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Pasteurization plant in a cheese factory in Ruynes-en-Margeride, France

A dairy (also a cheese dairy or, especially in the north and east of Germany, often a dairy ) is a processing facility for milk . Manufactured dairy products such as butter and buttermilk , cheese , sour milk products , cottage cheese , whey and more. In Germany , the law governing the trade in milk, milk products and fats ( Milk and Fat Act ) defines the term for its purposes, i.e. including companies that produce cheese, processed cheese or long-life milk products


Establishment of a historic dairy farm ( Hjerl Hede open-air museum , Denmark)
Machine hall of the historic Søstrup / Thy cooperative dairy (Andelsbyen Nyvang open-air museum, Denmark)
Newspaper advertisement from 1894 for the establishment of a dairy in Uetersen

As a result of its consumption, animal milk has been an important source of nutrition since humans first settled down . Since raw milk has a very limited shelf life, it was z. B. processed into butter or cheese . This refinement took place mainly in the individual company z. B. with the help of a butter churn . The quantities processed were mostly small and primarily served the farm's self-sufficiency.

In contrast, the early large farms, e.g. B. estates or monasteries produced large quantities of butter and cheese , most of which they consumed themselves, but which were also sold. The areas of these farms focused on milk processing were thus the earliest dairies. For this purpose z. As in the outworks stables , barns and so-called whey houses concentrated. These were used to store milk as well as the manufacture and storage of dairy products and some also contained apartments. The term "dairy" for dairy, which is common in northern Germany, is derived from the spatial connection between the estate or the Meierhof and the dairy.

Examples of such dairies that are still visible today are the dairy in the New Garden in Potsdam, the dairy on Landsberg in Meiningen , the Gützkow dairy but also the former dairy in Bärwinkel , a suburb of Quilitz, today's Neuhardenberg im Oderbruch .

With the growth of cities from the late Middle Ages onwards , the need for long-life and transportable food increased considerably. This also increased the demand for butter and cheese , which was covered by increased production by large farms. Dutch religious refugees played a significant role in this intensification. These spread the advanced knowledge of milk processing in their homeland in northern Germany, mainly as tenants of the dairies of the goods. The role of the Dutch specialists can be clearly seen in the fact that Dutch became a synonym for dairy in the 16th and 17th centuries and "Dutch" was quickly used as a job title for local milk processors.

Wherever sufficient quantities of milk could be produced, e.g. For example, in the productive marshes , the Dutch methods were also adopted by the individual farmers. Because of the high quality differences in the butter, this so-called “farmer's butter” could not achieve the same price as the “Gutsbutter”. Therefore, from the middle of the 19th century, so-called collective dairies were established, in which the milk of several farmers was collected and processed. These dairies were modeled on the Dutch e.g. Some of them are leased but also operated jointly. From the 1870s onwards, dairies of this kind were founded and operated by the milk producers themselves, based on the model of agricultural cooperatives according to Raiffeisen and Schulze-Delitzsch . The increasing use of the steam engine and centrifuge for skimming milk intensified this development. Between 1890 and the beginning of the First World War , cooperative dairies were established throughout Germany in which the members' milk was processed.

In the 1930s, the German dairy industry was fundamentally restructured. Due to the so-called agricultural cartelization, all dairy farms were forced to deliver their milk to a certain dairy within a certain catchment area. This measure was primarily intended to ensure the self-sufficient supply of fat and protein to the German population in the event of a war and to avoid a supply crisis such as in the First World War . A side effect of this coercive measure was a drastic reduction in the variety of flavors of the butter and cheese types. Because with the compulsory delivery, butter making in the traditional wooden butter churn was no longer necessary , whose own bacterial strains produce additional flavors after three to four days of storage. The butter lost further variety of flavors due to the technical removal of buttermilk and water in centrifuges and stainless steel butter makers. The butter taste has since been standardized and, as critics say, also bland and sterile.

On June 21, 2010 and February 2, 2011, the two largest German dairies, Nordmilch AG from Bremen and Humana Milchunion from Münsterland , decided to merge. The new group (Deutsches Milchkontor DMK) achieves annual sales of 4.2 to 4.4 billion euros and employs around 5500 people. The reason given for the merger was that it would give it more market power than discounters such as Aldi or Lidl and foreign dairy groups.

Milk collection points

The milk collection points in rural areas, often with only one employee, used to be called dairy. There was a certain amount of preprocessing (e.g. skimming with a centrifuge ) and the delivery of small quantities of milk (when collecting with small milk cans) or of skimmed milk for animal feeding. In the mornings and evenings, the dairy was the communication meeting point of a place when farmers or dairy boys (a popular pocket money activity) delivered their milk. Today's milk collection (or milk collection) takes place by milk collection truck at least every third day directly from the farms of the dairy farmers.

Company size

   Dairies in Germany
year 1950 1982 1990 2009 2015
number 3401 687 360 99 70

The size of the company can vary greatly and the number of employees can range from a few in alpine dairies to industrial companies with several hundred employees. The degree of automation also varies depending on the size of the company. The industry's turnover in Germany in 2004 was around 20 billion euros. Every milk processing company in the European Union has a unique number, the so-called milk number or veterinary number . Many dairies are organized in the legal form of a cooperative . The last few years have been characterized by a strong concentration in the dairy sector. The number of dairies has fallen sharply as the amount processed has increased.

Corporate forms

In Germany, dairies are organized into three types of company:

  • Cooperatives (abbreviation eG ): Owners are usually the farmers, who provide a voluntary supervisory board and a partially voluntary executive board. Furthermore, at least one full-time managing director is appointed.
  • Family business : The owners are usually individuals or several family members. The corporate forms of these companies are corporations or partnerships .
  • Group : The ongoing process of concentration in the dairy industry has led to the fact that most of the companies have become the property of international food groups. Individual medium-sized companies have been able to expand successfully, so that they have now reached the size of smaller groups with many companies and an international presence. Examples of this are Müller-Milch and Deutsche Milchkontor , which in terms of milk sales in 2011 were among the 20 largest dairies in the world.

The largest dairies in Germany

rank Companies Company headquarters Sales 2017
in million euros
Processing 2017
in million kg
1 Deutsches Milchkontor (DMK)
(formerly Humana Milchunion and Nordmilch )
GermanyGermany Zeven 4,870 6,200 *
2 Theo Müller Group LuxembourgLuxembourg Luxembourg
(dairies in Aretsried and Freising )
2,120 * 2,100 *
3 Hochwald Foods
(with Allgäu alpine milk (bear brand), Erbeskopf Eifelperle)
GermanyGermany Thalfang 1,530 2,300
4th Arla Foods
(with MUH , Hansa-Milch (Hansano) , Allgäuland )
DenmarkDenmarkViby near Aarhus
(Arla Germany in Düsseldorf with dairies in Pronsfeld and Upahl )
1,290 2,300
5 Highlands GermanyGermany Heimenkirch 1,446 /
6th FrieslandCampina NetherlandsNetherlands Amersfoort
( FrieslandCampina Germany in Heilbronn with further production facilities in Cologne , Gütersloh and Schefflenz )
1,260 721
7th Fude + Serrahn dairy products GermanyGermany Hamburg
(milk production in Gransee )
1,200 1000
8th Shaggy GermanyGermany Mertingen 1,001 890
9 Bayernland GermanyGermany Nuremberg 900 750
10 Meggle GermanyGermany Wasserburg am Inn 900 800

Source: mi SPEZIAL, sector overview of the dairy industry 2018, data collection 2017
* In order to obtain sales and milk quantities purely related to Germany, sales and milk quantities were estimated by the Milchindustrie-Verband eV.

Apprenticeship in Austria

In Austria there is a dual apprenticeship in milk technology with a duration of 3 years. The job title was changed from dairy specialist to milk technology on June 1, 2016. The examination regulations for this apprenticeship have only been changed slightly due to their general formulation. Dairy technologists produce dairy products such as butter and sour milk, curd cheese, yoghurt or whipped cream and various types of cheese. In operational practice, dairy specialists are mostly focused on a specific area of ​​responsibility such as B. specializes in milk acceptance, pasteurization, butter making or cheese making.

Dairies and environmental protection

There are 4.7 million hectares of grassland in Germany (as of 2018). By far the most important recycler of the biomass growth on grassland is dairy farming . Milk production is also the single sector with the highest turnover in German agriculture. The situation is similar in many European countries. Dairies, on the other hand, can - within certain limits - influence the way dairy cattle are kept and thus the management of the grassland. The orientation of the dairies already has a significant quantitative effect on environmental protection, nature conservation and animal welfare. For example, dairies' pasture milk programs tend to encourage more species-appropriate keeping of dairy cattle and, under certain conditions, can also contribute to biodiversity protection in grassland through marketing initiatives. In addition, dairies can influence the concentrated feed or green feed ration of dairy cattle and thus influence the material flows within the dairy sector. The market potential of particularly sustainably produced dairy products does not seem to be exhausted at the moment; according to a survey of dairies in Germany, customers would be prepared to spend more money on such products than is the case today. Ultimately, milk production today is a globally operating system and the large German dairies operate internationally. The transport and processing of milk would have to be regionalized in a food system that is more geared towards sustainability in order to conserve the use of fossil resources.

See also


  • Tetra Pak Processing (ed.), Klaus Bake (editor of the German edition): Handbuch der Milch- und Molkereitechnik . Th. Mann, Gelsenkirchen 2003, ISBN 3-7862-0146-3 .
  • Ursula Heinzelmann: Eating experience. From the scent of the strawberry and the flavor of the Teltower turnip. Scherz, Frankfurt am Main 2006, ISBN 3-502-15013-3 , pp. 27ff. and p. 44. (Butter production by hand and in dairies.)
  • Jeremias Gotthelf : The cheese factory in the joy of vehicles. 1850.
  • Edgar Spreer: Technology of milk processing. 10th edition. Behr, Hamburg 2011, ISBN 978-3-89947-841-9 .
  • Jochen Bracker: Butter production and butter export of the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein. In: Journal of the Society for Schleswig-Holstein History. Volume 104 (1979), pp. 207-229.
  • Dietrich Hill: Dairy and dairy farming in Schleswig-Holstein through the ages. In: Journal of the Society for Schleswig-Holstein History. 108, pp. 207-223 (1983).
  • Helmut Ottenjann, Karl-Heinz Ziessow (Hrsg.): The milk, history and future of a food. Museumsdorf Cloppenburg , 1996, ISBN 3-923675-60-7 .
  • Folklore collection of the Schleswig-Holstein State Museum Schloß Gottorf (ed.): Meiereim girls, ways of working and living in the 19th century. Exhibition catalog. Schleswig 1991.

Web links

Commons : Dairies  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: dairy  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Section 4, Paragraph 4 of the Act on the Trade in Milk, Milk Products and Fats (Milk and Fat Act). ; for the scope of the Butter Ordinance and the quality requirements for butter of the commercial classes, they are defined there in Section 1a as businesses with an average turnover of 500 liters or more of milk per day.
  2. Mandy Timm: Weekend tip: When milk drinking was still fashion. In: Märkische Oderzeitung . July 30, 2010, p. 12.
  3. Cf. Klaus-Joachim Lorenzen-Schmidt: Dairy farming in the medium and small-scale regions of Schleswig-Holstein. In: Helmut Ottenjann, Karl-Heinz Ziessow (Hrsg.): The milk, history and future of a food. Cloppenburg 1996, pp. 137-139 and Dietrich Hill: Dairy and dairy farming in Schleswig-Holstein through the ages. In: Journal of the Society for Schleswig-Holstein History. 108, pp. 209-211 (1983).
  4. a b c d Ursula Heinzelmann: Experience food. From the scent of the strawberry and the flavor of the Teltower turnip. 2006. (Abridged preprint as: Character thing. In: Der Tagesspiegel . March 27, 2006)
  5. Vincent Klink's "Cooking Blog Nachgesalzen": Raw milk butter. To: "Le Gaslonde Demisel, Beurre Cru (raw milk butter)." In: Zeit Online . Re-salted , May 9, 2009.
  6. Nordmilch merges with Humana: giant merger in the German dairy industry. ( Memento of the original from October 23, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. In: Rheinische Post . June 21, 2010. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.rp-online.de
  7. Johannes Ritter: Milk Market. The largest dairy group is established in the north. In: FAZ . February 3, 2011.
  8. Dairy fusion: Nordmilch and Humana milk together. ( Memento from June 23, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) In: Financial Times Germany . June 21, 2010.
  9. Figures and data from the German dairy industry ( Memento of the original from May 8, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.milchindustrie.de
  10. Number of dairies in Germany from 1990 to 2015 (Munich Strategy Group forecast via de.statista.com)
  11. Two German dairies among the top 20. top agrar , July 20, 2012, accessed on July 24, 2012 .
  12. The largest dairies. (No longer available online.) Dairy Industry Association , July 18, 2012, formerly in the original ; Retrieved July 24, 2012 .  ( Page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: Toter Link / www.milchindustrie.de  
  13. https://milchindustrie.de/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/TOP_Molkereien_DE_2018_Homepage.pdf (pdf)
  14. ^ Nicolas Schoof, Rainer Luick, Karin Jürgens, Gwyn Jones: Dairies in Germany: Key Factors for Grassland Conservation? In: Sustainability . tape 12 , no. 10 , May 19, 2020, ISSN  2071-1050 , p. 4139 , doi : 10.3390 / su12104139 ( researchgate.net [accessed May 23, 2020]).