A spokesperson for the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District’s wastewater treatment system has confirmed that US farmers in the Upper Midwest have been pouring milk down the sewers due to excess supply. The amount of excess milk produced each day could be enough to fill 50 trailers.

It seems that the reason is a supply and demand issue, as farmers are producing more milk than ever (milk production across the country hit a record high in May 2023), and if they cannot sell it all, they discard it, kill more cows to adjust down the production and carry on. As they all are subsidised by the US government, they can continue discarding milk and killing cows as they see fit without losing money, independently of whether there is a decline in the consumption of milk or whether the number of vegans increases.  For them, cows are commodities that can be bred, exploited, and killed as they see fit, and it may be more profitable for them to breed more than they need and then “get rid” of surplus, than not breeding enough. 

Dumping  milk is part of the dairy industry, with a 2016 report predicting that US farmers throw away 43 million gallons each year. The consumption per capita of fluid milk (not cheese and butter) has fallen over each of the last seven decades, but as the population of Americans keeps growing, this is not really threatening the industry (especially in Wisconsin as it is the biggest cheese producer in the US, and 90% of its milk is made into cheese). In 1970, the average person consumed 0.96 cups a day, but this fell to 0.69 by 2000, and 0.49 by 2019. However, people are consuming more cheese, so this, together with the constant government subsidies, explains why farmers do not care that much if they have to dump some milk now and then.

Jordi Casamitjana
“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.