Americans may be consuming less milk, but their love for cheese is stronger than ever.
Consumption for sharp cheddar, mozzarella and more reached an all-time high of nearly 42 pounds per person in 2022, according to the latest dairy consumption data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Americans are eating approximately half a pound more cheese than the previous year, data shows. They are also consuming more ice cream, although their tastes for yogurt, butter and milk have waned.
The demand for cheese pushed up dairy consumption in 2022 to its second highest level of all time.
“If it’s made with dairy and it can fit on a plate, in a bowl, or in your favorite mug, chances are Americans are loving it more than ever before,” he said in a statement.
As shoppers reach for more cheese, ice cream and other dairy products, domestic tastes for milk continue to sour. Per capita consumption for the beverage reached 130 pounds, a more than 30% decline from 2000 - 2022 and a new record low.
Declining milk consumption comes as plant-based alternatives see growing demand. The plant-based milk category grew 8.5% in 2022 from the previous year, according to data compiled by the Plant Based Foods Association and the Good Food Institute.
While plant-based alternatives have contributed to eroding milk consumption, USDA researchers last year reported the growing category accounted for a fraction of the downward sales trend in milk and is “not likely to be a primary driver.”
The latest consumption data comes as dairy farmers continue to recover from challenging market conditions. The all-milk price, or how much producers received for their products, rose to $21 per hundredweight in September, a $1.30 increase from the previous month, but $3.10 lower than 2022. While feed costs remain historically elevated, they are starting to soften and bolster margins.