Milk is a grocery staple for many, but the cost of milk varies depending on where you buy it. Hawaii is one of the most expensive places to buy milk out of all the US states, at approximately double the price of other states. So, how much is milk in Hawaii?
Milk in Hawaii is expensive at almost double the price of other states. A gallon of whole-fat milk costs approximately $6.50 in Hawaii, while elsewhere in the US, milk averages $3 per gallon. A collapse of local dairy farms and deregulation of pricing have contributed to rising prices.
The milk price in Hawaii is approximately double that of the rest of the country. Despite having had 160 dairy farms in Hawaii 40 years ago, a collapse in local production means the island imports the bulk of its milk from California, which involves many other hidden costs that affect the price.
What Does Milk Cost In Hawaii?
Many people rely on milk as a regular item in their daily diets. However, it is considered a luxury in some parts of the US. In Hawaii, a bottle of organic milk can cost as much as a bottle of wine in New York City.
Milk in Hawaii costs more than anywhere else in the US because there are barely any dairy farms on the island that produce milk. Hawaii’s milk price is followed by Alaska, Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi, where a gallon of milk will cost, on average, $3.40, almost half of what it costs in Hawaii.
By US standards, milk is cheapest in Illinois, Connecticut, Ohio, Indiana, and Idaho, to mention a few, and averages less than $2 per gallon.
Today, the milk price in Hawaii is astronomical compared to other states because the importation of milk from California involves many hidden costs resulting in an exorbitantly priced grocery staple.
Because it takes several days to be transported to the island, milk must be pasteurized once at the processor and again on arrival in Hawaii, where it is also bottled. These processes add to the cost.
The 2014 deregulation of milk prices by the local government also impacted the price of milk in Hawaii, which made prices soar as the Department of Agriculture allowed processors to buy milk from the few remaining dairy farmers at a lower price than before.
Most milk produced in the United States is regulated, but Hawaii’s pricing structure is almost double that of the US, leading to unsustainably high prices. It makes financial sense to import milk from California, although this comes at a cost.
This deregulation of the milk industry sent prices soaring, given the limited supply of milk on the island.
What Happened To Hawaii’s Dairy Farms?
The cost of milk in Hawaii used to be similar to that of most US states until the mid-1980s when a collapse of local dairy farms sent prices soaring. The collapse was caused by milk contamination by the pesticide heptachlor, used in pineapple tops fed to cows.
The industry was already facing challenges with a lack of good grazing, processors who pasteurize and bottle the milk locally, and rising costs in transportation and feed. Local dairies were not producing enough feed for the cows.
The feed includes corn, guinea grass, minerals, protein, and alfalfa. Milk cows, unlike beef cows, need a rich diet that includes grain and grass to produce milk. This was already putting significant strain on the local industry as they imported feed.
As a result, many dairies could not survive the challenge of the pesticide leak and were forced to close.
The island’s milk production peaked in 1988 at 160 million pounds and dropped over the next 20 years to 18.5 million in 2010 when it leveled off.
The industry came to be dominated by a few commercial processors who, through a change in legislation, were authorized to buy milk from farmers at a lower price after Meadow Gold, which had a monopoly on milk supplies, threatened to stop buying local dairy.
What Are Future Predictions For The Price Of Milk in Hawaii?
Establishing a few commercial dairies could solve the milk shortage on the island and make milk cheaper, but there has been significant community opposition to this.
The few remaining large-scale dairies have been repeatedly sued for violating the Clean Water Act after residents claim to have found bacteria in water downstream from the dairy. Dairies have been fined for wastewater discharge and instructed to stop any further wastewater release.
One of the appeals of locally-produced foodstuffs is the assumption that it is produced sustainably. However, with the large-scale dairy farms in Hawaii needing to function at maximum capacity, being environmentally friendly is not a feasible option.
This has led to mounting tension between business owners and community members.
Are There Alternatives To Milk In Hawaii?
Given the exorbitant price of milk in Hawaii and the unlikeliness of this changing any time soon, it could be helpful to consider alternatives to milk if you’re visiting the island.
Tourists and travelers who frequent Hawaii have found resourceful ways of eating and drinking that do not include dairy. Thankfully given the range of fresh fruit grown on the island, there is a wide range of foodstuff to choose from that does not contain milk.
Increasing demand for vegan-friendly meals has also seen an increase in non-dairy foods.
To avoid the expense of dairy products, you can tailor your grocery list and choose suitable alternatives, and source locally grown tropical fruit which is much more cost-effective. You can buy avocados, apple bananas, papayas, and dragon fruit.
The benefit of eating this food is that it is fresh and can be consumed within 24 hours of having been picked on the island. This cuts out the cold chain and spraying, which delays the ripening of fruit that is transported.
Hawaiian grocery stores also have impressively stocked seafood counters where you can buy fresh fish fillets and shrimp to cook back at your vacation rental and prepare items like poke and sushi.
The price of milk in Hawaii is twice that of most states in the US. A collapse in local dairy farms and deregulation of pricing has seen a steep rise in prices since the 1980s. However, there are alternatives to dairy, which may prove even better for your health.