Our Farming Legacy

Dairy Farming in the United States

A group of cows inside a barn with a truck parked next to it.

U.S. dairy farms reflect the diversity of the nation, thriving across the United States in varied landscapes, farming setups and sizes. Over 95% are family-owned and these farms are more than just a business, they are a way of life.

Representing more than 26,000 farms, over 9 million cows and 6 million hectares, animal care remains a priority for the U.S. dairy community. Today, 99% of the domestic milk supply comes from farms that participate in the National Dairy Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) Animal Care program, setting high standards for animal care, housing and antibiotic stewardship.

The largest single country producer of cow’s milk, U.S. dairy farms of all sizes contribute to the production of U.S. cheeses that are exported around the world.

U.S. Dairy Sustainability and Stewardship

A long legacy of dairy stewardship has culminated in the world’s lowest emissions intensity per liter of milk produced. According to a 2019 FAO report, from 2005 and 2015, North America (where the U.S. is the primary dairy producer) was the only region in the world to increase milk production while also reducing absolute emissions.

Milk per Cow production infographic by country (USA, EU, and New Zealand)

The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy is a voluntary organization that works across the dairy value chain to foster collaboration and progress to build a healthy and sustainable future for the dairy community, the people it serves and the planet we all share.

2050 U.S. dairy industry goals

Working together, U.S. Dairy is advancing technologies and practices on feed production, manure handling, on-farm energy efficiency and renewable energy use that will help the industry meet the goals. Dairy companies and farms across the country are already contributing to the goals individually, and the U.S. Dairy Stewardship Commitment helps the industry document and demonstrate social responsibility efforts.

As an active contributor to delivering sustainable food systems, the legacy of progress and efficient production has led to ambitious goals for the future. The environmental goals announced by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy are an industry-wide collaboration to achieve greenhouse gas neutrality and optimize water use and improve water quality.

U.S. Milk Regulation

Our highly regulated food system helps U.S. dairy products fulfill numerous requirements (Pasteurized Milk Ordinance, Food Safety Modernization Act, etc.) overseen by federal and state regulators to ensure consistent delivery of safe, nutritious, and wholesome dairy products around the globe.