Experts and dairy representatives do not think so
National milk consumption is decreasing across the country – due to factors such as product perception and changing demographics. But locally, producers say the demand for dairy, non-dairy and alternative milk choices are increasing.
According to the Government of Canada, the per capita consumption of milk in Canada had decreased from 88.22 litres in 2000 to 75.55 litres in 2013. These statistics are the annual fluid milk sales divided by the Canadian population.
Genevieve Latour, assistant director of communications of Dairy Farmers of Canada, says this is a trend happening not only in Canada, but in other countries as well.
"There is a fundamental declining trend in per capita milk consumption, however this is not only a trend occurring in Canada. Other developed countries such as the United States and United Kingdom have since seen the per capita consumption decline," said Latour.
This decline could be due to a number of factors.
According to Latour, "Change in demographics (size of families, immigration), product perception, high competition and innovation in the beverage category, as well as more beverage options on the market are influencing negatively on the current trend."
How consumers view the dairy industry can also impact milk consumption.
Joey Brocke, head purchaser at Sunnyside Natural Market in Calgary says, "There have been a few undercover videos taken on dairy farms showing the way that cows are being mistreated."
"Overall [milk is] very healthy and it's not something that people should dismiss out of their diets."
-Cherylynn Bos, owner and operator at Rock Ridge Dairy Farm"I do understand that this does not necessarily show common practice on these farms, but even if the videos depict the minority, they are still gut-wrenching enough to make you question if you want to support the industry where this is happening," said Brocke.
Despite this negative publicity, or perhaps because of it, milk industry groups are taking steps to ensure a positive image for milk, said Cherylynn Bos, owner and operator at Rock Ridge Dairy Farm.
The most famous of the promotional campaigns is the 'got milk?' campaign released by the California Milk Processor Board. Here in Canada, the Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC) does a lot of promotional work of its own, releasing a Milk Calendar as well as the 'all you need is cheese' campaigns in television and in print.
The message from these marketing campaigns: "Overall [milk is] very healthy and it's not something that people should dismiss out of their diets," said Bos.
At the same time, although the national consumption of milk is decreasing, Brocke has noticed an increase in his own store.
"In the last three to four months our weekly milk orders (what we are ordering from our suppliers) have broken our store record for largest order numerous times in that stretch," said Brocke.
In addition, there has been an increase in the demand for other dairy products, according to Latour, who says, "Canadians are consuming more of other dairy products such as yogurt and cheeses."
Brocke, as a head purchaser, has seen this increase first-hand.
"Our overall sales are on a slow but steady increase; our milk, dairy and eggs category (which in our system are all lumped together) are increasing at about triple, sometimes even quadruple the store average depending on the week that we are looking at."
In addition, Bos said that she has observed an increased demand for alternative dairy products.
Bos and her family have been milking goats for several years at their farm in Ponoka.
"It is a small market, but growing," said Bos. "Right now we are milking 500 [goats] and we should be up to 900 this summer."
As a result of that increased demand, they are also upgrading the parlour system they use to milk the goats so that more goats can be milked per hour.
Rock Ridge Dairy Products can be found at Sunnyside Natural Market.
Even though the consumption of milk nationally may be decreasing, Brocke says, "The customers who shop at our store are clearly still buying the products that we have available."
- By KATHERINE HUITEMA