Dairy farmers and dairy groups have a healthful and valuable product to promote, and thanks to those efforts, the majority of people can cite that dairy is a good source of calcium, vitamin D, and protein and contributes to strong bones and teeth, a new survey finds.

The International Food Information Council asked more than 3,000 Americans of all ages and varying backgrounds what they knew and how they felt about dairy products. Nearly eight in 10 believed that dairy is an essential part of a healthy and balanced diet, and while more than half admitted that there is conflicting information about if they should consume dairy, over 75% still said the health benefits outweigh any potential health concerns they have.

When asked about what nutrients are available from dairy products, 86% of people knew dairy provides calcium, 74% knew it delivers vitamin D, and 58% knew it is a good source of protein.

Nearly all respondents (96%) reported they have heard that dairy can help promote bone health. Further, 79% had heard that dairy can help promote dental health, and 73% said they have heard that dairy can help build and repair muscles. The support of heart health and a healthy immune system were lesser known (54% and 65%, respectively).

Who consumers reported getting information on dairy’s health value differed from who they said they trusted to provide good information. Unsurprisingly, doctors and registered dieticians or nutritionists were considered the most trustworthy, followed by government agencies, friends and family, health websites or blogs, and fitness professionals.

However, only 21% reported hearing information about the healthfulness of dairy products from a doctor or healthcare professional in the past few years. Respondents mostly reported hearing about dairy’s health qualities from friends and family (29%), social media (23%), and health websites or blogs (22%).

More than half (58%) of the dairy information received from friends and family was reported as being perceived in a positive light. Upward of 70% of the dairy information received from doctors and registered dieticians or nutritionists was perceived as positive.

Barriers to consumption

The most common negative beliefs respondents had heard about dairy were that dairy farmers were using more hormones and more antibiotics to produce milk. About 70% of respondents had heard both statements, and about two-thirds of those people reported believing them.

Lactose intolerance was reported in 16% of respondents and 20% said another person in their household was lactose intolerant. Of those who reported lactose intolerance, 39% said they took medication for it. Less than 10% reported having a milk allergy themselves or in their household.

More than half — 57% — of those with an intolerance in their household reported using dairy alternatives, while 36% of all respondents did. Plant-based alternatives were the most common substitutions, followed by water and then coffee or tea. People without children, those who are not eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Asian or Pacific Islander people were more likely to substitute plant-based alternatives for milk. Of those who reported drinking plant-based alternatives, most did so multiple times a week and say it is because the beverages are good for their health (57%) and they like the taste (55%).

There was not one clear reason for lower milk consumption, the report noted. Milk reaching its expiration date was a top reason for not consuming more dairy, and some reported not liking the taste of milk. Still, more than one-third of respondents chose no reason for not consuming more milk, cheese, and yogurt. This suggests “passive avoidance,” the researchers said, where there is no particular reason a person opts not to purchase dairy products.

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(c) Hoard's Dairyman Intel 2024
May 27, 2024
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