Why Coronavirus Is Causing Some Farmers to Dispose of Their Milk

  • Article
  • April 21, 2020

Because of sudden closures and supply chain shifts caused by the coronavirus, dairy farms in some areas of the country are producing more milk than the market can handle, causing unprecedented strain on dairy farmers, processors and companies as they work tirelessly to ensure nutritious dairy foods are accessible and available. Here’s why milk disposal, sometimes called “milk dumping,” is happening.

Consumers are now preparing and eating most of their meals at home, so demand for dairy products at retail has skyrocketed. At the same time, dairy products and ingredients like cheese, butter and milk that would typically go to restaurants, bars, cafeterias and other foodservice providers no longer have a home. Did you know that 60% of the butter sold in the U.S. goes to restaurants? The shuttering of those establishments due to coronavirus has left an unfillable void.

Before dairy is consumed, the raw milk must be processed. And processing dairy for grocery stores looks a lot different than processing dairy for a restaurant. For example, a facility producing for a restaurant or cafeteria may process cheese in very large blocks or frozen granulates, or package butter in small, individualized packets, making it difficult to immediately convert to production of gallon jugs of milk or 8-ounce packages of shredded cheese. 

Still, dairy cows are producing milk every day, and while there are some ways that farmers can encourage the cows to produce less, cows cannot stop or dramatically lessen the amount of milk they produce daily. In some areas of the country, they’re producing more milk than the supply chain can handle. As a temporary last resort, some dairy farmers are being asked to cut back their supply or periodically dispose of milk to adjust supplies to processing capacity. Many farm owners continue to receive payment, even if they must dispose of their milk.

The entire dairy value chain is working together to find a home for farmers’ milk and get it into the hands of those who need it most. Wholesome, nutritious products like milk and dairy are needed now more than ever, especially as unemployment claims mount, food banks are stretched to the breaking point, and the most vulnerable among us find it harder and harder to make ends meet. 

What our farmers say 

To learn more, check out these posts from some of America’s dairy farmers:

Additional information can also be found from these national dairy trade organizations: National Milk Producers Federation and International Dairy Foods Association.