The dairy industry can no longer hide the fact that plant-based milk is out to steal its spotlight. First, they came after plant-based milk on the grounds that the label “milk” on a carton of almond milk, for example, is confusing to consumers. So, the dairy industry tried to convince the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that in order to protect the integrity of dairy, plant-based milk alternatives should not legally be allowed to call themselves “milk.” Okay. Then last week, the American Dairy Products Institute and the American Butter Institute held an annual conference where the truth came out: dairy producers think plant-based milk is “a serious threat.”
Now, the dairy industry is making yet another attempt to get the people back on its side with the launch of a new campaign called Undeniably Dairy. On their website, readers can browse a variety of recipes for things like ice cream and grilled cheese (that can supposedly only be done with dairy) and articles about how dairy farms are keeping their cows happy and healthy. Sounds like they’re really trying to connect with the Millennial consumer, who is the driving factor in not only the decline in dairy sales but also the overall interest in conscious consumerism. In the eve of the nationwide launch of Undeniably Dairy, here are five facts that nobody can deny about the industry.
There’s just no getting around this one. The global water footprint of the animal agriculture industry is 2,422 billion cubic meters of water per year and 19 percent of that is related to dairy cattle. It takes a lot to maintain the nine million dairy cows living in the United States, from the water required to keep the herd hydrated (23 gallons per day, per cow), the water used to grow their food (683 gallons of water to grow six pounds of alfalfa, which produces just one gallon of milk), and cleaning the facilities (a total of 150 gallons of water a day, per cow). When you look at the fact that about 21 percent of dairy cows live in California, which, in case you forgot, is experiencing a major drought, you have to wonder just how badly you need that glass of milk when soy, almond, coconut, pea, and other plant-based milk alternatives can do anything that dairy can.
And let’s not forget that in some parts of California, dairy farmers actually converted their farms to almond groves because the dairy industry wastes so much water. Drink that in.
2. The Dairy Industry Plays a Large Role in Climate Change
A report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) revealed that the global dairy sector accounts for 4 percent of total global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). That might seem like a small number, but the amount of GHGs produced by the dairy industry is nothing to sniff at. More than 50 percent of GHGs produced by the dairy industry is methane, which traps 100 times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide (the main type of GHG produced by the transportation sector). It’s estimated that cows produce between 250 and 500 liters of methane per day. So if we take the nine million dairy cows living in the United States into account, there’s no getting around the fact that dairy plays a role in climate change.
3. Dairy Is Terrible For Our Bodies
So, we’ve covered the environmental repercussions in a glass of cow’s milk, cheese, yogurt, butter … pretty much everything having to do with dairy. But, if there’s anything we learned from the “Got Milk?” campaign that plastered the faces of milk-mustachioed celebrities (both fictional and real) on the walls of schools, libraries, billboards, in magazines, and on TV, it’s that cow’s milk does a body good. …Except it doesn’t, really.
Dairy industry-driven campaigns, like Got Milk? and Undeniably Dairy, have tricked us into believing that milk protects against bone fractures, which has been disproven. Casein, a protein found in dairy, has been linked to multiple types of cancer, diabetes, and food addiction, which is why so many people find it difficult to give up cheese. Not to mention, 25 percent of the American population (and 75 percent of the global population) is lactose intolerant and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows 750 million pus cells in every liter of milk — gross.
4. You Don’t Need Dairy for Ice Cream, Cheese, Creamy Lattes, and Other Delicious Food
Part of Undeniably Dairy’s new campaign showcases all of the amazing things that you can do with dairy milk, like making over-the-top milkshakes, homemade ice cream, grilled cheese, and protein-packed breakfasts, but guess what? You can do all of the same things with plant-based milk.
When it comes to recreating our favorite dairy foods, our options are wide and varied. We can make cheese that melts and stretches, without dairy, from cashews, which will satisfy any cheese-lover’s craving. Artisinal cheese? We can do that, too, whether we want to buy it in the store or make our own. We can also make creamy, frothy lattes, and ice cream. Walk into almost any grocery store and you’ll find abundant options for ice cream made from soy, almond, coconut, and cashew – so why is the dairy industry pushing cow’s milk as necessary for all the good things in life? It sounds like they’re scared that plant-based milk is taking over.
5. People Are Over Dairy
Simply put, cow’s milk is falling out of favor — and it has been for a while. Milk consumption in the United States has been steadily declining by 25 percent per capita since the mid-1970s. Conversely, the plant-based milk industry has been major growth in recent years, with almond milk leading the way with a 250 percent growth in sales between 2000 and 2015, which was likely a deciding factor for the former California dairy farmers that now have almond groves.
The plant-based milk market is looking so hopeful that one 92-year-old dairy plant, which shut down due to a lack of sales, recently rebranded itself as a maker of artisanal nut milk. In addition to that, we’re seeing new types of plant-based milk hitting the market. 10 years ago, would we would be lucky to find two different types of plant-based milk in grocery stores. But now, must stores have a large selection ranging from classics like soy, almond, and coconut, to new varieties like pea, hemp, macadamia, oat, quinoa, and more. With so much variety, why go for cow’s milk?
So, there you have it — five facts that are really “undeniably dairy.” The dairy industry’s newest campaign is slated to kick off on June 1st — the start of National Dairy Month. So, why not pick up a carton of plant-based milk instead?
Lead image source: GUNDAM_Ai/Shutterstock