Sunday, July 15, 2012

The price of milk (you're probably only interested in the list of prices mid-way through)

Some friends in my Twitter stream (Noemi, -R-, Elisabeth, Jonna, Erin, Kelly) were complaining about the price of milk today. Noemi said she's paying $7/gallon, and I was appalled at the cost of milk in southern California. Appalled! She said it was for organic, growth-hormone-free milk, which made it a bit better, but I  was still very confident that milk is far cheaper here. "I can get store-brand organic milk, and I bet it's only $3ish per half gallon," I said. And then I promised to check at the grocery store today and report back.

I am horrifically bad at grocery shopping. I can't remember how much ANYTHING costs, and I often forget to compare prices based on unit cost. For example, milk. I thought $7/gallon was outrageous, but was apparently fine with $3/half gallon even though most basic arithmetic reveals that $3/half gallon is only $1 less than $7/gallon. And upon further investigation at the grocery store, I found out I was half right. Horizon Organic Milk is $5.98/gallon, or $3/half gallon, just like I thought the store brand was. But here's the thing: the store brand is is $6.39/gallon. And when I have been buying organic milk, I've been buying the store brand based on the assumption that it is cheaper! I never checked! I hate it when I am an idiot.

But I actually pay way more for milk than that because I have it delivered from a local farm so that I won't have to carry it home, and so that I'm buying local, which I like. We get it in returnable glass quarts because it pleases me to feel smug and earth-friendly-like. However, this conversation has caused me to do some math, and it turns out I am paying organic-milk prices for non-organic milk. The farm does offer organic milk for delivery, but not in glass quarts. So I might rethink the whole earth-friendly thing.

I learned one final interesting tidbit: Several of my friends can only get hormone-free milk in its organic form; if they don't want milk from growth-hormone-treated cows, they have to buy organic. I, on the other hand, was unable to find any milk in the store at all that did not claim to be growth-hormone-free. This was true even of the store-brand regular milk, at $2.99/gal.

So here are my findings. All prices are the cheapest per/gallon rates I could find; regular milk comes in gallons so that's obviously cheaper per gallon than the same milk in quarts, but organic milk only comes in half gallons.

At the grocery store:
Stonyfield farm organic milk: $7.38/gal
Store-brand organic milk: $6.38/gal
Horizon organic milk: $5.98/gal
Regular milk: $2.99/gal

At the farm, available for delivery*:
Organic milk: $8.40/gal (in plastic half-gallons)
Regular milk: $5.98/gal (in plastic half-gallons)
Regular milk: $6.40/gal (in returnable glass quarts)

*Plus delivery which depends on the order total. For me, delivery is $4.25 for 6 quarts of milk, 1 quart of cream.

So it looks like I'm paying $0.42/gal to save the earth with reusable glass bottles. I order 1.5 gallons a week, so that's a total of $0.63 extra. That's not too terrible, I guess. I'm also spending quite a bit more to have local milk, but buying local milk in reusable bottles is worth something to me.

However. I think we are going to have to stop having the milk delivered. I'm spending $150/year on milk delivery charges. That is kind of a lot, especially given that Andrew pretty much drives by the farm store on his way home from work.

Ah, well, milk delivery was nice while it lasted.


HereWeGoAJen said...

I went to the grocery store about an hour ago and bought regular milk for $3.14 a gallon. (When we moved here two years ago, milk was a glorious $1.99 a gallon. Apparently Atlanta is some kind of milk hub.) I don't buy organic milk because it is super pasteurized and I do not like the taste. And we have the same thing you do- all the milk is from the non-hormone cows.

Now, is your farm milk pasteurized or not, just out of curiosity? All the straight from the farm milk here is unpasteurized and while some people are looking for that specifically, I am not one of those, so we buy standard milk. (My co-op offers milk from the farm.) I would love the glass bottles though. When we lived in England, everyone still got door to door milk delivery and it came in the glass bottles with the foil tops. You rinsed them and put them back out the next morning. And in the spring, the milkman put your doormat over your milk so that the little birds didn't peck open the foil tops and drink the first inch or two of milk.

Dr. Maureen said...

Jen: It's pasteurized. And has plastic tops. Delivery is also only once per week; I think if they delivered even just two times a week I think I'd still pay for it, because it can be difficult to fit a week's worth of milk in the fridge, but Andrew can just stop on the way home once a week and it will be basically the same. If they delivered daily I would definitely still pay for it.

april said...

We buy store-brand organic milk, and it's probably in the $6.29 range (I think). Occasionally they are out of it and we buy Stonybrook half gallons for nearly $4 a pop, but I'm not willing to go back to regular. I like to think it's because I'm trying to be healthier with the organic, but mostly it's because regular skim milk is blue and I don't do blue milk. I pay more so my milk is white. But two gallons at least a week (whole for the kids and fat free for us) is a total that I really don't want to think about in terms of yearly price.

Erin said...

We have neighbors who get their milk delivered, and we've talked about doing it. If only because, like you, I don't like lugging it home.

I just did some research on our Harris Teeter's Shop Online site (we're in northern Virginia, about 40 minutes out of DC), and apparently there is store-brand organic milk (did not know that, I have never seen it in the store) for $6.35/gal. Horizon Organic is only available in half-gallons, and it is $4.19/half-gal. Which is way more than I tweeted (I think I tweeted $3.79).

I'll be honest, I usually don't buy organic milk. It's just too pricey. I do it when it's on sale (it was today, maybe that's where I got the $3.79)or when I'm feeling guilty about feeding her too many chicken nuggets or letting her watch too much TV. Organic milk apparently is a mommy-guilt balm.

A'Dell said...

A gallon and a haf of organic milk at Costco costs $7.99. It doesn't say anything about hormones but it does say Animal Welfare Certified.

Whatever that means.

Lucy said...

In PA there is a set minimum milk price, but I think that is only for non-organic milk. We buy milk in NJ since they don't have a set price and my husband drives by the local micro dairy on the way home. The milk is hormone free, but not organic and costs about $1.30/ half gallon. They also sell super yummy ice cream with no HFCS (unless the candy or oreos have them), which we buy.

-R- said...

Interesting! I am going to have to check out other stores around me because I can only find organic milk in half gallons, and it is shockingly expensive. Boo.

Jessica said...

I've never even looked at the price for organic milk. I personally don't think I want to pay the high price, which is a good thing, as my father-in-law is a (conventional)dairy farmer and my husband thinks buying organic (ie, saying what his dad produces isn't good enough for us) would be a betrayal. I can see his point.

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