Dairy milk is an obvious staple and critical player in the food industry. The dairy industry employs thousands of U.S. farmers and ranchers who, in turn, support the rest of the food industry. They do this by supplying a product that is safe, reliable, and useful in countless foods. At the same time, they create rippling economic impacts and even more downstream jobs.
From the process of milking a cow to selling a gallon of milk in stores, dairy milk plays an important part in the food industry. We can consider the importance of dairy milk in two overarching categories: its economic impact and its use within other food products. Here we will outline eight reasons dairy milk matters to the food industry within those two veins.
1) Dairy Creates Jobs
According to the U.S. Dairy Export Council, 2017 data shows that the dairy industry supported approximately 1 million direct American jobs. Even more impressive, it was also responsible for nearly 2 million indirect jobs in related industries, making that 3 million American jobs total.
2) Dairy Contributes around 1% of GDP
The overall estimated impact of dairy products produced and sold in the United States was estimated from the same data to be around $628 billion, or 1.09% of U.S. GDP. A lot of the benefactors of this productivity are businesses throughout the food industry. And as much as domestic dairy milk production and distribution create jobs and boost the national economy, exports of dairy milk add even more to U.S. prosperity.
Dairy Milk’s Pervasive Presence in Many Foods
We already know that dairy milk gives rise to tons of other beloved dairy products such as cheese, butter, yogurt, ice cream, and coffee creamers. We also know that those products are necessary or flavorful additions to an infinite variety of other foods.
But dairy milk might surprise you with just how many other foods include it. For the remainder of our reasons why dairy milk matters to the food industry, we submit the following food categories as examples of how other seemingly unrelated businesses are reliant on this one ingredient.
3) Dairy Milk Is in Bread and Crackers
Manufacturers often add lactose to bread and crackers as a sweetener. It also acts as a preservative, helping to keep the bread moist.
4) Dairy Milk Is in Baked Goods
It might seem obvious, but if you think about it, there is almost no baked good product that can go without milk or some milk derivative ingredient. Cakes, cookies, frosting, and all the rest essentially garner their iconic flavors from the lactose in the food. Vegan alternatives do exist now, but they struggle to match in taste.
5) Dairy Milk Is in Hot Dogs and Sausages
As with bread, dairy ingredients frequently turn up in the unlikely food group of hot dogs and sausages. That is probably also for taste and texture reasons.
6) Dairy Milk Is in Canned Foods
Canned soups, boxed soups, vegetable broths, even canned tuna contain elements of dairy milk. It might be in the form of milk solids or milk protein like hydrolyzed caseinate.
7) Dairy Milk Is in Butter Alternatives Like Margarine
Yes, many margarine brands supplying the supposed alternative to butter contain lactose as well.
8) Dairy Milk Is in Salad Dressing, Chips, Instant Meals, and More
Hundreds of other foods contain lactose, milk protein, or some other derivative of dairy milk to enhance their flavors and structures. These include many kinds of salad dressings, flavored chips, and dried products like instant mashed potatoes.