In New York City, you can step into nearly any bodega and pick yourself up a carton of milk made right in the Big Apple itself. But not for much longer. Elmhurst Dairy is closing after 100 years in operation, citing a drop in New York City milk consumption. The plant, located in Jamaica, Queens, has been a neighborhood fixture for generations; its huge silos seen for blocks amongst the low-slung row houses (and had enough capacity to feed all of New York City for one day). Elmhurst Dairy has been a part of New York City's tapestry for years—it supplies the New York City public school system with milk, and its founders even hosted an education session on cow-milking at the the 1939 World's Fair in nearby Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.
But after eight decades and 1.5 million gallons of milk produced per year, Elmhurst Dairy closes for good in 90 days' time. The company was synonymous with the golden days of milk delivery in New York City; its red and gold vans a staple on city streets. But the rising cost of doing business in the city, in addition to a drop in New York City milk consumption, means that running the business is no longer profitable. And once Elmhurst Dairy closes, none of the city's milk will be produced within its borders for the first time since its founding as a Dutch colony.
As Cornell University professor Andrew Novakovic told the New York Times, Elmhurst Dairy's closing reaffirms downward trends throughout the dairy business. Consumers are more health-conscious than ever, and many see milk as a fat- and cholesterol-heavy food item. Milk consumption hit its apex in the late 1940s, and has declined sharply throughout the following decades. In the last five years alone, the average American halved his or her milk intake. By contract, the dairy-alternatives market (e.g. soy, almond, and cashew milk) is on track to become an industry worth almost $20 million by 2020, demonstrating just how dire things are companies producing good old-fashioned moo juice.
Henry Schwartz, Elmhurst Dairy's president, says, “Pasteurized fluid milk has sort of gone out of style. There isn’t much room for our kind of a plant. I tried to keep this open because it was my father’s plant and he asked me to do so.”
Once Elmhurst Dairy is closed, its 273 employees will be out of a job in an industry that no longer has a home in New York City. Nearly every other plant has relocated to upstate New York or New Jersey, and there are no signs that the industry could make a comeback any time soon. The city may still be flush with milk, but it'll be just as imported as most of Brooklyn's population.