Got Milk may not have been a big marketing thing during the Bronze Age, but folks enjoyed moo juice back then, circa 3000 BCE. So says Christina Warinner, PhD, an assistant professor in the Harvard University Department of Anthropology.
In recent studies, Dr Warinner and several international collaborators report the first direct evidence of milk consumption — not drawings of people sporting white mustaches, but rather whey protein beta-lactoglobulin (BLG), preserved in human dental calculus from the Bronze Age. “Using protein tandem mass spectrometry, we demonstrate that BLG is a species-specific biomarker of dairy consumption, and we identify individuals consuming cattle, sheep, and goat milk products in the archaeological record,” Dr. Warinner relates.
Fast forward to now, the big data age, and we’re still drinking milk. Per capita consumption of fluid milk in the U.S. in 2018 was 146 pounds, according to the USDA Economic Research Service’s Sept. 4, 2019 report. This represents a steady decline since 1975, when per capita consumption was 247 pounds.
In its Estimated Fluid Milk Products Sales Report dated Aug. 12, 2019, the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) says 3.4 billion pounds of packaged fluid milk products were shipped by U.S. milk handlers in June 2019. This was 4.1 percent lower than a year earlier, AMS notes. Milk production in the United States during July 2019 totaled 18.3 billion pounds, up slightly from July 2018, according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) Aug. 19, 2019, Milk Production Report.
California leads the nation in number of milk cows with 1.728 million head for July 2019, 60,000 head less than July 2018, and 8,000 head less than June 2019, NASS reports. The Golden State also leads in milk production, boasting 3.378 million pounds in July 2019. Wisconsin ranks second in both number of milk cows, with 1.268 million head, and also in production, 2.606 million pounds, in July 2019, NASS says. New York comes in third in July 2019, with 627,000 milk cows (slightly ahead of Idaho), and fourth (just behind Idaho) in production, 1.288 million pounds, NASS relates.
Fluid Milk Innovation Contest
Doing its part to increase consumer interest in milk, on Aug. 1, 2019, the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) announced the launch of what it is touting as “one of the biggest dairy competitions of all time,” The Real California Milk Accelerator.
The Real California Milk Accelerator aims to promote innovation in the fluid milk category, according to John Talbot, CEO of the CMAB. “We are looking for ideas for new products that can be as varied as new flavor variations, nutrient or health improvements, marketing or packaging innovations, or that are environmentally conscious or sustainable,” Talbot says. “New or improved methods for producing, preparing, and packaging food and beverage products or ingredients and ensuring quality and safety are welcome, as are new and innovative beverage products or ingredients.”
Headquartered in Tracy, Calif., the CMAB, an instrumentality of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, is funded by the Golden State’s dairy farm families. The CMAB executes advertising, public relations, research, and retail and foodservice promotional programs on behalf of California dairy products that carry the Real California Milk (RCM) seal, throughout the U.S. and internationally, Talbot relates.
“The Real California Milk Accelerator competition combines two of California’s great natural resources: sustainable California milk and California entrepreneurship,” Talbot says. “The competition intends to inspire innovation and investment in fluid milk products, packaging and capacity within California.”
To that end, CMAB is seeking high-growth potential liquid milk ideas, with cow’s milk making up at least 50 percent of their formulas.
“Applicants need to commit to producing the product in California for a period of 12 months, should they win the competition, thus making an economic impact on the dairy farmers of California, as well as the state’s dairy processing community,” Talbot notes. He mentions that it’s OK if applicants use milk from another state in development, but the products the judges taste during the competition must contain only California milk. “Moreover, applicants must agree to have the final product carry the Real California Milk seal,” he says.