Household dairy production and child growth: Evidence from Bangladesh
This article (PDF) by the Economics and Human Biology journal examines the associations between dairy consumption and child growth in rural Bangladesh. In Bangladesh, the levels of milk consumption are relatively low and rates of stunting high. In this study, the control group of households do not own cows the treatment group owns cows that have produced milk and the placebo group households own cows that have not produced milk in the past 12 months. Results show that household dairy production increases height-for-age Z scores by 0.52 standard deviation in the critical 6-23 months of growth window. Though in the first year of life, household dairy supply is associated with a 21.7 point decline in breastfeeding. Given that less than a quarter of rural Bangladeshi children consumed dairy products over the previous 24 h, and that almost half of rural Bangladeshi children are stunted, increasing dairy consumption among children and women of childbearing age should be a central priority for nutritional strategies in Bangladesh. This may need to be accompanied by efforts to improve nutritional knowledge and appropriate breastfeeding practices. The best means of doing so is unclear, however. With exceptionally high population densities even in rural areas, Bangladesh has no clear comparative advantage in large-scale dairy production and may ultimately need to rely more on milk powder imports, which are still heavily taxed with a tariff of 25%. Additional constraints may be more cultural in nature. The results also provide a further rationale for utilizing campaigns aimed at improving nutritional knowledge; that there is a need to reduce the perceived substitutability between dairy products and breastmilk.