Oneida County, New York.
As population across the United States continued to grow dramatically, the demand for cheese increased and the industry gradually moved westward, centering on the rich farm lands of Wisconsin. In 1845, a band of Swiss immigrants settled in Green County, Wisconsin and started the manufacturing of foreign cheese in America. Most Wisconsin farmers began to believe that their future survival was tied to cheese and their first factory was a Limburger plant, which opened in 1868.
As cheese demand continued to grow and spread rapidly, manufactured and processed cheese production increased dramatically. Total natural cheese production grew from 418 million pounds in 1920 to 2.2 billion pounds by 1970. Rising demand for cheese throughout the 1970s and 1980s brought total natural cheese production to more than 6 billion pounds by the beginning of the 1990s. Processed cheese also experienced a surge in consumer demand with annual production exceeding 2 billion pounds a year by the beginning of the 1990s.
Today more than one-third of all milk produced each year in the U.S. is used to manufacture cheese. Recent increases in the overall demand for farm milk have in large part been due to the continued growth of the cheese industry. As consumer appetites for all types of cheese continue to expand, so will the industry.
Ice Cream for America
While we know that cows were brought to Massachusetts and Virginia in the early 1600s, the first official account of ice cream in the New World comes from a letter written in 1744 by a guest of Maryland Governor William Bladen and records show that President George Washington spent approximately $200 for ice cream during the summer of 1790.
President Thomas Jefferson was said to have a favorite 18-step recipe for an ice cream delicacy that resembled a modern-day Baked Alaska. In 1813, Dolley Madison served a magnificent strawberry ice cream creation at President Madison's second inaugural banquet at the White House.
Until 1800, ice cream remained a rare and exotic dessert enjoyed mostly by the elite. Around 1800, insulated ice houses were invented. Manufacturing ice cream soon became an industry in America. And, like other American industries, ice cream production increased because of technological innovations, including steam power, mechanical refrigeration, the homogenizer, electric power and motors, packing machines, and new freezing processes and equipment. In addition, motorized delivery vehicles dramatically changed the industry. Due to ongoing technological advances, today's total frozen dairy annual production in the United States is more than 1.6 billion gallons.
Wide availability of ice cream in the late 19th century led to new creations. In 1874, the American soda fountain shop and the profession of the "soda jerk" emerged with the invention of the ice cream soda. In response to religious criticism for eating "sinfully" rich ice cream sodas on Sundays, ice cream merchants left out the carbonated water and invented the ice cream "Sunday" in the late 1890's. The name was eventually changed to "sundae" to remove any connection with the Sabbath.
Ice cream became an edible morale symbol during World War II. Each branch of the military tried to outdo the others in serving ice cream to its troops. In 1945, the first "floating ice cream parlor" was built for sailors in the western Pacific. When the war ended, and dairy product rationing was lifted, America celebrated its victory with ice cream. Americans consumed over 20 quarts of ice cream per person in 1946.
In the 1940s through the ‘70s, ice cream production was relatively constant in the United States. As more prepackaged ice cream was sold through supermarkets, traditional ice cream parlors and soda fountains started to disappear. Now, specialty ice cream stores and unique restaurants that feature ice cream dishes have surged in popularity. These stores and restaurants are popular with those who remember the ice cream shops and soda fountains of days past, as well as with new generations of ice cream fans.