Support dairy farmers: Order a pizza tonight

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pizza
(Metro Creative Graphics stock photo)

Thinking about going out to eat? Think pizza.

Need a quick, go-to meal for the family on a sporting event night? Think pizza.

Simply don’t want to cook? Think pizza.

I can come up with a reason to eat pizza just about every night of the week. But here’s the main reason you should dial your local pizza shop right now, or create your own pie tonight: There’s a lot of cheese on that pizza — about 25 percent of all U.S. cheese ends up on pizza. And cheese primarily comes from cow’s milk and we need to boost demand for milk any way we can.

I vote for pizza with a side beverage of cold, white milk.

Look at the Leprino Foods cheese plants in Michigan, for example. The two plants process a combined 3.5 million pounds of milk per day. Leprino is now the largest manufacturer of mozzarella, and one source stated Leprino Foods sells more than a billion pounds of cheese a year.

Or look at Pizza Hut. Over the course of a year, Pizza Hut uses more than 300 million pounds of cheese. And just earlier this month. Pizza Hut increased the amount of cheese on its pan pizzas by 25 percent, which will require an additional 150 million pounds of milk annually, according to Dairy Management Inc. (DMI).

DMI has also estimated that if every U.S. pizza maker added just one extra ounce of cheese per pizza, the dairy industry would sell an additional 250 million pounds of cheese annually. So make your pizza order with “extra cheese, please.”

I know you’re doing your part already. Per capita cheese consumption in 2016 was 36.3 pounds, the highest consumption level ever. Keep it up.

Here’s why we all should be on a personal mission to up our dairy intake: Family dairy farms that are facing unbelievable pressure from continued low milk prices.

In February, the Class III milk price was the lowest since June 2016. The Class IV price was the lowest since April 2016, and Class I mover, the lowest since July 2016.

(A little Milk Pricing 101, milk is priced depending on its use, or class. Class I is fluid or beverage milk; Class II is soft manufactured products like yogurt or cottage cheese; Class III is hard cheeses and cream cheese; Class IV is dry milk products and butter.)

In its March 2018 report, the USDA’s Economic Research Service forecasted the all-milk price for 2018 is $15.75-$16.35 per hundredweight (cwt). A separate projection by the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI) and the Agricultural Markets and Policy (AMAP) team says the 2018 all-milk price will be the lowest price since 2009.

The economists are bracing for a “herd contraction” for the next few years. In layman’s terms, that means dairy herds are going to sell the cows and leave the dairy business. It’s already happening here in Farm and Dairy country.

I’m not so naive to think my pizza dinner or my yogurt breakfast or my extra glass of milk will save a farm. The problem is simply supply and demand — we’re producing more milk and no one is drinking it. (OK, so that’s an oversimplification of the problems facing the dairy industry, but it’s a basic truth.)

But buying more dairy products can be my one, small part in making a difference. It can be yours too.

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