Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Environmental Science and Policy

First Advisor

Elizabeth Garland




food security, sustainability, dairy, reform, consumer demand


This paper questions the sustainability of the American dairy industry through an examination of the current organic milk industry of New York State, with special attention paid to three interests: consumer welfare, farmer welfare, and the environment. Many consumers envision an agrarian ideal of grazing cows on pasture when they think of a dairy farm; milk-marketing companies often perpetuate this image. Unfortunately, most dairy cows in America do not enjoy such idyllic lives. History shows that consolidation of the American food system has led to major transformations in dairy farming. As a result, consumers have had limited access to high quality milk, farmers have struggled to earn a living, and environmental concerns have been raised. As indicated through a review of current literature, some believe organic dairy farming has emerged as a remedy to these problems. Through an examination of the history of milk in American and a comparison to current market conditions, I show that the organic dairy industry is susceptible to the same consolidating pressures that transformed the conventional dairy industry. Using results of a survey of consumers, several suggestions relevant to state and federal food and agricultural policies are made. This study is part of growing body of literature on slow food and economic and environmental sustainability.