Dairy Facts

There is so much to love about dairy. Milk, cheese, yogurt, and of course, ice cream — but the real beauty is the wealth of scientifically-backed nutritional benefits. Check out the facts below to learn how dairy can keep your family healthy through every stage of life.
Woman pouring milk into coffee mugWoman pouring milk into coffee mug

Dairy Facts

There is so much to love about dairy. Milk, cheese, yogurt, and of course, ice cream — but the real beauty is the wealth of scientifically-backed nutritional benefits. Check out the facts below to learn how dairy can keep your family healthy through every stage of life.


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Nutrition and benefits of dairy
Common questions
Dairy benefits for every age
Milk contains 8 grams of high-quality protein

With eight grams of natural, high-quality protein per 8-ounce glass, milk helps build lean muscle and keep bones strong.

Many experts now recommend getting 25 to 30 grams of protein at each meal — especially breakfast. Protein helps you feel full and satisfied, so incorporating it at the start of your day can help stave off those mid-morning munchies. Pairing your breakfast with a glass of milk is a great way to reach your goal of 25 to 30 grams of protein per meal.

Lastly, milk is a complete protein, meaning it provides the full mix of essential amino acids that are necessary to the human diet.

kid eating toast with milkkid eating toast with milk
Milk is a key source of vitamin D
While direct sunlight on the skin triggers the body's ability to make vitamin D, it's advised that people try to get most of the nutrients they need from food. But since vitamin D is naturally present in very few foods, this can be a tricky ask. Luckily, an 8-ounce glass of milk provides approximately 30% of your daily recommended amount of vitamin D, which works with calcium to build and maintain strong bones. This helps to protect children from rick
Milk is a good source of vitamin A
Each serving of milk provides 10% of your daily recommended dose of vitamin A which helps maintain a healthy immune system, good vision and healthy skin. Additionally, adequate amounts of vitamin A is essential for healthy growth and development of babies in the womb.
Milk is an excellent source of riboflavin
Also known as B2, riboflavin is a vitamin that helps to convert your food into energy by breaking down carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Additionally, riboflavin is important for good eye health, preventing anemia and potentially fighting migraines. Drink one 8-ounce glass of milk, and you consume 25% of your recommended amount of riboflavin.
Milk is a healthy source of niacin
Also known as B3, niacin works with riboflavin and vitamin B12 to help convert food into energy. In fact, niacin may also help lower cholesterol, ease arthritis and is essential for proper brain functionality. An 8-ounce glass of milk contains 10% of your recommended daily amount of niacin.
Milk is a top source of calcium in diets
Calcium helps build and maintain strong bones and teeth. It would take 7 cups of raw broccoli (a typical serving is 1 cup) to get as much calcium as you get in just one 8-ounce glass of milk. Each serving contains 300 mg of calcium, which is 30% of the daily recommendation.
Milk contains potassium, a nutrient many Americans lack
When you think of potassium, bananas likely come to mind. But did you know that each 8-ounce glass of milk contains 10% of your daily recommended amount of potassium, as much as a small banana? Potassium is so important because it regulates the balance of fluids in your body and plays a critical role in maintaining a healthy blood pressure.
Milk is an excellent source of vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 helps build red blood cells and maintain the central nervous system. One serving of milk fulfills 20% of your daily recommended amount of vitamin B12. This vitamin powerhouse has also been shown to help prevent the risk of age-related macular degeneration, an eye disease that affects your central vision. Lastly, adequate B12 levels are important to promote healthy hair, skin and nails.
Corn on the cob
Milk fulfills 25% of your daily phosphorus needs
Phosphorus plays many roles in our bodies, including promoting strong and healthy bones, helping to make energy and moving muscles. A single serving of milk contains as much phosphorus as one cup of kidney beans and accounts for 25% of your daily recommended phosphorus needs.
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Are there pesticides in my milk?
No. Stringent government standards ensure that all milk, both regular and organic, is safe, pure and nutritious. The most recent government testing found that all of the milk samples tested were found completely free of pesticide residue.
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What's the difference between milk and non-dairy alternatives?
Every 8-ounce glass of real cow’s milk contains nine essential nutrients and has just three ingredients: milk, vitamin A and vitamin D. In contrast, milk alternatives, including soy and almond, need to include a range of additives to bolster their nutritional profiles — which is why you'll often find lengthy ingredient lists on their packages. Even with these nutritional additives, they do not contain the same mix of vitamins, nutrients and protein as cow's milk.
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What's the difference between organic and regular milk?
In terms of quality, safety and nutrition, there’s no difference between organic and regular milk. The only difference is how they are produced on the farm.
Is raw (unpasteurized) milk safe to drink?
No. As a matter of food safety, milk should be pasteurized. Pasteurization is a simple, effective method to kill potentially harmful bacteria without affecting the taste or nutritional value of milk.
Is chocolate milk good for my family?
Yes. Whether white or chocolate, milk plays a vital role in good health, especially for children. Flavored milks, like chocolate, provide the same nine essential nutrients as white milk.
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Is organic milk better for me and my family than regular milk?
No. Organic and regular milk are equally as good for you. In terms of quality, safety and nutrition, there’s no difference between organic and regular milk.
Are there antibiotics in my milk?
No. All milk – both regular and organic – is tested for antibiotics. Sometimes a sick cow will get medicine to feel better, but their milk never goes into the regular milk supply. Plus, any milk that would test positive for antibiotics would have to be disposed of — that’s the law.
Are there hormones added to my milk?
No. Many foods contain naturally occurring hormones, including milk. And while some farmers choose to supplement some of their cows with additional bST to increase milk production, science shows that there is no effect on hormone levels in the milk itself.
Why do farmers treat cows with antibiotics?
Sometimes cows get sick, just as humans do. Without proper medical care, the cows would become seriously ill or die. It is simply humane to treat them and make them well again with medications prescribed by veterinarians. The milk from a cow treated with antibiotics is disposed of and does not enter the food supply.
Can I still enjoy dairy if I am lactose intolerant?
Yes. Try lactose-free milk and dairy products. Because they're real milk products, just without the lactose, you'll still get the nutritional benefits of dairy. Natural cheeses are also a good option because they’re naturally low in lactose, as well as yogurts, which have live and active cultures to help ease digestion.
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Are dairy foods a good source of protein?
Yes. An 8-ounce glass of milk has eight grams of high-quality protein. That’s more than an egg!
Is milk a nutritious option for my family?
Yes. Milk is packed with nine essential nutrients: calcium, potassium, phosphorus, protein, vitamins A, D and B12, riboflavin and niacin.
Do brown cows produce chocolate milk?
Sadly, no, but this is one myth we actually wish was true!
Milk is a natural powerhouse for little ones to grow up strong
Young kids

Developing a well-balanced diet for young children can feel like a complex science. Unfortunately, research shows that most children fall short on key nutrients. In fact, 75% of kids younger than nine don't get enough vitamin D and potassium, two nutrients critical for development.
The good news is they can get 13 essential nutrients from milk including that all-important nutrient for a healthy body: protein. Protein is essential for growth and development, impacting many different bodily functions. It helps kids build lean muscle, maintains bone health and keeps them full longer. Milk’s nutrition facts are simple: With so many essential nutrients, adding a glass of milk to mealtime is a smart choice for kids and parents alike.

Why milk is the original superfood for healthy men and women

Milk was a superfood long before it was trendy. From helping to maintain a healthy weight to building strong, lean muscles, the research-backed health benefits of drinking milk can't be ignored.
Calcium is likely the top benefit that comes to mind when you think of milk. That makes sense, because milk is the primary food source of calcium in American diets. And as our bones age, the role of calcium is incredibly important. So, while you likely grew up drinking milk regularly as a kid, it's important to keep up the regime as an adult.
What you might not realize is that, in addition to calcium, milk is a great source of a whole list of other essential vitamins and nutrients. Milk has B vitamins for energy, high-quality protein for lean muscle, vitamin A for a healthy immune system and five bone-building nutrients, including calcium and vitamin D.
Unfortunately, Type 2 diabetes has become a global epidemic and is expected to affect 552 million people worldwide by 2030. Adding dairy foods to your diet can help lower the risk of diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease and obesity.

Why growing bodies need the nutrients in milk

As young kids become adolescents, their nutritional needs shift and their appetites flourish. At this pivotal time in development, research shows that it's hard for kids to get the nutrients they need without milk in their diets.
One of the highest-quality proteins around, milk is also a top food source for calcium, vitamin D and potassium. Unfortunately, 85% of Americans fall short of the recommended daily servings of milk. Compared to non-dairy milks fortified with calcium, experts agree that cow's milk remains a better way for kids to get necessary bone-building nutrients. That's because non-dairy milks don't have the same nutritional value as real milk.
In fact, substituting milk with non-dairy calcium sources — like fortified soy milk and leafy greens — can lead to gaps in key developmental nutrients, including protein, vitamin D, phosphorus, riboflavin, potassium, magnesium, vitamin A and vitamin B12.

Don't miss out on the key nutrients in milk in your golden years

We learn as kids that milk is great for strong teeth and bones, but we tend to forget we need those in our later years as well. Milk is full of key nutrients we don’t want to miss out on as we age, such a calcium, vitamin D and potassium.

Dairy farmers commit their lives to feeding the world.
DFA family farm-owners care for their herd 365 days a year and produce real, fresh, nutritious dairy for families around the world to enjoy. They also take pride in caring for the land. From regenerative agriculture practices to implementing new technologies, they continue to innovate to help their farms run more sustainably and efficiently.
farmer checking the soilfarmer checking the soil
We're proud to support the U.N.'s 17 sustainable deveopment goals (SDGS), which are an urgent call for action by all countries - developed and developing - in a global partnership.
DFA’s progress with the SDGs includes:
  • 2 End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
  • 3 Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
  • 7 Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
  • 8 Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
  • 12 Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
  • 13 Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
  • 15 Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
  • 17 Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development
See more about our progress HERE:
Anaerobic digesters transform manure from cows into energy for use on dairy farms and in the towns and cities around them.
An anaerobic digester works by using cow manure from dairy farms as fuel for the biodigester. Cow manure can also be combined with food waste from local businesses, such as restaurants and stores. Energy produced from the biodigester can go back to the power grid or pipeline for local communities. Fertilizers from the biodigester complete the sustainability circle. Liquid fertilizer produced from the biodigester fertilizes dairy farms’ fields, while the solids can be used as cows’ bedding.
Photos around the farmPhotos around the farm
Cows have special stomachs that allow them to digest plant matter that humans can't digest.
Part of a cow’s diet includes food processing byproducts such as sugar beet pulp, almond hulls, canola seed pulp, citrus pulp, potato peels, culled vegetables, bakery waste, corn stalks, tomato pulp, grape skins, cottonseed, soy hulls and more. They turn products we’d throw away into delicious dairy that everyone can enjoy.
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There are five principles of regenerative agriculture.
  1. Increasing soil cover through integrating cover crops, especially where those crops can be integrated into forage for dairy cattle
  2. Maximizing biodiversity through growing crops that help to improve the organisms present in the farm ecosystem
  3. Enabling living root systems through methodical inclusion of perennials that maintain root presence in the soil for longer periods
  4. Minimizing soil disturbance through no-till or low-till field practices
  5. Integration of organic fertilizers, like manure, in a precise manner such that soil nutrients are prudently used for maximizing crop growth
IN 2020, DFA became the first U.S. dairy cooperative to set a science-based target to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) Emissions.
As a Cooperative invested in the dairy supply chain from farm-to-table, we are taking a strong position by setting a science-based target to reduce GHG emissions, both on the farm and throughout the supply chain, by 30% by 2030 from a 2018 baseline. This target also aligns with the work of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and its goals for the U.S. dairy industry to become carbon neutral or better by 2050.
The entire dairy industry, from farm to manufacturer, contributes less than 2% of total U.S. GHG emissions.
The dairy industry is actively leading the way for environmental solutions for our communities. DFA continues to make progress toward reducing U.S. GHG emissions through new projects and pilot programs, including using renewable energy methods, utilizing anaerobic digesters, implementing regenerative agriculture pilot programs and more.
100% of DFA family farms participate in our gold standard dairy program to affirm their commitment to animal care, milk quality, land and environmental stewardships and workforce development.
DFA’s Gold Standard Dairy Program, our on-farm evaluation program, takes place every three years. Critical information is collected related to animal care and wellness, water use and conservation, soil management, workforce development practices, wildlife and natural habitat conservation and energy efficiency, to name a few. Participation in the Gold Standard Dairy also includes participation in the Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) program, which are the industry-leading animal care standards. FARM is a science-based industry standard, internationally recognized and compliant with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) — one of the first livestock animal care programs in the world to gain this recognition.
DFA can't tackle food sustainability alone. In taking on this challenge, we have formed a series of partnerships and collaborative commitments.
Some of these synergies include:
  • U.S. Dairy Stewardship Commitment enables us to benchmark our progress through shared industry metrics that are reported every five years. We are aligned with the U.S. dairy industry’s goals to:
    1. Become carbon neutral or better
    2. Optimize water use while maximizing recycling
    3. Improve water quality by optimizing utilization of manure and nutrients by 2050
92% of DFA member farms have a soil management plan to maintain or improve soil health.
More than 60% of farms plant cover crops, an important practice of regenerative agriculture that helps maintain and enhance soil health now and for years to come. It includes timeless concepts that our family farm-owners have used for decades coupled with new technology and practices. These practices help to replenish soil nutrients, reduce runoff, increase the longevity of the soil’s quality and maintain soil carbon stocks.
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