In terms of production, the vast majority of dairy products are made with cow’s milk. India tops the list with the most milk cows of any country, at 56.5 million, while the leading producer of cow milk in the world is Europe, followed by the United States and India. Although East Asian countries do not have a long history of milk consumption, in recent years China has more than tripled its domestic milk production volume since 2000.
One of the many consequences of globalization is that dairy products are now consumed all across the world, and every year massive quantities of milk and cheese and other dairy products are traded between countries. In 2017, over 45 billion U.S. dollars worth of dairy products were exported, a significant increase from about 39 billion dollars in the previous year. The European Union, with countries like France, Ireland, and Germany which are renowned for their cheese and butter, controls a 39 percent share of the global dairy product export market, the largest of any world region. Germany alone exports about 4.4 billion dollars worth of cheese in a year.
As charming as they were, the days of small family owned dairy farms are long gone, and now enormous corporations such as Dairy Farmers of America and Fonterra control significant shares of the global dairy market. Nestlé Group, one of the largest food and drink companies in the world, earned about 13.4 billion Swiss francs from milk product sales in 2017, making dairy the third largest product category for the multinational giant.