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.
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 gallon of milk – in comparison, it only requires 23 gallons of water to produce a gallon 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