As much as I love dairy, I’ve learned it’s best for me to avoid drinking milk. Frankly, milk is disgusting. The consistency is yucky. The tart aftertaste stays in my mouth forever. It gives me phlegm. It makes me constipated. It’s too heavy in my stomach. Thanks to It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia I associate it with the creepy McPoyles. I opt for almond or oat milk simply because I like the taste and consistency better. And according to new reporting by The New York Times, I’m not alone.
Most adults I know have also shunned traditional dairy milk for similar reasons. And while the glut of plant-based alternatives might seem like the obvious scapegoat, there are actually several factors involved in milk’s downfall. These are outlined in the NYT’s recent article with the provocative headline, “Got Milk? Not This Generation.”
“People come to work with a Gatorade or a Coke in one hand and a Starbucks cold brew drink in the other,” an agricultural relations director explained to the Times. Milk has simply fallen out of style with millennials and Gen Z alike. In fact, zoomers last year bought 20% less milk than the national average. If that trend continues, milk’s sales might never be able to recover.
Given these numbers, the dairy industry is trying to do everything it can to make cow’s milk cool again. While my generation had “Got milk?” the campaign has pivoted to “Gonna need milk,” which positions the beverage as the ultimate sports drink. The campaign’s website prominently features athletes and boasts milk’s hydration and muscle-building powers, and it generally looks a lot more like it’s advertising Gatorade than milk. If I drank milk while working out I would surely throw up, but hey, to each their own.
The milk marketing experts seem to understand that they need to make milk sexy for the socially conscious generation. Perhaps there’s another way: focusing on small dairy farmers.
While some people may be turned off by the idea of large-scale corporate dairy farms, a couple in Maine who farms milk and sells it to Stonyfield Organic explained to the Times that much of small town America relies on the milk economy.
“If people better understood the nuances of milk as a seasonal product that gets richer in the winter and sweeter in the summer based on what the cows are eating, and saw the effort small dairy farmers put into producing that milk to help feed and keep rural communities alive, they might like milk better,” one of them explained.
Since what goes up must come down, perhaps dairy milk’s big comeback will arise naturally. A Canadian writer told the Times that she could see it happening as a rebellion against rapidly advancing technology. “The return of cow’s milk is kind of the cultural zeitgeist saying, ‘Screw tech. This is too fast and science is going too far,’” she said. “Just go back to normal and stop engineering the way we live.”
I’ve already made my anti-milk stance clear, but if drinking it becomes a bold statement against AI taking my job, I may just have to endure the constipation.