VISTA on the Agri-food Industry and the Farm Community
Changes in Canadians’ preferences for milk and dairy products

by Michelle St. Pierre

Release date: April 21, 2017

Introduction

The dairy industry in Canada started in the 1500s when settlers brought dairy cattle over from Europe. It evolved in the late 1800s when Louis Pasteur invented pasteurization, the process of heating milk to kill its bacteria. This innovation made milk consumption safer. The Canadian dairy industry has since grown into a $6 billion industry, as can be seen from 2015 farm cash receipts. It is the third-largest agricultural industry in Canada and the largest in Quebec.Note 1 Dairy milk is processed into fresh milk (of different fat content levels) and many different dairy products, including ice cream, yogurt and cheese. This article will show how commercial sales of fluid milk and the preferences of milk and dairy products have changed over the last few decades.

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Food availability refers to the food statistics designed to provide annual measures of selected food products availability for consumption on a per capita basis. These statistics are derived using a supply and disposition framework (beginning and ending inventory, production, imports, exports, processing, losses) and population data.Note 2

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The decline of commercial milk sales since 2009

As Canada’s population increases, one would also expect the commercial sales of milk to increase. However, with an aging and more ethnically diverse population, who are less likely to drink milk, milk sales have not followed the total population increase. Chart 1 shows the total commercial sales of all fat levels of milk from 1977 to 2015.

Commercial sales of milk, Canada, 1977-2015

Data table for Chart 1
Data table for Chart 1
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 1. The information is grouped by Year (appearing as row headers), All milk , Standard milk 3.25% , Partly skimmed milk 2%, Partly skimmed milk 1%, Skim milk, Buttermilk and Chocolate and other flavoured milk, calculated using kilolitres units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Year All milk Standard milk 3.25% Partly skimmed milk 2% Partly skimmed milk 1% Skim milk Buttermilk Chocolate and other flavoured milk
kilolitres
1977 2,343,180 1,022,379 1,141,403 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 84,921 14,547 79,930
1978 2,402,685 1,004,815 1,207,135 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 88,219 14,962 87,554
1979 2,489,372 1,003,728 1,284,110 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 91,989 15,090 94,455
1980 2,521,107 994,288 1,324,874 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 91,025 14,818 96,102
1981 2,533,721 969,534 1,369,600 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 83,680 14,238 96,669
1982 2,554,326 933,083 1,433,119 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 85,583 13,924 88,617
1983 2,553,802 886,607 1,478,620 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 88,031 14,369 86,175
1984 2,562,164 848,453 1,517,143 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 95,328 13,519 87,721
1985 2,555,452 804,064 1,541,926 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 109,222 13,486 86,754
1986 2,607,778 774,204 1,604,704 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 123,676 13,542 91,652
1987 2,668,368 756,067 1,653,803 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 139,059 13,875 105,564
1988 2,664,824 719,301 1,679,403 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 145,473 13,622 107,025
1989 2,629,448 660,963 1,689,988 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 157,855 13,613 107,029
1990 2,643,558 607,449 1,577,450 161,985 175,371 13,426 107,877
1991 2,649,943 558,995 1,564,354 238,890 178,694 13,030 95,980
1992 2,626,795 522,502 1,531,546 289,474 177,617 12,593 93,063
1993 2,578,540 492,256 1,480,648 319,063 177,526 12,026 97,021
1994 2,633,063 487,423 1,454,605 377,113 191,495 12,036 110,391
1995 2,646,555 467,047 1,415,779 419,465 213,774 12,333 118,157
1996 2,666,459 455,962 1,394,336 457,720 229,698 11,837 116,906
1997 2,665,829 449,221 1,360,127 484,241 240,626 11,360 120,254
1998 2,676,966 445,719 1,347,497 494,851 247,758 13,084 128,057
1999 2,667,219 429,496 1,325,097 503,338 254,327 13,067 141,894
2000 2,706,966 435,774 1,326,772 529,536 263,597 12,040 139,247
2001 2,704,883 440,405 1,296,712 533,865 270,706 12,048 151,147
2002 2,683,417 424,771 1,272,619 540,836 277,006 13,217 154,968
2003 2,698,258 425,547 1,276,046 552,390 270,260 13,528 160,487
2004 2,733,795 418,017 1,281,205 572,017 276,051 14,144 172,361
2005 2,707,350 406,704 1,251,785 576,368 282,227 13,619 176,647
2006 2,721,462 402,461 1,252,055 590,044 283,655 13,691 179,556
2007 2,733,811 393,016 1,249,061 598,579 288,002 14,934 190,219
2008 2,729,811 377,088 1,242,981 604,388 288,886 14,591 201,877
2009 2,741,133 375,857 1,259,482 610,745 289,562 12,579 192,908
2010 2,658,344 359,681 1,215,337 591,879 283,175 11,308 196,964
2011 2,678,259 359,057 1,225,384 596,384 281,808 11,587 204,039
2012 2,663,413 357,136 1,230,693 586,955 273,301 11,723 203,605
2013 2,649,605 360,104 1,250,968 567,384 254,167 12,967 204,015
2014 2,602,700 361,332 1,249,317 538,156 229,752 11,924 212,219
2015 2,538,016 355,307 1,238,196 503,488 200,663 11,409 228,953

The sales of standard milk (3.25% fat) declined from 1977 to 1995. Consequently, the rate of decline slowed down until levelling off at around 355,300 kilolitres in 2015. Sales of partly skimmed milk (2% fat) increased from 1977 until 1989, then decreased until levelling off at around 1,250,000 kilolitres from 2009 onward. The sales of partly skimmed milk (1% fat) grew from 1990 (the first year data were collected) to 2009, after which they steadily decreased to 503,000 kilolitres in 2015. Skim milk (0% fat) increased progressively from 1977 to peak at around 290,000 kilolitres in 2009. Since then, skim milk has steadily decreased to around 201,000 kilolitres in 2015. Since 2007, availability for consumption of these milk products has gradually declined to levels below the level in 1981. The total commercial sales of all fat levels of milk peaked in 2009 at 2,741,000 kilolitres, then decreased to 2,538,000 kilolitres in 2015. In general, these trends in milk sales reflected the consumers demand for lower fat milk for health reasons.

The declining of milk products available for consumption

Per capita milk of all types available for consumptionNote 3 steadily increased from 1960 to peak at 98 litres in 1979 and 1980. Since then, it has gradually decreased to 64 litres per person per year in 2015. Year-over-year declines were more pronounced from 2009 to 2015.

Per capita milk available for consumption, Canada, 1960 to 2015

Data table for Chart 2
Data table for Chart 2
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 2. The information is grouped by Year (appearing as row headers), All milk , Standard milk 3.25% , Partly skimmed milk 2%, Partly skimmed milk 1% and Skim milk, calculated using litres per person per year units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Year All milk Standard milk 3.25% Partly skimmed milk 2% Partly skimmed milk 1% Skim milk
litres per person per year
1960 76.25 72.78 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 3.47
1961 81.29 70.70 7.04 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 3.55
1962 81.95 69.76 8.57 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 3.62
1963 82.67 68.42 10.51 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 3.74
1964 83.44 66.68 12.88 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 3.88
1965 91.41 72.39 15.09 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 3.93
1966 91.13 69.54 17.90 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 3.69
1967 90.37 66.30 20.72 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 3.35
1968 90.73 63.96 23.52 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 3.25
1969 90.66 60.81 26.72 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 3.13
1970 92.18 59.04 30.10 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 3.04
1971 91.26 55.56 32.38 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 3.32
1972 92.86 53.86 35.47 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 3.53
1973 94.67 52.18 38.61 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 3.88
1974 95.11 49.97 41.28 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 3.86
1975 92.35 46.01 42.72 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 3.62
1976 94.02 44.56 45.89 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 3.57
1977 94.78 43.09 48.11 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 3.58
1978 95.98 41.93 50.37 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 3.68
1979 98.33 41.47 53.06 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 3.80
1980 98.31 40.56 54.04 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 3.71
1981 97.61 39.06 55.18 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 3.37
1982 97.62 37.15 57.06 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 3.41
1983 96.71 34.95 58.29 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 3.47
1984 96.10 33.13 59.25 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 3.72
1985 95.01 31.11 59.67 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 4.23
1986 95.88 29.66 61.48 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 4.74
1987 96.38 28.59 62.53 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 5.26
1988 94.96 26.85 62.68 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 5.43
1989 91.98 24.23 61.96 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 5.79
1990 91.09 21.94 56.97 5.85 6.33
1991 90.63 19.94 55.80 8.52 6.37
1992 88.86 18.42 53.98 10.20 6.26
1993 86.09 17.16 51.62 11.12 6.19
1994 86.57 16.81 50.16 13.00 6.60
1995 85.88 15.94 48.32 14.32 7.30
1996 85.71 15.40 47.09 15.46 7.76
1997 84.74 15.02 45.48 16.19 8.05
1998 84.10 14.78 44.69 16.41 8.22
1999 82.65 14.13 43.59 16.56 8.37
2000 83.29 14.20 43.24 17.26 8.59
2001 81.77 14.03 41.80 17.21 8.73
2002 80.21 13.55 40.58 17.25 8.83
2003 79.78 13.45 40.33 17.46 8.54
2004 79.76 13.09 40.12 17.91 8.64
2005 78.06 12.61 38.82 17.88 8.75
2006 77.63 12.36 38.44 18.12 8.71
2007 76.89 11.95 37.98 18.20 8.76
2008 75.60 11.34 37.39 18.18 8.69
2009 74.80 11.18 36.85 18.16 8.61
2010 73.07 10.57 36.38 17.80 8.32
2011 71.72 10.46 35.68 17.37 8.21
2012 70.44 10.28 35.41 16.89 7.86
2013 69.19 10.24 35.58 16.14 7.23
2014 66.98 10.16 35.15 15.12 6.55
2015 64.09 10.08 34.44 13.99 5.58

Chart 2 shows changing consumer preferences from higher-fat to lower-fat milk. This trend is most noticeable between standard 3.25% milk and partly skimmed 2% milk. Per capita, partly skimmed 2% milk became Canadian consumers’ preferred milk product in 1976, surpassing standard milk available for consumption. Partly skimmed 2% milk peaked at 62.7 litres per person per year in 1988. Partly skimmed 2% milk available for consumption declined since 1989 to reach 34.4 litres per person in 2015.

Standard 3.25% milk experienced a sharp decline from 1960 to the late 1980s, and was replaced by partially skimmed 2% milk. Since the 1990s, standard 3.25% milk available for consumption has levelled off. In 1960, Canadians had standard 3.25% milk available for consumption at an average of 72.8 litres per person. Fifty-five years later, this average was down to 10.1 litres per person per year.

Partly skimmed 1% milk available for consumption increased sharply in the 1990s to reach 17.3 litres per person in 2000. From 2000 to 2009, partly skimmed 1% milk levelled off at between 17 and 18 litres per person per year. Since 2009, partly skimmed 1% milk available for consumption has decreased 23%, reaching 14 litres per person per year in 2015.

Skim milk available for consumption remained stable between 3 and 4 litres per person per year from 1960 to the mid-1980s. It then steadily increased to peak at 8.8 litres per person in 2002. Skim milk available for consumption has since declined to 5.6 litres per person per year (in 2015), a 37% drop. The substitution between higher fat to lower fat milk might be explained by consumers demand for healthier products. Partly skimmed 1% milk and skim milk demand never took off like partially skimmed 2% milk did during 1960 to 1990. Skim and 1% partly skimmed milk might not have struck the palate of Canadian consumers as 2% milk did.

The overall decline of all types of milk since 2009 may be the result of more dairy milk substitutes available to consumers, such as soy milk and almond milk. Some people are also choosing frozen desserts with alternative bases, such as coconut oil, instead of ice cream. This rise in dairy alternatives may also reflect demand from people who are lactose intolerant or who have specific dietary preferences. While Canadian data are available only for traditional milk and not milk substitutes, there is data on both traditional milk and almond milk growth in the United States.

Chart 3, based on the Nielsen Company and Mintel data, shows sales of traditional and almond milk in the United States from 2011 to 2015. From 2011 to 2012, almond milk sales grew 59.8%, while traditional milk sales fell 0.7%. This trend has continued: almond milk sales in 2015 were 7.5% higher than in 2014, which, over five years, led to a total increase in sales of over 250% and over $894 million in total sales. Traditional milk sales in the United States saw a slight increase of 3.1% from 2013 to 2014, but, by 2015, sales had declined another 7%.

Sales of traditional milk and almond milk, United-States, 2011-2015

Data table for Chart 3
Data table for Chart 3
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 3. The information is grouped by Year (appearing as row headers), Traditional milk and Almond milk, calculated using billions of dollars units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Year Traditional milk Almond milk
billions of dollars
2011 19,018 248
2012 18,885 396
2013 18,564 594
2014 19,140 830
2015 17,800 895

Dairy products available for consumption

Ice cream available for consumption dropped over 65% from 12.7 litres per person in 1979 to 4.4 litres per person in 2015 (Chart 4).

Per capita  yogurt and ice cream available for consumption, Canada, 1960 to 2015

Data table for Chart 4
Data table for Chart 4
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 4. The information is grouped by Year (appearing as row headers), Yogurt, Ice cream, Sherbet and Ice milk, calculated using litres per person per year units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Year Yogurt Ice cream Sherbet Ice milk
litres per person per year
1960 0.04 10.47 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period Note ..: not available for a specific reference period
1961 0.04 10.74 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period Note ..: not available for a specific reference period
1962 0.04 10.78 0.12 0.38
1963 0.08 11.22 0.13 0.38
1964 0.08 11.64 0.14 0.54
1965 0.09 11.93 0.16 0.68
1966 0.10 12.15 0.17 0.73
1967 0.14 12.48 0.18 0.89
1968 0.22 12.25 0.18 0.90
1969 0.28 12.59 0.17 1.00
1970 0.38 12.79 0.18 1.02
1971 0.47 12.41 0.16 1.17
1972 0.55 12.46 0.17 1.17
1973 0.61 12.23 0.18 1.11
1974 0.64 12.18 0.17 0.96
1975 0.70 12.41 0.14 1.01
1976 0.88 11.92 0.15 1.14
1977 1.16 12.27 0.13 1.21
1978 1.65 12.00 0.15 1.20
1979 1.61 12.71 0.15 0.95
1980 1.61 12.72 0.13 0.96
1981 1.64 12.57 0.12 1.02
1982 1.70 12.08 0.10 1.01
1983 1.86 12.28 0.13 1.00
1984 2.08 11.76 0.11 1.25
1985 2.37 12.00 0.10 1.21
1986 2.69 12.19 0.10 1.26
1987 3.04 11.76 0.13 1.11
1988 3.21 11.73 0.11 1.28
1989 3.26 11.36 0.12 1.30
1990 3.09 11.26 0.12 1.17
1991 2.99 10.65 0.12 1.24
1992 2.91 10.02 0.12 1.06
1993 3.04 10.90 0.14 1.36
1994 3.09 11.74 0.17 1.47
1995 3.05 11.39 0.19 1.77
1996 3.17 10.87 0.17 1.96
1997 3.19 10.35 0.22 1.88
1998 3.46 10.18 0.18 1.97
1999 4.05 10.02 0.21 1.86
2000 4.59 8.62 0.39 2.09
2001 4.88 9.22 0.35 2.23
2002 5.39 9.49 0.21 2.17
2003 5.86 8.77 0.19 2.06
2004 6.31 8.41 0.29 1.96
2005 6.77 8.85 0.19 1.84
2006 7.21 9.21 0.17 1.69
2007 7.40 8.02 0.17 1.65
2008 7.92 6.89 0.17 1.72
2009 8.04 5.53 0.14 1.64
2010 8.56 5.54 0.18 2.24
2011 8.91 5.44 0.16 2.86
2012 9.99 5.53 0.14 2.80
2013 9.51 5.11 0.12 2.78
2014 9.62 5.48 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 2.69
2015 10.85 4.43 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 2.99

During the same period, yogurt available for consumption increased from 1.6 litres per person to 10.9 litres per person. The decrease in ice cream may be a result of a more health-conscious population or of the replacement of ice cream with “frozen desserts” many made from frozen yogurt. Some of the decrease in ice cream may also reflect the increase in ice milk available for consumption. However, Canadians had definitely switched to healthier lower fat products.

Cheddar cheese availability has increased 149% from 1.3 kilograms of cheese per person in 1960 to 3.2 kilograms in 2015 (Chart 5). Canadian consumers have also expanded their palate for more refined cheeses. Variety cheeses have increased steadily since 1960 from 0.6 kilograms per person to level off from 6 to 7.1 kilograms per person between 1997 and 2015.

Processed cheese has declined from a high of 3.1 kilograms per person in 1990 to a low of 1.57 kilograms per person in 2015. This may also reflect a more health-conscious population or an aversion to processed foods. Cottage cheese available for consumption has remained relatively low, ranging from 0.6 to 1.3 kilograms per person per year during the 1960-to-2015 period.

Per capita cheese available for consumption, Canada, 1960 to 2015

Data table for Chart 5
Data table for Chart 5
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 5. The information is grouped by Year (appearing as row headers), Cheddar cheese, Processed cheese, Variety cheese and Cottage cheese, calculated using kilograms per person per year units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Year Cheddar cheese Processed cheese Variety cheese Cottage cheese
kilograms per person per year
1960 1.28 1.40 0.58 0.57
1961 1.31 1.43 0.65 0.60
1962 1.49 1.49 0.67 0.62
1963 1.47 1.55 0.74 0.66
1964 1.54 1.62 0.75 0.69
1965 1.55 1.73 0.84 0.71
1966 1.33 1.91 0.93 0.72
1967 1.52 1.88 1.05 0.73
1968 1.51 1.97 1.21 0.75
1969 1.63 2.09 1.39 0.83
1970 1.88 2.04 1.48 0.92
1971 1.83 2.11 1.67 0.97
1972 2.08 2.32 1.36 1.01
1973 2.26 2.46 1.51 1.08
1974 2.07 2.55 2.24 1.02
1975 1.92 2.51 2.33 1.00
1976 1.59 2.64 2.64 1.05
1977 1.44 2.70 2.78 1.09
1978 1.46 2.92 3.01 1.10
1979 1.79 2.75 3.03 1.11
1980 2.08 2.87 2.89 1.23
1981 2.45 2.91 3.03 1.26
1982 2.05 2.96 3.44 1.19
1983 2.18 2.98 3.37 1.20
1984 2.12 2.80 3.32 1.20
1985 2.61 2.73 3.83 1.32
1986 2.61 2.61 4.37 1.25
1987 2.91 2.73 4.65 1.18
1988 3.03 2.98 4.77 1.16
1989 3.08 2.94 4.82 1.11
1990 3.05 3.05 4.88 1.12
1991 3.12 2.77 5.30 1.03
1992 3.08 2.79 5.40 0.92
1993 3.02 2.71 5.45 0.88
1994 3.19 2.77 5.60 0.87
1995 3.24 2.74 5.63 0.83
1996 3.07 2.58 5.66 0.76
1997 3.18 2.44 6.53 0.72
1998 3.16 2.25 6.34 0.71
1999 3.28 2.39 6.22 0.71
2000 3.17 2.35 6.56 0.79
2001 3.13 2.47 6.28 0.78
2002 3.10 2.25 6.45 0.79
2003 3.13 2.22 6.40 0.78
2004 3.09 2.35 6.72 0.82
2005 3.26 2.25 6.57 0.85
2006 3.40 2.30 6.57 0.85
2007 3.04 2.24 7.05 0.91
2008 3.22 2.13 7.07 0.90
2009 3.31 2.10 7.02 0.78
2010 3.43 1.86 6.93 0.77
2011 3.35 2.06 6.87 0.75
2012 3.24 1.99 6.87 0.75
2013 3.31 1.92 7.20 0.72
2014 3.25 1.78 7.17 0.68
2015 3.19 1.57 7.13 0.60

Conclusion

The last 35 years have seen lower-fat milks and dairy products substituted for higher-fat milks and dairy products, which may indicate that consumers are choosing perceived healthier options. Total commercial sales of fluid milk rose until 2009, after which they decreased. Alternatively, milk substitutes have risen consistently over the past five years. This is echoed by the decrease in processed cheese available. In general, Canadians’ dairy choices are trending away from traditional milk and processed or high-fat products towards lower fat dairy sources and dairy alternatives.

References

Barratt, R. F. (2006, February 7). Dairy Industry. Retrieved August 16, 2016, from the Canadian Encyclopedia: http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/dairy-industry/.

Canadian Dairy Commission. (2016, May 30). Harmonized Milk Classification System. Retrieved August 15, 2016, from Canadian Dairy Commission: http://www.cdc-ccl.gc.ca/CDC/index-eng.php?id=3811.

Canadian Dairy Commission. (2016, May 30). Supply Management. Retrieved July 11, 2016, from Canadian Dairy Commission: http://www.cdc-ccl.gc.ca/CDC/index-eng.php?id=3806.

Dairy Goodness. (2016, March 11). The History of Milk. Retrieved August 15, 2016, from Dairy Goodness: https://www.dairygoodness.ca/milk/the-history-of-milk.

Elbon, S., Johnson, M., & Fischer, J. (1998). Milk consumption in older Americans. Retrieved from American Journal of Public Health: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1508311/

Hall Findley, M. (2012, June). Supply Management: Problems, Politics - and Possibilities. (T. Giannuzzi, Ed.) The School of Public Policy Research Papers, 5(19), 4-7.

Mintel. (2016, April 20). US sales of dairy milk turn sour as non-dairy milk sales grow 9% in 2015. Retrieved January 23, 2017, from Mintel.

Nielsen Company. (2016, March 31). Americans are Nuts for Almond Milk. Retrieved August 25, 2016, from Nielsen: http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2016/americans-are-nuts-for-almond-milk.html.

Parmalat. (2015). How Milk is Made. Retrieved August 3, 2016, from Parmalat: http://www.parmalat.com.au/info-center/the-truth-about-milk/.

ProCon.org. (2011, April 4). How Milk Gets from the Cow to the Store. Retrieved August 3, 2016, from ProCon.org: http://milk.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000658&&print=true.

Statistics Canada. (2012, December 7). Table 004-0004 - Census of Agriculture, selected livestock and poultry data, Canada and provinces, every 5 years (number). Retrieved August 10, 2016, from CANSIM (database).

Statistics Canada. (2016, April 5). Table 203-0028 - Survey of household spending (SHS), detailed food expenditures, Canada, regions and provinces, annual (dollars). Retrieved January 19, 2016, from CANSIM (database).

Statistics Canada. (2016, May 24). Table 002-0001 - Farm cash receipts, annual (dollars). Retrieved July 14, 2016, from CANSIM (database).

Statistics Canada. (2016, June 24). Table 003-0012 - Commercial sales of milk and cream, monthly (kilolitres). Retrieved July 7, 2016, from CANSIM (database).

Statistics Canada. (n.d.). Table 002-0011 - Food available in Canada, annual (kilograms per person, per year unless otherwise noted). Retrieved July 19, 2016, from CANSIM (database).

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From farm to table

Ideally, a female adult cow produces milk for 10 months following the birth of her calf. She is then dry for two months to prepare for the birth of her next calf. Some of the milk produced is used to feed the calf, while a majority is placed in a refrigerated tank for up to 48 hours. Every day or two, the milk is collected by a tanker driver who checks the quality of the milk, grades it and brings it to a processing plant. A sample from the milk tanker is tested for antibiotics and temperature and a sample from the farm vat is tested for milkfat, protein, bulk milk cell count and bacteria count. The whole milk then undergoes pasteurization, homogenization, separation and further processing. Pasteurization is the process of heating milk to kill bacteria. Homogenization disperses the fat in the milk so it does not float to the top of the container. Separation is the spinning of the milk to remove the cream, which is then remixed to bring the milk to the desired level of milkfat. Other processes include culturing the milk for other products, microfiltration and ultra-high temperature treatment, which increases storage life. The milk is then packaged and delivered to stores to be sold.

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Supply management

In 1966 the Canadian Dairy Commission (CDC) was created under recommendation from the Canadian Dairy Advisory Committee. This led to the creation of the National Milk Marketing Plan in 1970. The plan started with Ontario and Quebec and included all provinces by 1974, except Newfoundland, which joined in 2001. Supply management has three main functions: price setting, protection from foreign competition and control of supply. The CDC sets prices based on demand, market conditions and cost. Milk pricing also depends on final use, with a classification based on perishability. The most perishable products, such as fluid milk, sell for the highest prices. Prices then decrease as shelf life increases, from yogurt, to cheese, to butter, and finally to powders, concentrated products, and dairy products used for further processing. Foreign competition is limited by high over-quota tariffs on dairy products. Control of supply is enforced by allowing farmers to produce only their allocated quota of milk. Quotas were originally allocated based on supply in 1971 and are transferable between producers. The Canadian Milk Supply Management Committee oversees the national production level and the supply of raw milk for fluid purposes to the provinces.

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