We know that you’re thinking — “fake news!” and yet, this is so depressing and ridiculous it pretty much has to be true.
Either way, let’s look at the actual facts and see how they measure up.
The Innovation Center of US Dairy just published the results of a statistically representative online survey of American adults and it shows 7% of people in the U.S.A. think chocolate milk comes from brown cows.
When you run the numbers, that means that 16.4 million Americans believe that chocolate milk is a special natural flavor of milk that depends on a cow’s skin tone.
How Is This Possible?
The American public is highly urbanized and primarily lives in cities with no interaction with farming life. That means that there are large swathes of the country that pay little to no attention to farming.
Why would they, when it doesn’t impact on their daily lives? So, it might be possible that they simply really don’t know that cows produce milk and not flavored milk.
There is also additional evidence of something called “food ignorance.” Previous studies, such as one commissioned by the Department of Agriculture which showed one in five Americans don’t know that hamburgers are made of beef, have offered alarming evidence that people don’t understand the food they eat in the U.S.A.
It Might Not Be That Bad
We think to properly understand a poll, you need to be able to examine the methodology used to collect the data. In this case, that methodology and indeed, the raw data, is not available for inspection.
The researchers, when questioned by LiveScience, were also a bit hazy on the details of the questions that they had asked. They couldn’t remember the wording of the brown cow question at all even though this survey was delivered electronically.
This matters because there have been stories in the past linking cow color not to chocolate milk but to milk vs beef production. It’s quite possible that the 7% of chocolate milk believers were simply confused and picked “brown” because they believe brown cows are milk-producing variants of cows – we don’t know.
Confirmation Bias Is Rife In The Media
People love to share stories that they believe are true. This is called “confirmation bias” — we are much less skeptical about things that confirm our worldview than those that conflict with them.
In this case, people love to believe that Americans are getting dumber even when there’s little evidence to suggest this is true.
Without being able to see the wording of the question, to see how the sample of people was selected, etc. we don’t even know if these online survey takers weren’t just joking with their answers.
However, media has been quick to publish this story as gospel because they know that there’s a demand for this kind of story.
Lisa McComb who is the communications VP for Dairy Management Inc told LiveScience, “The purpose of the survey was to gauge some interesting and fun facts about consumers’ perceptions of dairy, not a scientific or academic study intended to be published.”
So, in short – it’s not necessarily true that 7% of Americans think chocolate milk comes from brown cows at all.
It appears “fake news” affects more than politics. Well, at least we can all moo-ve on with our lives now.