Economist says dairy demand remains strong but could change

A dairy economist says there might be a dip in dairy demand if consumers shift back to more dining away from their homes.  Mark Stephenson with the University of Wisconsin tells Brownfield restaurants and schools are trying to refill their pipeline and that’s helping keep demand stronger than many expected. “We’ve managed during the last year of the pandemic to keep demand up for most dairy products including cheese, which really surprised us, but it was a huge shift you know from out-of-home eating in restaurants, schools, and institutions to in-home eating, through retail.”

But he says if more people continue to work from home, he expects more people will continue dining at home, too. “We’ve had maybe close to a whole generation of people who were used to consuming their food in out-of-home eating that learned how to cook, or that learned that there was a certain joy in that and rediscovering their dining room table again.”

Stephenson says people like the social aspect of dining out, but the pandemic might permanently shift some people’s eating habits, and he doesn’t believe everyone will go back to their prior dining out habits.

Stevenson says dairy exports are competitively priced right now, which is helping U.S. producers by keeping demand higher.  “We are getting some of those sales, and of course, we’re selling a lot of whey products to China now, too.”

He says a lot of U.S. whey is going into pig feed right now as China rebuilds their pork supply chain after the effects of African Swine Fever.

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