June is National Dairy Month ─ Michigan consumers have reason to celebrate

Dairy products lining the shelves of the dairy case and freezer aisle offer consumers an abundant selection of healthy, safe and nutritious food.

Browse the dairy case in your local grocery store and you will see an incredible variety of dairy products. There’s milk (of course) cheese of all sorts, yogurt, ice cream and even granola bars available to consumers. To suit individual consumer needs and preferences, products come in low-fat, fat-free, lactose-free and flavored varieties.               

In an effort to understand the importance of the dairy industry in Michigan and why its contributions are recognized in June consider the following facts. Starting with the cows, the state ranks sixth in the United States with 2,160 dairy herds that have an average herd size of 169 cows. Michigan dairy farmers care for nearly 366,000 head which garners an eighth place ranking in the nation for total number of dairy cows. As for the milk, in 2011 Michigan ranked eighth in the nation for production, producing 8.5 billion pounds of milk or 4.3 percent of the nation’s milk. The state ranks fifth nationally for average milk production per cow per year with the average cow producing 2,704 gallons of milk a year. This equates to 43,264 8-ounce glasses of milk per cow per year!

Michigan’s dairy farmers want to show consumers how committed they are to their professions. For the fourth consecutive year, Michigan State University Extension is teaming up with Michigan farmers in an effort to connect consumers to modern agriculture. The program, Breakfast on the Farm, gives consumers and farm neighbors a first-hand look at modern food production and the families who dedicate their lives to producing a safe, wholesome food supply for Michigan and beyond. In 2012, seven of the eight events will be hosted by dairy farmers and their families. The events include a nutritious breakfast that features Michigan products and self-guided educational tours of the farms. Visitors will leave the farms with a greater understanding of and appreciation for what it takes to produce milk for consumers in Michigan and beyond. For more information, visit the Breakfast on the Farm website or contact MSU Extension agriculture literacy educators Mary Dunckel at (989) 354-9870 or Nancy Thelen at (734) 222-3825.

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