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Study: Changes in Canadians' preferences for milk and dairy products, 1960 to 2015

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Released: 2017-04-21

This article examines the decline in commercial sales of milk since 2009, as well as what types of milk Canadians have preferred since 1960. It also studies the changing popularity of different types of dairy products such as yogurt and ice cream.

Overall, Canadians' preferences for milk and dairy products have shifted from high-fat products to low-fat ones. In spite of increases in Canada's population, sales of commercial milk have not followed the same trend. This might be due in part to an aging and more ethnically diverse population, one that is less likely to consume milk and dairy products.

Telling Canada's story in numbers; #ByTheNumbers

In celebration of the country's 150th birthday, Statistics Canada is presenting snapshots from our rich statistical history.

The Canadian dairy industry has its origins in the 1500s, when settlers brought dairy cattle over from Europe. The Canadian dairy industry has since grown into a $6 billion industry, according to 2015 farm cash receipts. It is the third-largest agricultural industry in Canada and the largest in Quebec.

From 1921 to 1941, the number of dairy cows reported in the Census of Agriculture increased. From 1956 onwards, the number of dairy cows in Canada has steadily declined. Milk production peaked in 1966 with eight billion litres and has since remained relatively steady, ranging from seven to eight billion litres a year.

Milk production has remained steady despite a large decrease in the number of dairy cows. The quantity of milk produced by each cow has gone up almost 400% since 1921, when dairy cows were producing roughly 1.6 kilolitres per year on average. By 2011, that number had increased to 8.1 kilolitres. Productivity increases may be due to changes in technology, such as robotic milking machines, or to the genetic improvement of dairy cows to maximize milk output.


The new issue of the publication VISTA on the Agri-food Industry and the Farm Community (Catalogue number21-004-X) is now available. Each issue contains a short article highlighting statistical insights on themes relating to agriculture, food and rural issues.

Contact information

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