The Rising Cost of…Cows?

If anything is going to send us to the poorhouse, it’s going to be the increase in the cost of dairy products.

Even just a year ago, it was not unheard of for me to pay $1.99 for a gallon of milk. Sure, that didn’t happen every week, but if I was flexible in what kind of milk I was willing to get (usually either skim or 1%, we don’t really like anything richer), I could get it at that price for two weeks or so out of the month. But milk prices have been climbing steadily. When it was regularly $2.39, I started to get a little worried. And then it was $2.59, and $2.89, and I wondered how much higher it could go. Before I knew it, a gallon of milk had gone up to $3.09 (at Wal-Mart, no less!), and I thought for sure that it wouldn’t go any higher than that.

I was wrong.

For the last two weeks, I’ve paid $3.29, and I’m left with a kind of morbid curiosity as to just how expensive it will get before this is all over. Maybe that doesn’t sound so costly, but our family goes through 3 gallons of milk a week without blinking. We’d really rather have 4 gallons, to be honest. And if I’m cooking or baking something that requires a lot of milk, we can use up 5 full gallons without any problem.

And now I’m noticing the rest of dairy is going up, as well. Not surprising, but annoying. Cheese and yogurt have both gone up in the last week. And I buy one big brick of cheese for lunches, plus sliced cheese, plus around 24 cups of yogurt (and often more than that!) every week. Add in butter and shredded cheese, and a good quarter of my grocery budget is shot before I even get out of the dairy department, and that’s with buying only store brands (unless, of course, I happen to have a coupon that makes the name brand cheaper!).

I always considered dairy cows to be something of a renewable resource, so I’m a little baffled by this. If beef prices had gone up (and maybe they have–I spend so much less money on meat than I do on milk that I don’t really track the cost), I would understand that since the cows do have to be slaughtered. But dairy cows keep producing milk, so I just kind of assumed milk prices would stay rather steady. I guess maybe their feed is getting more expensive? Or the cost of transport? Either way, I’m looking at a roughly 60% increase in cost in the last year, which is a huge jump, and I don’t particularly care for it.

I never thought I’d see the day when I’m more concerned about the cost of a gallon of milk than I am a gallon of gas!