Gateway to dairy production and products

Milk and milk products

Codex Alimentarius defines a milk product as a “product obtained by any processing of milk, which may contain food additives, and other ingredients functionally necessary for the processing”. The range of milk products varies significantly from region to region and among countries in the same region, depending on dietary habits, the milk processing technologies available, market demand, and social and cultural circumstances.

The per capita consumption of milk and milk products is higher in developed countries, but the gap with many developing countries is narrowing. Demand for milk and milk products in developing countries is growing with rising incomes, population growth, urbanization and changes in diets. This trend is pronounced in East and Southeast Asia, particularly in highly populated countries such as China, Indonesia and Viet Nam. The growing demand for milk and milk products offers a good opportunity for producers (and other actors in the dairy chain) in high-potential, peri-urban areas to enhance their livelihoods through increased production.

By volume, liquid milk is the most consumed dairy product throughout the developing world. Traditionally, demand is for liquid milk in urban centres and fermented milk in rural areas, but processed products are becoming increasingly important in many countries.

Did you know?

  • More than 6 billion people worldwide consume milk and milk products; the majority of these people live in developing countries.
  • Since the early 1960s, per capita milk consumption in developing countries has increased almost twofold. However, the consumption of milk has grown more slowly than that of other livestock products; meat consumption has more than tripled and egg consumption has increased fivefold.
  • Over the last two decades, per capita milk consumption decreased in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Per capita milk supply is:
    • high (> 150 kg/capita/year) in Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Costa Rica, Europe, Israel, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia and North America;
    • medium (30 to 150 kg/capita/year) in India, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, New Zealand, Pakistan, North and Southern Africa, most of the Near East and most of Latin America and the Caribbean
    • low (< 30 kg/capita/year) in Islamic Republic of Iran, Senegal, Viet Nam, most of Central Africa and most of East and Southeast Asia
  • Milk provides 2 to 4 percent of dietary energy supply in Africa and Asia, compared with 8 to 9 percent in Europe and Oceania; 5 to 8 percent of dietary protein supply in Africa and Asia, compared with 19 percent in Europe; and 6 to 7 percent of dietary fat supply in Africa and Asia, compared with 12 to 14 percent in Europe, Oceania and the Americas.


The information presented in this section of the Gateway was drawn from FAO publications.