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What Is the Milk Industry?

Dairy products and eggs.
Milk is often sold and bought by the gallon.
Milk is usually derived from dairy cows.
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  • Written By: C. Mitchell
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 26 July 2014
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The milk industry is the collective body of all individuals involved in milk production, pasteurization, packaging, and sales. At its core, the milk industry is made up of the dairy farmers who manage the day-to-day production of milk. The milk industry is much larger than just this, however. Lawmakers and legislators who regulate how milk can be packaged, sold, and exported are also big players. So are the production companies who buy the milk from the farmers, the individual brands who market and sell the milk under their own label, and the stores who set prices and negotiate sales contracts, among others.

Almost anyone who has any involvement with the journey of milk from cows to checkout aisles can be said to be a part of the milk industry. Some aspects of the industry are easy to recognize, but many others happen more behind the scenes. The industry is a dynamic amalgamation many different people.

Milk production is an important part of most countries’ agricultural activities. Cow’s milk, particularly in the West, is a hugely popular beverage. Once, local dairy farms produced enough milk to supply the demand of their surrounding communities. These were the days of milkmen and glass jars of milk delivered straight from the farm to customers’ doorsteps.

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This sort of local-level milk production and distribution still happens in some places today, but is no longer a practical way of meeting the wider demand for milk and milk products. In order to increase production, many farms have become veritable milk factories, experimenting with different strategies of maximizing production. This has led to the development of a very sophisticated milk manufacturing process.

The milk industry has accordingly grown by leaps and bounds. Manufacturers are needed to produce milking machines, for instance, or insulated trucks to transport the milk. Most milk that is sold on the open market must be pasteurized, which requires the expertise of scientists and chemical specialists.

Pasteurization is a legal requirement in most places. Laws dictating acceptable milking procedures, defining animal cruelty, and requiring certain standards of care and cleanliness in milk production plants are common. The legislators who decide on these rules are part of the milk industry, as well.

On the business end of things, the milk industry includes the executives who broker deals to purchase and market milk and the workers who oversee the milk being processed into cartons and jugs. The advertising agents who handle milk-related campaigns and the brand management strategists who decide on milk carton design and layout are also essential. Everyone who is involved in the lifecycle of milk, be it production, legislation, branding, or sales, is a part of the milk industry.

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