Wisconsin, which produces more dairy than any other state in America, is experiencing a steep decline in dairy farms. In June, 54 Wisconsin dairy farms left the industry, and in May, 78 facilities also closed up shop.
This information was confirmed by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP), a state government agency.
So far in 2018, 338 dairy farms have “stopped milking cows,” magazine Dairy Herd admits. According to DATCP data, the number of dairy farms in the state has declined every year for more than a decade. Dating back to August 2003, Wisconsin was home to 16,264 dairy farms. Now, the total number sits at just 8,463.
While the number of farms in the state continues to decline, more than 1.2 million cows still exist in Wisconsin’s dairy system. The state is the top producer of cheese in America, making 27 percent of the country’s total supply.
However, the state appears to be shifting its focus away from dairy products. In June, it was revealed that Wisconsin chefs and locals were embracing the Impossible Burger, a plant-based beef-style burger that cooks, looks, and tastes like meat. Additionally, restaurants in Wisconsin are increasingly adapting their menus to cater to the changing market.
The decline of dairy production is not exclusive to Wisconsin; the unsteady trajectory of the dairy industry has been reported all around the world. One food and beverage company in Finland has shifted it’s focus from cow’s milk to plant-based oat milk instead after realizing that vegan products will “take over” dairy. In New Zealand, animal cruelty in the dairy industry prompted the Green Party to demand better standards of animal welfare. Further, a study in France found connections between the consumption of raw dairy milk and an outbreak of Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome in children, a condition that can lead to kidney failure. And the Indian public has been urged to go vegan to spare the lives of calves that are killed in the dairy industry. In the U.S, some dairy farmers affected by the decline of the industry are looking to grow crops instead.
Amidst the growing opposition of the dairy industry, usually for health, environmental, and animal welfare reasons, more consumers than ever are opting for vegan dairy products. The dairy alternative market made $9.8 billion last year and is expected to keep surging.
By: Jemima Webber