Holy cow! Milk price hike rivals that of gasoline

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 19, 2004

They say you shouldn't cry over spilled milk, but is it OK to shed a tear over expensive milk?

It looks like gasoline has an opponent ready to go to battle for the inflation championship.

Have you priced a gallon of milk lately? My goodness! Last night, I bought a gallon of milk at a local store for $3.29. Another brand was $3.59. Just a few weeks ago, it was in the neighborhood of $2.49 a gallon. Word is it will get even more expensive.

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We all knew gas prices were going to rise. We saw it coming. How could you not notice the signs at the stations as they crept toward the $2 per gallon mark.

But milk?

Those of you with children can relate to my frustration. I'm not a milk drinker myself, but I have three, including two toddlers, so milk is the beverage of choice in my house. Add that to the bowls of cereal and the macaroni and cheese and other food products that use milk and my family goes through three to five gallons of milk a week. I'll now be spending anywhere from $10 to $20 a week on milk, depending on where I shop. I don't think I've budgeted that much money for the "moo juice."

Even as bad as milk prices are locally, it is even worse in other places. A quick check on the Internet found that the average price for a gallon of milk in

Denver was $3.66,

in Indianapolis $3.49 and in Washington, D.C., $3.37. The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, Mass., reported milk as high as $4.19 a gallon.

The surge in the price of milk has come as dairy farmers are trying to boost profits. They say a combination of factors, including lower production and higher feed costs, have hurt their bottom line.

Another theory is supply versus demand. One report said the nation's 7.7 million cow herd was down 96,000 from a year earlier.

At the urging of dairy farmers, federal regulators allowed them to increase the cost of a gallon of raw milk by 52 cents earlier this month. They picked the perfect time for a price hike.

As most of the nation is focused on the cost of gasoline, milk prices have gone unnoticed. As many people pull their gallon of milk out of the cooler, they check the expiration date and ignore the price tag.

Plus, if you are buying it with your normal round of groceries, you probably wouldn't notice the small increase on a large sales slip.

Well, I'm here to tell you that I've noticed.

As is the case with gasoline, it would be very difficult for us to boycott the industry. We all need to drive and milk is a vital part of a balanced, nutritious diet. It would not be wise to do without it.

Since we need our milk, we'll buy it, expensive or not.

We are at the mercy of the dairy industry until a viable, less-expensive substitute hits the market.

What's the going rate on goat milk nowadays?

Shawn Doyle is managing editor of The Ironton Tribune. He can be reached by calling (740) 532-1445 ext. 19 or by e-mail to shawn. doyle @irontontribune.com.