Near the town of Škofja Loka, Slovenia..
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Near Žiri, Slovenia.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? South towards Croatia.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Price of Milk

Most of our readers know that we're always searching for a deal and that we hate paying full price for anything. So when we bought our first jug of milk after arriving here in Nova Scotia, we had a bit of a shock.

First of all, the most popular and usually the cheapest way to buy milk here is in a 4 litre container. For our American friends, 4 litres is only slightly more than a gallon. There are 3.78 litres in a gallon, so to benefit the purposes of our price discussion, we have to keep in mind that the 4 litre container is around 6% larger than a gallon.

At the major grocery chains here, 4 litres of milk (1%, 2%, or homo) is $7.69. There seems to be very little, if any, change between pricing at the major grocery stores. Some of the discount stores like Giant Tiger have it as cheap as $6.69, which is what we paid today when we were out. Shoppers Drug Mart also has the occasion "deal", sometimes as low as $5.99.

So why are the milk prices so high here?

Well I've done a few hours of research and still don't have an easy answer to that question. I can however offer some findings regarding the recent history of milk pricing, and maybe offer my opinion for the purposes of discussion.

In 1997, the provincial government instituted regulated pricing for the dairy industry here. I can't seem to find out why the regulated pricing was instituted though. It's all very confusing because there are so many different marketing boards and dairy associations and federal regulations and quotas involved.  The most recent pricing, in place since 2005, says that 4 litres of milk cannot be sold at the retail level for less than $5.19.

I also found a Statistics Canada reference that says that dairy farmers receive approximately the same amount of money in Nova Scotia as they do in other provinces, and that is about $0.69 per litre, or $2.76 for 4 litres. So the extra money from the retail sale does not appear to be making it's way back to the farmers pocket.

I also found an article that says the larger stores in Nova Scotia do not set the price of the milk they sell, that all they do is lease space to the dairys and the dairy then sets the price. But I can't find anything else to confirm this. The fact that the major grocery stores are all at $7.69 says to me that there may be something causing the lack of competition at this level.

All of the dairy processors are unionized in Nova Scotia. When you have government regulation, and also union involvement, costs are sure to be at their highest. The latest contract from Farmers Dairy here says that unskilled workers are making over $20 an hour. The problem is that it's possible other provinces are the same way, so I can't be sure that this is what has caused the retail price to be so much higher here than anywhere else.

Or perhaps we're making a big deal out of nothing and that the prices aren't that far off. But I know for a fact that we paid as low as $0.99 a gallon in Texas last fall. How much do you pay for a gallon, or 4 litres, of milk?


  1. We are paying $3.59 right now. That has raised from $2.89 just a few weeks ago, but there are sales at different places. CVS drug store usually has the cheapest price on milk and other stores will match that price, if you bring their attention to it. I think our prices are due to increase in diesel and gas prices.

  2. Forgot to mention the header...another winner..

  3. I pay anywhere between £0.79 and £1.09 ($1.24 and $1.71 Canadian) for a litre of milk.

    In Alaska, we were paying the same price you are in Nova Scotia.

  4. I paid $2.79 US per gallon last week for milk, but more importantly, I just bought a 1.75 litre bottle of scotch for $12.99! Who needs milk?

  5. I've been weaning myself from milk and other dairy products. The fridge in my coach only runs on electric and is off while I am traveling. I use a milk substiture for coffee, drink my tea without milk, now - and use almond milk for my cereal. I occasionally still by cheese and yogurt. I bought some soy yogurt the other day, and it tasted the same as yogurt made with milk.

  6. Milk in Wisconsin (The Dairy State per our license plates) is currently $3.09 a gallon or higher depending on where you shop. That's up about 50 cents from last fall when we left Wisconsin for the winter. It seems all food has gotten more expensive over the past year. I planted a small garden as long as we're camp hosting for the summer. Hopefully, I'll get some produce.

  7. All the food prices seem to be going off the scales. I saw cherries at 7.99 a pound! Unfortunately, eating is something that is hard to give up completely :(

  8. My husband was a food broker for over 30 years. And when I read this too him, he was anything but shocked. Food has gone up no matter what the economy is at. The Farmer really don't get rich but once you put a store label on ummmm really is amazing. It's not like we are going to go get a cow to save some money and this is there way of winning that extra cash.

    Loved today's article!!

  9. Pidge...Last fall I think we bought a gallon of milk on sale at CVS for $0.99 in Plano, Texas. They sure do have good sales. We noticed coming back through the States this spring that grocery prices seemed a little higher than last fall. Still much better than in Canada.

    Derek...Most things in the UK are more expensive than Canada. I can understand milk being expensive in Alaska, I doubt they have many dairy farms up there.

    Kenny and Angela...I think you might be right.

    Dave...Kevin loves your way of thinking, except that 1.75L of Scotch up here would be well over $50CAN and it might not go so good on cereal.

    Teri...We don't actually drink milk by the glass so really our usage is in tea and coffee, neither of us like the coffee whiteners and Kevin has it on his cereal and I use it in baking. I think I will buy powdered skim milk for my cooking from now on though, as that will work out to be cheaper. We love our cheese, but will only buy it if it is on sale and that is the same with yogurt. I have never tried almond milk, we will have to have a look at it in the store next time.

    Kevin and Evelyne...It's still cheaper than here, but I agree that prices have gone up over the winter in the States from last fall. I am sure it is the same in most places. Good luck with your garden.

    Chuck and Anneke...Those are expensive cherries! We usually only buy what's on sale so we are going into chicken withdrawl at the moment. As you say eating is hard to give up!

    Evielynn...Yep, it is the middleman and the government that make the money. We are very frugal when shopping for our groceries and making sure to not waste an ounce of our food.

    Kevin, Ruth and Whiskey

  10. Too bad those prices were not passed on somewhat to the dairy farmer. We spend a lot of time on the family dairy farm here in Ontario and it is so much work for them milking and chores twice a day, everyday of the year, plus planting and harvesting 250 acres of land, a never ending job. Glad I never got into that. With fuel costs increasing so will the price of all foods.

  11. $1.99 a gallon here in Rochester, NY at the big store in town, Wegmans, and at Aldi's.

  12. George and Suzie...The farmers here get about the same price for the milk as in Ontario so we wonder where the money from the price difference goes? I am sure fuel costs will affect the food prices.

    Anonymous...Now we like that price. We can't figure out how people here afford to live.

    Kevin, Ruth and Whiskey

  13. We just paid $4.52 for genereic 2% at our local Walmart. Outrageous, considering Western Pennsylvania has its share of dairy farms.

  14. Anonymous...That sonds pretty good to us at the moment, today we just paid $7.25 for 4 litres (just a bit more than 1 gallon).

    Kevin, Ruth and Whiskey

  15. In southern Ontario 2 L milk is 4.80 to 5.00.

    In the states 3.7 L is 1.89.


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