The dairy industry is broadly defined as “a class of agriculture for the long-term production of milk, that is processed (either on the farm or at a dairy plant, either of which may be called a dairy) for an eventual sale of a dairy product.”
Milk is one of the key sources of nourishment in the world not just for human (and other mammals’) infants but adults as well since milk is an important source of both protein and calcium. Protein is necessary to repair damaged cells while calcium makes our bones and teeth strong and helps ward off Osteoporosis. In fact, making children drink a glass of milk every day is a time-honored practice followed pretty much all over the world.
It is also the main ingredient of different dairy-based products that are integral to our everyday life such as butter, yogurt, cheese, ice-cream, etc.
Milk production (be it from cows, goats, sheep, or even camels) takes place in virtually every country in the world as the demand for high-quality dairy products continues to grow at a steady pace. This is due in part to an ever-increasing population as well as income growth.
Currently, global milk production is widely estimated to be hovering around the 735 billion liters per annum mark (approximately). Farming methods throughout the industry differ from country to country.
As of 2015, the largest milk producer in the world was India producing an estimated 147 million metric tons of milk in the years 2014-2015. However, India’s conventional model depends on sheer quantity rather than quality. The average herd size is less than two with most of the milking done manually, rather than being machine intensive; also few farmers use any specialized feeds. Nevertheless, the vast milk producing heartland of India centering around the states of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan ensures that India remains on top of the list of top milk producing countries in the world.
India is followed by the USA, effectively the largest producer of cow’s milk in the world with around 94 million tons of milk being produced annually. In third place is China with 45 million tons, followed by Pakistan with 42 million tons, almost all of it from buffalos. (Though camel milk is rapidly gaining popularity in that country where it is touted as a panacea for diabetes.)
Both India and Pakistan are amongst the few countries in the world where the sale of unpackaged or raw milk (delivered in loose containers to the end consumers) actually far outstrips pasteurized milk, packaged in tetra pack containers. (It is estimated that around 90% end consumers in Pakistan alone, consume unpacked milk.)
Pasteurization is a very important part of the dairy industry in most of the developed world. The Pasteurization process ensures that milk is heated at a particular temperature and for a certain period of time so that germs and bacteria harmful to humans are permanently removed from it.
Raw or pasteurized, there can be little doubt that milk and its ancillary products are a staple part of our diet, effectively making the dairy industry one of the most important industries in the world today.