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Survey: Majority of adults still prefer dairy milk

three glasses of milk on blue background
Dairy consumption inclusive of milk continues to grow in U.S.

A new national tracking poll of 2,200 Americans revealed that 86% of U.S. adults prefer dairy milk over “other” beverages, including plant-based beverages. When given the option to choose among whole, reduced-fat 2%, low-fat 1%, skim or other (almond, soy, oat, other plant-based or lactose-free) types of milk or “do not consume” milk, respondents overwhelmingly chose 2% and whole milks because they believe they are most nutritious for them and their families. The poll was conducted by Morning Consult, in partnership with the International Dairy Foods Assn. (IDFA).

By a margin of more than 2-1, U.S. adults also said it is important to offer low-fat flavored milks with school meals. By a 3-1 margin, U.S. adults believe it is important to offer 2% and whole milk with school meals.

Other key findings included:

  • 67% of adults across key demographics believe 2% and whole milk are the most nutritious types of milk, 36% of adults believe 2% milk is the most nutritious and 31% believe whole milk is the most nutritious.
  • Strong opinions in favor of offering flavored milk in schools vastly outweigh strong opinions against it. Half of adults believe it is important for the public school their child attends to offer low-fat flavored milk with school meals, while just 22% believe it is unimportant., and 29% have no opinion.
  • Adults feel similarly about fuller-fat milk with school meals — by a 3-1 margin, with 53% saying it’s important that choices like 2% and whole milk are offered in schools, while just 18% feel it is unimportant. Currently, only low-fat 1% and skim milks are allowed in schools.
  • Overall, more women than men believe it is more important that their children have access to fuller-fat and flavored milks in school.
  • Forty-two percent of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants prefer whole milk for themselves or their families. SNAP participants also report that they believe whole milk is the most nutritious (46%) -- the only demographic to do so. Of the 2,200 respondents, 336 self-identified as SNAP participants.
  • Respondents with incomes under $50,000 (inclusive of 336 participants in SNAP and 115 in Women, Infants & Children who self-identified) believe more strongly than those with higher incomes (above $50,000) that fuller-fat milks are most nutritious and prefer offering these options as well as low-fat flavored milks for their children in school.
  • More than three-quarters (77%) of adults found it important to have a variety of options to choose from when purchasing types of milk.

“As the U.S. school year gets underway and millions of American families get back to the routine of juggling the work/school/life balance, maintaining proper nutrition for themselves and their families is top of mind,” IDFA president and chief executive officer Dr. Michael Dykes said. “Therefore, it is important that policy-makers and regulators who influence what we eat stay grounded in the reality of what American families prefer and value.”

Dykes said the results clearly show that some policy decisions and discussions — especially those regarding school meals and nutrition programs — are completely out of step with consumer preference and habits as well as sound dietary guidance.

“Families recognize that milk provides numerous health benefits, including better bone health, helps to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease and is the leading food source of calcium, vitamin D and potassium in the diet of American children," he said. "The public’s opinion is clear. Will our policy-makers now listen?”

Dairy consumption continues to grow

Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service further confirms that U.S. dairy consumption continues to grow. IDFA said this, combined with the results from the Morning Consult poll, helps underscore a reality that often goes unreported or is misreported by the media — that dairy consumption inclusive of milk is growing in the U.S.

According to USDA’s Health & Human Services, American children and adolescents over four years old are not consuming enough dairy to meet the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendations. The American Academy of Pediatrics also states, “Dairy products play an important role in the diet of children. … In fact, milk is the leading food source of three of the four nutrients of public health concern (calcium, vitamin D and potassium) in the diet of American children 2-18 years.”

Further, reduced-lactose or lactose-free dairy products are now widely available, IDFA noted.

Overall, a growing body of data and research supports dairy’s healthfulness, the group added.

For example, a recent recommendation by Australia’s Heart Foundation that healthy Australians can include full-fat milk, cheese and yogurt without increasing their risk of heart disease or stroke is important, official nutritional guidance related to dairy. A study released last summer in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition came to similar conclusion about the fats in dairy products such as whole milk.

When the study was released, the researcher told The Atlantic magazine, “I think the big news here is that even though there is this conventional wisdom that whole-fat dairy is bad for heart disease, we didn’t find that.”

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