Let’s Raise a Glass on National Milk Day to the Power of Agriculture Research

Krysta Harden headshot

Krysta Harden

President and CEO
U.S. Dairy Export Council

Arlington, VA

  • Advanced Animal Systems

Today is National Milk Day. Nearly 150 years ago, milk was delivered to American homes for the very first time using glass bottles. As more people moved to urban areas, the milkman became an important part of daily life, the link between local farms and families.

An innovation in 1878 – the glass bottle – made it all possible.

Black and white image of man taking milk bottles from milk capping machine and placing them in wire box crates for delivery
Bottling milk (1941). Duluth Milk Company, Duluth, Minnesota. Photo by John Vachon, courtesy of Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Photograph Collection (Library of Congress)

It’s mind boggling to think how far we have come as an industry since then. Ultimately, milk delivery changed with the times as other technological advances like pasteurization (documented in the 1860s but not broadly used until much later) and refrigeration made it safer and easier for people to enjoy milk products at home. This annual celebration of milk is a reminder of how the dairy industry continues to adapt to consumer needs and remain at the forefront of innovation.

The U.S. dairy industry has a bold vision as being an environmental solution and has set accelerated sustainability goals to achieve greenhouse gas neutrality, optimize water usage and improve water quality by 2050. Research funded by the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) directly supports the dairy industry’s Net Zero Initiative by producing up-to-date data and scaling technologies that ultimately could open up new market opportunities related to carbon, water quality and soil health.

Research is absolutely crucial to addressing the unprecedented challenges facing food production today. That’s why it is so concerning that the U.S. is falling behind other countries like China in investing in public agricultural research. It’s easy to see why FFAR’s collaborative public-private partnerships have never been more important.

In my travels on trade missions around the globe, one consistent theme I hear time and time again is that people want and need U.S. dairy products. That is because dairy provides more than just calories: it delivers nutrition that can change lives. And the U.S. is a reliable, committed supplier of high-quality dairy products.

I am proud to sit on the FFAR Board of Directors on behalf of the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC). Research helps U.S. dairy remain competitive in international markets, which are a critical part of the dairy supply chain. Over the last 25 years, U.S. dairy exports have grown from representing less than 5% of U.S. milk produced annually to around 17%.

Krysta Harden headshot
Research like the work made possible by the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research is helping dairy stay on the cutting edge of what’s good, both for people and for the planet. One example is the Greener Cattle Initiative, which unites stakeholders across the dairy and beef value chains with a common goal of reducing enteric methane emissions. Krysta Harden
President and CEO
U.S. Dairy Export Council

At USDEC, we use research to identify and seize market opportunities and tell U.S. dairy’s story to customers around the world.

  • Sustainability research lets us explain the world-leading strides U.S. dairy has taken toward greenhouse gas reduction and charts our path forward to enhance the productivity of more nutritious dairy products with less environmental impact.
  • Nutrition research provides the scientific foundation to communicate how dairy proteins help support health and wellness, including muscle maintenance, exercise recovery, healthy aging and weight management.
  • Market research helps us better understand consumer and food safety trends, what is driving purchasing decisions and how U.S. dairy suppliers can deliver to the varied preferences and needs of global customers and consumers.
  • Product research helps us understand how our dairy products and ingredients function and perform in food and beverage applications that are culturally appropriate which helps spur customer success with new U.S. dairy-containing menus and products overseas.

We have come a long way since the days when glass bottles of milk were ubiquitous. What innovation will shake up the dairy aisle next? Research keeps us on the cutting edge of sustainability, nutrition, and new product development.

Today, let’s raise a glass to the power of agricultural research on National Milk Day. By working together, we can ensure that the U.S. remains on the forefront of innovation that will protect our planet, nourish the world and change lives.

Krysta Harden stands in foreground in large metal building with background of black and white cows sticking heads out of metal stalls with silage on ground for them to eat
Krysta Harden, President & CEO, U.S. Dairy Export Council
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