Dairy
Facts

There is so much to love about dairy. Milk, cheese, yogurt, and, of course, ice cream — but the real beauty is the wealth of scientifically-backed nutritional benefits. Check out the facts below to learn how dairy can keep your family healthy through every stage of life.

Explore some incredible dairy facts below

  • Nutrition and Benefits of Dairy
  • Common Questions
  • Dairy Benefits for Every Age
  • Sustainability

Nutrition and Benefits

FACT 01

Milk Contains 8 Grams of High-Quality Protein

With eight grams of natural, high-quality protein per 8-ounce glass, milk helps build lean muscle and keep bones strong.

Many experts now recommend getting 25 to 30 grams of protein at each meal — especially breakfast. Protein helps you feel full and satisfied, so incorporating it at the start of your day can help stave off those mid-morning munchies. Pairing your breakfast with a glass of milk is a great way to reach your goal of 25 to 30 grams of protein per meal.

Lastly, milk is a complete protein, meaning it provides the full mix of essential amino acids that are necessary to the human diet.

FACT 02

Milk is a Top Source of Calcium in Diets

Calcium helps build and maintain strong bones and teeth. It would take 7 cups of raw broccoli (a typical serving is 1 cup) to get as much calcium as you get in just one 8-ounce glass of milk. Each serving contains 300 mg of calcium, which is 30% of the daily recommendation.
 

FACT 03

Milk Contains Potassium, a Nutrient Many Americans Lack

When you think of potassium, bananas likely come to mind. But did you know that each 8-ounce glass of milk contains 10% of your daily recommended amount of potassium, as much as a small banana? Potassium is so important because it regulates the balance of fluids in your body and plays a critical role in maintaining a healthy blood pressure.

FACT 04

Milk is a Key Source of Vitamin D

While direct sunlight on the skin triggers the body's ability to make vitamin D, it's advised that people try to get most of the nutrients they need from food. But since vitamin D is naturally present in very few foods, this can be a tricky ask. Luckily, an 8-ounce glass of milk provides approximately 30% of your daily recommended amount of vitamin D, which works with calcium to build and maintain strong bones. This helps to protect children from rickets and older adults from osteoporosis.

FACT 05

Milk is an Excellent Source of Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 helps build red blood cells and maintain the central nervous system. One serving of milk fulfills 20% of your daily recommended amount of vitamin B12. This vitamin powerhouse has also been shown to help prevent the risk of age-related macular degeneration, an eye disease that affects your central vision. Lastly, adequate B12 levels are important to promote healthy hair, skin and nails.

FACT 06

Milk is a Good Source of Vitamin A

Each serving of milk provides 10% of your daily recommended dose of vitamin A which helps maintain a healthy immune system, good vision and healthy skin. Additionally, adequate amounts of vitamin A is essential for healthy growth and development of babies in the womb.

FACT 07

Milk Is an Excellent Source of Riboflavin

Also known as B2, riboflavin is a vitamin that helps to convert your food into energy by breaking down carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Additionally, riboflavin is important for good eye health, preventing anemia and potentially fighting migraines. Drink one 8-ounce glass of milk, and you consume 25% of your recommended amount of riboflavin.

FACT 08

Milk Fulfills 25% of Your Daily Phosphorus Needs

Phosphorus plays many roles in our bodies, including promoting strong and healthy bones, helping to make energy and moving muscles. A single serving of milk contains as much phosphorus as one cup of kidney beans and accounts for 25% of your daily recommended phosphorus needs.

FACT 09

Milk is a Healthy Source of Niacin

Also known as B3, niacin works with riboflavin and vitamin B12 to help convert food into energy. In fact, niacin may also help lower cholesterol, ease arthritis and is essential for proper brain functionality. An 8-ounce glass of milk contains 10% of your recommended daily amount of niacin.

Common Questions

Are there pesticides in my milk?

No. Stringent government standards ensure that all milk, both regular and organic, is safe, pure and nutritious. The most recent government testing found that all of the milk samples tested were found completely free of pesticide residue.

Is organic milk better for me and my family than regular milk?

No. Organic and regular milk are equally as good for you. In terms of quality, safety and nutrition, there’s no difference between organic and regular milk.

Are there antibiotics in my milk?

No. All milk – both regular and organic – is tested for antibiotics. Sometimes a sick cow will get medicine to feel better, but their milk never goes into the regular milk supply. Plus, any milk that would test positive for antibiotics would have to be disposed of — that’s the law.

What’s the difference between milk and non-dairy alternatives?

Every 8-ounce glass of real cow’s milk contains nine essential nutrients and has just three ingredients: milk, vitamin A and vitamin D. In contrast, milk alternatives, including soy and almond, need to include a range of additives to bolster their nutritional profiles — which is why you'll often find lengthy ingredient lists on their packages. Even with these nutritional additives, they do not contain the same mix of vitamins, nutrients and protein as cow's milk.

Are there hormones added to my milk?

No. Many foods contain naturally occurring hormones, including milk. And while some farmers choose to supplement some of their cows with additional bST to increase milk production, science shows that there is no effect on hormone levels in the milk itself.

Why do farmers treat cows with antibiotics?

Sometimes cows get sick, just as humans do. Without proper medical care, the cows would become seriously ill or die. It is simply humane to treat them and make them well again with medications prescribed by veterinarians. The milk from a cow treated with antibiotics is disposed of and does not enter the food supply.

Can I still enjoy dairy if I am lactose intolerant?

Yes. Try lactose-free milk and dairy products. Because they're real milk products, just without the lactose, you'll still get the nutritional benefits of dairy. Natural cheeses are also a good option because they’re naturally low in lactose, as well as yogurts, which have live and active cultures to help ease digestion.

What’s the difference between organic and regular milk?

In terms of quality, safety and nutrition, there’s no difference between organic and regular milk. The only difference is how they are produced on the farm.

Is raw (unpasteurized) milk safe to drink?

No. As a matter of food safety, milk should be pasteurized. Pasteurization is a simple, effective method to kill potentially harmful bacteria without affecting the taste or nutritional value of milk.

Are dairy foods a good source of protein?

Yes. An 8-ounce glass of milk has eight grams of high-quality protein. That’s more than an egg!

Is chocolate milk good for my family?

Yes. Whether white or chocolate, milk plays a vital role in good health, especially for children. Flavored milks, like chocolate, provide the same nine essential nutrients as white milk.

Is milk a nutritious option for my family?

Yes. Milk is packed with nine essential nutrients: calcium, potassium, phosphorus, protein, vitamins A, D and B12, riboflavin and niacin.

Do brown cows produce chocolate milk?

Sadly, no, but this is one myth we actually wish was true!

Young Kids

Developing a well-balanced diet for young children can feel like a complex science. Unfortunately, research shows that most children fall short on key nutrients. In fact, 75% of kids younger than nine don't get enough vitamin D and potassium, two nutrients critical for development.

Without milk in their diets, it's hard for growing kids to get the nutrients they need. Each 8-ounce glass helps meet these needs with:

  • Calcium, vitamin D and phosphorus for building strong bones
  • B vitamins including riboflavin, B12 and niacin for energy and brain development
  • Potassium to help regulate the balance of fluids in the body
  • Protein is essential for development of brain functionality, lean muscles and the immune system
  • Vitamin A for a healthy immune system and good vision
  • Building a nutrient-packed diet is an important consideration for any parent. Consider this: In a recent survey, nine out of 10 U.S. Olympian respondents said they grew up drinking milk. And, 83% of the milk drinkers who responded credit their moms who encouraged them to do so

Why is high-quality protein, like in milk, so important for kids?

Protein is essential for growth and development, impacting so many different bodily functions, including:

  • Building lean muscle — Protein supplies the amino acids our bodies need to build strong muscles. Coupled with exercise, it's essential for the development and repair of muscles, especially in rapidly growing kids
  • Keeping you fuller, longer — More than carbohydrates or fats, protein plays an important role in helping us feel full and satisfied, which can help avoid unplanned snacking and overeating
  • Maintaining bone health — During these periods of growth, strong bones are crucial. Paired with calcium and vitamin D — which are also found in milk — protein helps build healthy bones
  • Milk’s nutrition facts are simple: With nine essential nutrients, adding a glass of milk to mealtime is a smart choice for kids and parents alike

Adolescents

As young kids become adolescents, their nutritional needs shift and their appetites flourish. At this pivotal time in development, research shows that it's hard for kids to get the nutrients they need without milk in their diets.

One of the highest-quality proteins around, milk is also a top food source for calcium, vitamin D and potassium. Unfortunately, 85% of Americans fall short of the recommended daily servings of milk.

Compared to non-dairy milks fortified with calcium, experts agree that cow's milk remains a better way for kids to get necessary bone-building nutrients. That's because non-dairy milks don't have the same nutritional value as real milk.

In fact, substituting milk with non-dairy calcium sources — like fortified soy milk and leafy greens — can lead to gaps in key developmental nutrients, including protein, vitamin D, phosphorus, riboflavin, potassium, magnesium, vitamin A and vitamin B12.

Adults

As "superfoods" go, milk is one of the originals. From helping to maintain a healthy weight to building strong, lean muscles, the research-backed health benefits of drinking milk can't be ignored.

Calcium is likely the top benefit that comes to mind when you think of milk. That makes sense, because milk is the primary food source of calcium in American diets. And as our bones age, the role of calcium is incredibly important. So while you likely grew up drinking milk regularly as a kid, it's important to keep up the regime as an adult.

What you might not realize is that, in addition to calcium, milk is a great source of a whole list of other essential vitamins and nutrients. Milk has B vitamins for energy, high-quality protein for lean muscle, vitamin A for a healthy immune system and five bone-building nutrients, including calcium and vitamin D.

Unfortunately, Type 2 diabetes has become a global epidemic and is expected to affect 552 million people worldwide by 2030. Adding dairy foods to your diet can help lower the risk of diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease and obesity.

Seniors

Dairy has many benefits related to maintaining health into our golden years. So as we get a little older and start to slow down and enjoy life, one thing we shouldn't slow down is our milk consumption.

We learn as kids that milk is great for strong teeth and bones, but we tend to forget we need those in our later years as well. Milk and dairy have been shown to fight cardiovascular disease, hypertension, Type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis, which can lead to bone fractures in older adults. Pour yourself a glass and learn about some of the key nutrients you could be missing out on without adequate milk consumption.

Calcium

Milk is the top food source for calcium. Most frequently connected to building strong bones and teeth, calcium is also needed for proper muscle contraction, nerve function and blood clotting. Some studies suggest calcium may also support healthy blood pressure and heart health.

Vitamin D

Nationally, our intake of vitamin D is well below daily recommendations for all age groups, especially for young adults and seniors.

Vitamin D works with calcium to support healthy bones. Together with calcium, vitamin D also helps protect against osteoporosis. Plus, your muscles need it to move, and your nerves need it to carry messages between the brain and every body part. A growing body of evidence also supports the potential role vitamin D plays to reduce the risk of both cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Potassium

Potassium intake is low across the entire population, but there is a particular concern for middle-aged and older adults, who are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease.

Potassium helps regulate the balance of fluids in the body and plays a critical role in maintaining a healthy blood pressure. The mineral was identified as a nutrient of “public health significance” because low intakes are linked to hypertension and cardiovascular diseases.

Sustainability

Fact 01

Dairy farmers commit their lives to feeding the world.

DFA family farm-owners care for their herd 365 days a year and produce real, fresh, nutritious dairy for families around the world to enjoy. They also take pride in caring for the land. From regenerative agriculture practices to implementing new technologies, they continue to innovate to help their farms run more sustainably and efficiently.
 

Fact 02

In 2020, DFA became the first U.S. dairy cooperative to set a science-based target to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

As a Cooperative invested in the dairy supply chain from farm-to-table, we are taking a strong position by setting a science-based target to reduce GHG emissions, both on the farm and throughout the supply chain, by 30% by 2030 from a 2018 baseline. This target also aligns with the work of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and its goals for the U.S. dairy industry to become carbon neutral or better by 2050.

Fact 03

The entire dairy industry, from farm to manufacturer, contributes less than 2% of total U.S. GHG emissions.

The dairy industry is actively leading the way for environmental solutions for our communities. DFA continues to make progress toward reducing U.S. GHG emissions through new projects and pilot programs, including using renewable energy methods, utilizing anaerobic digesters, implementing regenerative agriculture pilot programs and more.

Fact 04

We’re proud to support the U.N.’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries — developed and developing — in a global partnership.

DFA’s progress with the SDGs includes:
  • 2 End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
  • 3 Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
  • 7 Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
  • 8 Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
  • 12 Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
  • 13 Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
  • 15 Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
  • 17 Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development
See more about our progress here:
 

Fact 05

Anaerobic digesters transform manure from cows into energy for use on dairy farms and in the towns and cities around them.

An anaerobic digester works by using cow manure from dairy farms as fuel for the biodigester. Cow manure can also be combined with food waste from local businesses, such as restaurants and stores. Energy produced from the biodigester can go back to the power grid or pipeline for local communities. Fertilizers from the biodigester complete the sustainability circle. Liquid fertilizer produced from the biodigester fertilizes dairy farms’ fields, while the solids can be used as cows’ bedding.

Fact 06

100% of DFA family farms participate in our Gold Standard Dairy Program to affirm their commitment to animal care, milk quality, land and environmental stewardship and workforce development.

DFA’s Gold Standard Dairy Program, our on-farm evaluation program, takes place every three years. Critical information is collected related to animal care and wellness, water use and conservation, soil management, workforce development practices, wildlife and natural habitat conservation and energy efficiency, to name a few. Participation in the Gold Standard Dairy also includes participation in the Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) program, which are the industry-leading animal care standards. FARM is a science-based industry standard, internationally recognized and compliant with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) — one of the first livestock animal care programs in the world to gain this recognition.

Fact 07

DFA can’t tackle food sustainability alone. In taking on this challenge, we have formed a series of partnerships and collaborative commitments

Some of these synergies include:
  • U.S. Dairy Stewardship Commitment enables us to benchmark our progress through shared industry metrics that are reported every five years. We are aligned with the U.S. dairy industry’s goals to:
    1. Become carbon neutral or better
    2. Optimize water use while maximizing recycling
    3. Improve water quality by optimizing utilization of manure and nutrients by 2050
  • Sustainable Dairy Partnership (SDP), a business-to-business alliance, provides a results-oriented approach to hold affiliates accountable. Instead of creating new guidelines, SDP builds off the 11 criteria for impact established by the Dairy Sustainability Framework (DSF), which provides overarching goals and alignment of the dairy industry’s actions globally on the path to sustainability. See more here:
  • CDP™ runs a global disclosure system for environmental reporting. Through this reporting platform, we provide transparency and accountability on our sustainability goals. See more here:
  • Farm Powered Strategic Alliance (FPSA) is led by Vanguard Renewables with major food industry leaders such as Unilever and Starbucks. FPSA is accelerating long-term commitments to avoid food waste first and repurpose what cannot be eliminated into renewable energy via Vanguard Renewables farm-based anaerobic digesters. FPSA members also commit to begin exploring the process of decarbonizing their thermal energy usage by exploring the process of decarbonizing their thermal energy usage by converting to farm-derived renewable natural gas

Fact 08

Cows have special stomachs that allow them to digest plant matter that humans can’t digest.

Part of a cow’s diet includes food processing byproducts such as sugar beet pulp, almond hulls, canola seed pulp, citrus pulp, potato peels, culled vegetables, bakery waste, corn stalks, tomato pulp, grape skins, cottonseed, soy hulls and more. They turn products we’d throw away into delicious dairy that everyone can enjoy.

Fact 09

92% of DFA member farms have a soil management plan to maintain or improve soil health.

Over 60% of farms plant cover crops, an important practice of regenerative agriculture that helps maintain and enhance soil health now and for years to come. It includes timeless concepts that our family farm-owners have used for decades coupled with new technology and practices. These practices help to replenish soil nutrients, reduce runoff, increase the longevity of the soil’s quality and maintain soil carbon stocks.

Fact 10

There are five principles of regenerative agriculture.

  1. Increasing soil cover through integrating cover crops, especially where those crops can be integrated into forage for dairy cattle
  2. Maximizing biodiversity through growing crops that help to improve the organisms present in the farm ecosystem
  3. Enabling living root systems through methodical inclusion of perennials that maintain root presence in the soil for longer periods
  4. Minimizing soil disturbance through no-till or low-till field practices
  5. Integration of organic fertilizers, like manure, in a precise manner such that soil nutrients are prudently used for maximizing crop growth