Over 16 million American adults think chocolate milk comes from brown cows, survey finds

(WHDH) – A new survey says seven percent of all American adults believe that chocolate milk comes from brown cows, the Washington Post reports.

While that seems like a small number, that adds up to 16.4 million people in the U.S. who do not seem to know that chocolate milk is comprised of milk, cocoa, and sugar, the Innovation Center of U.S. Dairy survey says.

It’s just the latest evidence that Americans are not “agriculturally literate,” the Post points out. A study in the 1990s by the Department of Agriculture found that about 1 in 5 adults were not away that hamburgers were made from beef.

Cecily Upton, the co-founder of the nonprofit FoodCorps, which brings agricultural and nutrition education into elementary schools, says not much has changed since that study.

“At the end of the day, it’s an exposure issue,” Upton told the Post. “Right now, we’re conditioned to think that if you need food, you go to the store. Nothing in our educational framework teaches kids where food comes from before that point.”

Researchers in a 2014 study in the Journal of Agricultural Education found that more than half of the fourth, fifth, and sixth graders they interviewed in an urban California school did not know that pickles were cucumbers, or that lettuce and onions were plants. Three out of 10 of those students were unaware that cheese is made from milk, while 4 out of 10 did not know that hamburgers came from cows.

“All informants recalled the names of common foods in raw form and most knew foods were grown on farms or in gardens,” the researchers concluded. “They did not, however, possess schema necessary to articulate an understanding of post-production activities nor the agricultural crop origin of common foods.”

Upton’s FoodCorps, as well as other organizations like the American Farm Bureau Foundation and National Agriculture in the Classroom Organization, work for add nutition and agricultural lessons in schools.

“We still get kids who are surprised that a french fry comes from a potato, or that a pickle is a cucumber,” she told the Post. “Knowledge is power. Without it, we can’t make informed decisions.”

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