Cow’s milk consumption sees significant drop in Germany

Cow’s milk consumption sees significant drop in Germany

Figures from the Ministry for Agriculture and Food (BMEL) have revealed a significant drop in the amount of cow’s milk consumed per capita in Germany compared to 30 years ago.

Germans are drinking less cow’s milk

It’s spilt and there’s no need to cry. According to figures recently published by BMEL, in 2023 Germany consumed 46 kilograms of cow’s milk per capita, revealing a significant drop from the 60 kilos consumed per capita in the mid-1990s. 

The 46 kilograms consumed per capita in 2023 marks a historic low for cow’s milk consumption in Germany. Year on year the federal republic also saw a small reduction in the amount of cheese consumed per capita, 23,8 kilograms in 2023 compared to the 24,6 kilograms in 2022.

Despite the shift, the German dairy industry remains the EU’s biggest and according to figures from the Nuremberg Society for Consumer Research (GfK) close to 93 percent of German households still buy cow’s milk or UHT milk, just less than they used to.

What is life like for a dairy cow in Germany?

Data from the BMEL has also found that when buying cow’s milk or other animal products, 80 percent of consumers pay attention to how a farm animal is treated during its life. So what is life like for a dairy cow in Germany?

When dairy cows are born they are immediately separated from their mothers. According to German agricultural law, once dairy calves have received immune system-boosting colostrum or first milk from their mothers, they must be fed powdered milk.

So that they produce milk, cows in Germany are artificially inseminated for the first time at around 15 months old. A few weeks after giving birth nine months later, the cow is inseminated again. This process repeats until dairy cows die at an average age of five in Germany, according to figures from BMEL, compared to a natural lifespan of between 15 and 20 years.

According to ZDF, public statistics and animal welfare organisations suggest that between 10 and 20 percent of calves in Germany are killed shortly after birth since rearing them is expensive and can leave dairy farmers at an economic disadvantage. 

While killing calves is illegal in Germany, farms are not required to register births until up to seven days after the animal is born. ZDF reports that most male cattle in Germany are slaughtered for meat within a few months of being born.

Like dairy, meat consumption in Germany is also on a rapid decline. Last year, 51,6 kilograms of meat was consumed per capita, compared to 52 kilograms in 2022. It was first and foremost cows that disappeared from dinner plates, with beef and veal consumption dropping by more than 5 percent to 8,9 kilograms per person.

Thumb image credit: Mickis-Fotowelt /

Olivia Logan


Olivia Logan

Editor for Germany at IamExpat Media. Olivia first came to Germany in 2013 to work as an Au Pair. Since studying English Literature and German in Scotland, Freiburg and Berlin...

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