By April Dodd
Since 2001, World Milk Day has been observed by the United Nations on June 1st. It was initiated by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN to mark the importance of dairy. Last year, World Milk Day was celebrated in over 80 countries. Some of my favorite activities from 2017 included the inauguration of a milk chilling center in Sri Lanka, a cooking contest in Nigeria, an exercise session attended by over 5,000 people in Singapore, and milk-powered football matches in Myanmar. These were in addition to family meals, farm visits, fun runs, distributions of milk in schools, seminars, and hundreds of other events. I am blown away by the creativity that people all across the world, starting at sunrise in New Zealand and wrapping up at sunset in Hawaii, showed last year in the name of celebrating milk. It’s not often that we get to truly feel that the world is coming together to champion a great cause, but World Milk Day is one of those opportunities, and I look forward to it each year for that reason.
World Milk Day focuses on raising public awareness about the importance of milk as part of a healthy and balanced diet and as an agricultural product – in other words, with the perspective of a consumer and also with the perspective of a producer. This may seem like a minor nuance, but considering both of these points of view when thinking about the value of milk is incredibly important, because in addition to providing essential nutrients to billions of consumers, milk and dairy products also support the livelihoods of over a billion people worldwide. The same glass of milk that refreshes and nourishes a child at a school feeding program also supports the economic stability and physical health of a dairy farmer’s family. In this way, milk, like other highly nutritious agricultural products, contributes to a healthy and sustainable food system at multiple levels.
With so many diet fads and trends, it can be hard to keep track of what is declared good, safe, and nutritious to eat. The good news is that milk and dairy products can be part of balanced and satisfying diets in nearly every part of the world.
Milk is a good source of a suite of vitamins and minerals. Often touted as a primary source of calcium, milk also provides protein, potassium, phosphorous, Vitamins D, B12, A, and niacin. Just one 8-ounce glass of milk provides the same amount of vitamin D you'd get from 3.5 ounces of cooked salmon, as much calcium as 2 ¼ cups of broccoli, as much potassium as a small banana, as much vitamin A as two baby carrots, and as much phosphorus as a cup of kidney beans! That’s a food product that really packs a punch. Plus, milk-drinking is associated with lower blood pressure, which gives your heart a break.
If you aren’t one to sit down and drink a glass of milk, that doesn’t mean you won’t benefit from dairy’s wide array of nutritional benefits – those same qualities are in dairy products like yogurt, cheese, and buttermilk! A cup of yogurt or 2 ounces (56 grams) of cheese is a good serving size reference.
Farmers worldwide care for about 365 million dairy cattle. In developing countries, most farmers’ herds are very small, containing just 2-3 cows on average; in fact, farms with more than 100 cows represent just 0.3% of all dairy farms globally. Small herds support family nutrition and are sources of year-round income through milk sales. Access to a year-round source of earnings is especially important in countries that experience dry, or “hunger,” seasons between periods of harvest. At the global level, milk contributes 5% of the world’s caloric energy and about 10% of the world’s protein.
Whether you are a fifth-generation dairy farmer or a young person exploring innovations in dairy, a self-declared connoisseur of ice cream or a taker of cream in your coffee, a lover of aged cheeses or an adventurous home cook busy stretching your own mozzarella, World Milk Day exists for you. We invite you to raise a glass to celebrate the benefits of milk in your life and celebrate the impact that it can have on other’s lives.
You can do this by joining the Raise A Glass
social media campaign, which last year took social media by storm, with over 400 million social media impressions on June 1st. If you want to go a step further, you can join the ranks of creative event organizers and put together your own event this year! If you are inspired to organize an event, I encourage you to register it on www.worldmilkday.org
, so that the World Milk Day team, who will be working hard over the next month to promote World Milk Day, can provide support to help you expand your own reach.
When we raise a glass to milk, we connect with others and invite them to join the celebration that the World Milk Day represents. It allows us to share the stories about the goodness of milk and of the people who produce it. It offers a simple, natural way to recognize the people who matter most to us in our communities, schools, and homes. I hope that you will join the movement!