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It is human nature to be wary of change. It is the reason many of us remain in less-than-perfect situations, be it our jobs, our homes, or our friend circles, when we know that there are better options for us out there. Regardless of resistance, evolution, even cultural evolution, insists that we change for the better – or get dragged along with change. Take our food system, for instance. Over the past few decades, we have been given clues that our food system is in need of some major revamping. After all, animal agriculture is hardly humane for animals, has some major negative effects on the environment, and produces meat and dairy, which is not that good for our health and can barely feed the world’s population. Luckily, as more innovators have become aware of the reality of our food system and of the demand people have for actual wholesome food, they have created a plethora of alternatives for meat, cheese, and milk.

Almond milk, for example, is rising as one of the most popular plant-based milks around. According to a study from Nielsen, in the past five years alone, sales of almond milk have grown 250 percent to more than $894.6 million. With figures like these, and the dairy industry not doing too hot themselves, we think it’s safe to say that dairy’s days are numbered. As we mentioned before, however, there will always be people who are resistant to change and will try to talk down the benefits of alternatives. While many have celebrated almond milk for its delicious flavor, nutritional benefits, and lesser environmental impact, others have tried to water down how much better almond milk actually is than dairy milk, on several different levels. 

For instance, take a recent article published in Mic, that is basically aimed at tearing almond milk down from its pedestal and hoisting milk back onto it.

Mic Almond Milk article



While we definitely give the article an “A” for … erm … effort (?), it’s clear that the writer has done about half of the research required and from that half, cherrypicked stats and statements that make almond milk sound bad. It’s okay, here at One Green Planet, we’re used to this kind of thing. We know people grew up drinking warm glasses of milk to go to sleep, seeing their fave celebs with milk mustaches, and leaving some milk and cookies out for Santa. As intertwined as milk is with culture, however, that doesn’t make it immune to criticism and believe us, there is plenty to criticize. So, we figured we would set the record straight and let everyone know just how milk and almond milk stack up against each other.

It Takes a Lot of Water to Produce Almond Milk, but Dairy is Still Worse

Considering this is one of the few valid points we found in the article, we’ll just get this one out of the way first. Yes, it takes quite a bit of water to produce almond milk, but when you really look into it, dairy is still worse. Specifically, it requires 30 gallons of water to produce one glass of milk – in comparison, it only requires 23 gallons of water to produce a glass of almond milk. While, yes, this does seem like a startling amount of water to be used for a teeny tiny almond, let’s not forget that the average dairy farm uses 3.4 million gallons of water … per day. This water is used to hydrate cows and clean milking parlor walls, floors, and equipment. So… pretty much don’t point fingers when your hands are dirty. 

The Livestock Industry is Poisoning the Air, the Almond Industry Isn’t

Once the water usage statistic is out of the way, it’s pretty clear to see how much more destructive the livestock industry is. To begin, the cattle on dairy and meat farms are poisoning the air. Don’t blame the cattle, though, they aren’t doing it on purpose, they’re simply doing what they need to do, and what they need to do is fart, burp, and eventually, move their bowels. All of these actions release methane, a greenhouse gas that has the ability to trap up to 100 times more heat into the atmosphere and trap dangerous, poisonous gases when in the sludge of manure. So, essentially, cows are accelerating climate change just with their bodily functions. Yikes. Not to mention, methane and the plethora of other gasses released by manure are incredibly poisonous for humans to breathe when it is highly concentrated – we recently saw a case where a dairy farmer and a number of cows were killed because of exposure toxic vapors – and this is hardly the first case of its kind.

The Livestock Industry is Also Ruining Our Oceans and Lakes

Now, while we’re on the topic of cow defecation, let’s talk about where this sludge ends up. In the U.S. alone, livestock produce 130 times more waste than humans. We’ve seen water on farms turn putrid because of the excessive manure dumping and sadly, this water has claimed the lives of some dairy farmers over the years. Toxic algal blooms and dead zones have started springing up all over the U.S. because of fecal run-off which threatens not only the lives of marine animals but of humans in the surrounding area who depend on the water. So, basically, supporting the dairy industry is giving them the green light to dump more poop into our waters. Not exactly the kind of thing anyone wants to be supporting (we hope).

Dairy Doesn’t Measure Up to Almond Milk Nutritionally 

Now the writer of the Mic article claims that all almond milk is basically sugar water with weird additives and that milk “offers a lot more.” If by “a lot more” you mean antibiotics and hormones, than yes, milk certainly offers a lot more. However, as with any sector in food, there are going to be some products that are better than others. Yes, there are some almond milks that have added sugar, carageenan (which may or may not be the best for you) and only uses two percent almonds. But there are also almond milks on the market, like Califia Farms Almond Milk, that are very wholesome. The only thing milk has going for it is their whole calcium shtick. And considering the fact that there are about a billion other foods that provide calcium, we’d say that milk is all but useless.

We Deserve Better

We know that change can sometimes be hard, but when we take a hard look at our food system it is clear that we are in dire need of change. The meat and dairy industries are infrastructures that do not leave much room for improvement. Sure, farmers can let the cows roam around for a bit before slaughter and they can possibly lower the amount of antibiotics given to cows, but there are major problems in this industry that are simply ingrained in the system and cannot be changed. Cows will always defecate, they will always have to drink water, and their bodies will always take up land. These are facts we simply cannot change. Sure, almond milk may not be the absolute best product in the entire world, but is it better than dairy milk? You bet.

If you want to learn more about the positive impact that choosing a dairy-free, plant-based milk alternative can have on the planet, join One Green Planet’s #EatForThePlanet movement – and to find some great products to try, check out the Future of Food.

Lead image source: Lecic/Shutterstock

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12 comments on “What’s Better For You and the Planet – Almond Milk or Cow’s Milk? Here Are the Facts”

Click to add comment
Ben B
25 Days ago

Nutritional superiority is determined by the consumer. One day cow milk might be nutritionally superior for me, and almond milk the next.

However, I heavily question all of your data. According to a UCLA study, "one liter of almond milk uses 1,611.62 gallons of water and emits 0.36 kg CO2e. One liter of cow milk uses 77 gallons of water and emits 1.67 kg CO2e"

So, while cows milk does generate more carbon emissions (with the added benefits of also growing beef), almond milk consumes almost 21 times more water than cow milk, while producing just under 22% of the carbon emissions (4.6x the emissions).

The biggest irony is that the majority of the world\'s almonds are grown in California. Which is to say YOU PEOPLE ARE KILLING CALIFORNIA; THEY ALREADY HAVE ENOUGH DROUGHTS WITHOUT YOU DRINKING ALL OF THEIR ALMONDS. PEOPLE LIVES MATTER TOO. Give California a break.

Charles G
7 Months Ago

God this article was rubbish. Cherry picking information so you can pat yourself on the back about the moral superiority of your choice. As if all land can be used the same, as if the water used for cattle in one place can be equated with the water used in another. I\'m pretty sure those 80% of almonds grown in the Central Valley of CA have far more of an impact than the water used by cows in places with adequate water.

This is pure masturbation.

Mike Roberts
1 Years Ago

Well, sounds like Almond milk is better than I thought (though there are alternative views to the one presented here) but I wonder how the comparison would fare against small scale organically produced cow milk, especially when raw. Another point is no Almond milk that I\'ve seen is produced in my country (NZ) but I have access to local organic raw cow\'s milk. In that regard, I don\'t think there is any contest.

1 Years Ago

Here is a side by side analysis of almond milk vs cow\'s milk. The information is taken from nutritionaldata.com. http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/custom/278488/2 and http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/dairy-and-egg-products/7578/2. Cow\'s milk is nutritionally superior to almond milk. You really should back up your facts with real data. Also, the manure produced from cows can be used for fertilizer. Also, one cow will produce enough milk to supply a family all of the dairy products they need and will also provide milk for the calf, which can be butchered to provide meat and protein for a non-vegan family. After the calf is butchered, the hide can provide clothing for the family. Manure, when dried can also be used for fuel.

I\'ve lived in the country and the methane gas produced by a cow barely raises the temperature, and definitely not to the extent that concrete and asphalt does within a city.

Cenk Tekin
1 Years Ago

Cow milk is something we use for thousands of years, while almond milk is just expensive water with almond flavor. Despite all the dishonesty of Mrs. Chavez and OGP almond milk is worse.

tony deangelis
1 Years Ago

This article is correct regarding the undesirable nature of cow\'s milk but I doubt that almond milk will be a favorite for long. It has way too much of an undesirable form of calcium (carbonate) and only about 16 almonds in a half gallon and one gram of protein in an 8 oz serving.

Nyci DeLoach
1 Years Ago

From what I've read milk does not have calcium going for it. It actually takes calcium away from our bones. There have been many studies done concerning this. You can look in to it.

Nancy Borg
1 Years Ago

NO NOT ALMOND MILK. It's taking precious water from Californians. How about hemp milk?

Mike Voderberg
1 Years Ago

How intense is the pollination process for almond crops? Where do all the bees come from? Those are my biggest concern with almond crops

Kristie Lynn
1 Years Ago

Monica, this is what we were chatting about the other day.


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