COLUMN: Dwindling milk sales highlight big dairy’s greed


Dan Hahn

Dan Hahn is a graduate student studying English and can be reached at 217-581-2812.

Dan Hahn, Columnist

A recent New York Times article “Got Milk? Not This Generation” discusses dwindling milk sales among Gen Z. The article introduces Yvonne Zapata, “an ambassador for a milk producers’ campaign called 26.2 that aims to offer support to every woman running a marathon in the United States this year.”

Fascinating enough, Zapata herself does not drink dairy milk. However, she has aligned herself with the mission of #TeamMilk for its focus on encouraging women to embrace running as a healthy lifestyle.

I am conflicted here; on one hand I agree there needs to be as many access points as possible to attract people to healthy and active living. However, Zapata is demonstrating hypocrisy, in plain sight, by becoming a brand ambassador for a product she would not use herself. 

To be human is to be a hypocrite, I know, and we are all human. However, is hypocrisy justifiable when newcomers are drawn to an active lifestyle? I think not.

Sure, a person can say they like the taste of dairy milk and I cannot argue the fact, but is it not greed that is prompting this ridiculous marketing strategy by the dairy industry?

According to the NYT article, changes in demographics point to Gen Z being more lactose intolerant than previous generations. Also, millennials paved the way (you are welcome!) for alternative milks which younger consumers seem to prefer with their coffee drinks. 

What I find so bothersome about this whole lactose subterfuge is that Gen Z has not abandoned dairy altogether, and industry experts know this. Gen Z still eats dairy in its other problematic forms like junk food and fast food. This includes dairy products in their highly processed and addictive forms.

Foods responsible for creating bad habits that lead to weight gain and a sedentary life. Foods like mass produced creams, butters, ice cream and cheese.

By marketing dairy milk as a health drink, the industry is doubly exploiting a certain segment of the population: targeting a vulnerable group that is overweight, sedentary, and likely overconsumes of dairy to begin with.

Guaranteed, these statements are not making me any friends in the dairy industry, so I might as well make some statements to anger the vegan community: I believe it is possible for people to eat and drink dairy in a way that is moderate and healthy. 

I also think it is not yet time for humans to completely abandon dairy production. But we should transition to the most humane and sustainable process for organic dairy production as soon as possible. Also, with so many plant-based alternatives touting nearly identical nutrition profiles, minus the cholesterol found in real milk, Gen Z should be skeptical before believing that any dairy products are healthy.

Finally, if the dairy industry is so concerned about consumers’ health and lifestyle then they should educate people on the dangers of eating too much dairy in its highly processed forms. Obviously, they will not do this, since their incentives are to make a profit at all costs.

When society wanted young people turned off to the allure of smoking, education campaigns taught us the greed of tobacco companies. For young people just learning about these deceptive tactics, choosing not to smoke became an act against the establishment.

In a similar vein, marketing dairy milk as a health drink is a greedy, profits-above-all strategy that mirrors the apathy and trickery of the tobacco industry. Big dairy is unconcerned about the health of consumers and cares more about their bottom line. Reject the marketing and reject the establishment that says you need something that you do not.

Dan Hahn is an English composition/rhetoric graduate student. He can be reached at [email protected] or 217-581-2812.