Which US State Produces The Most Milk?

Milk alternatives are surely on the rise, with oat, almond, skim, and soy mainstays in the everyday diet and vernacular. But while milk substitutes may be gaining on the real deal, dairy is far from dead.

Indeed, milk has been a staple in western culture for years, albeit a declining one. In 2018, The Guardian boldly claimed that "we fell out of love with milk," and pointed to substitutes as fads that are here to stay. This year's data reaffirms the fluctuating popularity of milk; According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, milk production in the United States in May 2022 was down 0.7% compared to May 2021.

But don't discount milk quite yet. According to Today, the pandemic started milk on a comeback tour. American milk sales jumped by 21% in March 2020, when families filled their refrigerators for quarantine and experimented with all kinds of culinary pursuits

Now, milk continues to fill coffee cups and cereal bowls. And for this, one state is largely to thank.

California leads America's milk production

Surprise, surprise. When it comes to milk, Wisconsin is in second. The Badger State trails behind California in America's milk production. Per Statista, California produced more than 41.8 billion pounds of milk in 2021. In doing so, the Golden State exceeded its 2020 production of 41.3 billion pounds of milk. For comparison, Wisconsin's 2021 yield amounted to 31.7 billion pounds.

That's a lot of milk, butter, and ice cream — each of which California is the number one producer for, according to 2018 statistics from the California Dairy Press Room. In total, California is responsible for producing over 18% of America's milk, and has held that number one spot for nearly 30 years.

On a practical level, those statistics equate to quite a few cows. California houses roughly 1,300 dairy families, which means that for every five of America's cows, one is from California. Since 1986, those girls have been hard at work. From 1986 to 2016, California milk production per cow increased by over 55%, per the California Dairy Press Room. 

When it comes to milk, it's obvious; California takes the cake — or, rather, the lactose.