Move Over Skim Milk: Whole Milk is Getting More Popular

May 25, 2016

It wasn't until I left home for college that I even considered the possibility of milk that was not 2%. Growing up, we always had the gallon with the dark blue top—4 ounces at breakfast, 4 ounces at dinner.

2% was my normal, so much so that I was confused when I arrived on campus and the choices next to the cereal station were limited to skim and whole. And even today—when I use whole milk to make yogurt and soften coffee—I was still surprised when Daniel Horan, the C.E.O. of Five Acre Farms, a supplier of local milk to the New York City metro area, told me that 80% of their fluid milk sales come from whole milk.

That's not a fluke for Five Acres. Dr. Bill Weiss, a professor in the Department of Animal Sciences at The Ohio State University's Agricultural Research and Development Center, told me that while fluid milk consumption has been decreasing in general, whole milk is up year over year; skim milk consumption, on the other hand, which has been trending upwards for the longest time, is on the downswing. (As compared to fluid milk consumption, per capita dairy consumption—which includes cheese, yogurt, sour cream, etc.—has been increasing a little bit every year, practically forever.)

Shop the Story

The USDA's Estimated Fluid Milk Products Sales Report from May 13, 2016 affirms Dr. Weiss's point: Conventional whole milk was up 5.2% from the previous year, whereas fat-free milk was down -10.2%.

And when we polled our Twitter audience, they—you?—corroborated (keep in mind that this is, of course, a selection bias here).

So why is whole milk on the rise while reduced fat, low fat, and fat-free milk are all slumping? Perhaps it's another death knell of the 90s low-fat craze—and a sign of the growing perception, and the articles and studies that support these beliefs, that there are good reasons to choose whole milk rather than its lower-fat siblings (taste being only one of many).

Stay on top of the recent (or recent-ish) milk news, then make an informed decision yourself:

If you're finding all of these reports (which can seem contradictory and ever-changing) a little hard to stomach, then keep the words of Professor Marion Nestle, expert on food politics, in mind: "In nutrition, there are no absolutes, only relative statements in the context of everything else someone eats," she told the Guardian: "I don’t think the kind of milk or milk at all matters if the overall diet is reasonable. Everything in moderation."

Tell us: What kind of milk do you buy (and does that vary depending on its intended purpose)? Has this changed over time?

Listen Now

On Black & Highly Flavored, co-hosts Derek Kirk and Tamara Celeste shine a light on the need-to-know movers and shakers of our food & beverage industry.

Listen Now

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • rachiti
  • Anne Tokos
    Anne Tokos
  • Melody
  • btglenn
  • Taste of France
    Taste of France
I used to work at Food52. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream.


rachiti June 9, 2016
I grew up on 2% then 1% then skim by the time I was 9 or 10 years old. Moved in with my husband - a whole milk drinker - and got sick of never having enough room in the fridge. He showed me the research...and I was a convert. I love how creamy it tastes - I just watch my portion size. I actually drink significantly LESS milk now than I did when I drank skim...but I enjoy it a lot more. It's also great because I can make decent yogurt if the gallon jug nears expiry before we've finished it. This week - I got a gallon of local conventional milk for less than $1 - so extra yogurt will be enjoyed in our household...and possibly paneer too. I couldn't make nearly as much if I only had skim on hand.
Anne T. May 25, 2016
The only milk I ever buy/have bought is whole milk. In the last ten years or so-as it is now more readily available-not homogenized. And "just" pasteurized-not ultra.( Same goes for yogurt. Plain, whole milk yogurt. )
Melody May 25, 2016
...Where can I find the recipe for the bars in the photo??
btglenn May 25, 2016
I stopped drinking whole milk because of a cholesterol problem, but never liked skim milk. In the past few years almond milk has become widely available, and has become my "dairy" product of choice -- for drinking and cooking. I do use buttermilk and sour cream as well.
Taste O. May 25, 2016
We don't drink much milk, but we recently bought some raw milk at a farm (in France, not the U.S.). Wow. Really yummy!!!!
HalfPint May 25, 2016
We were a 1% milk household. I was never really satisfied with skim or 1% for drinking and cooking. Then I had a baby last year and she eventually needed whole milk. So here we are buying whole milk, because I didn't see the need for and could not really fit 2 containers of milk in our fridge. And I have to say that I've enjoyed having whole milk again.