Soy milk, hemp milk, flax milk, almond milk, coconut milk, rice milk, hazelnut milk, oat milk and more – oh my! These dairy milk alternatives are springing up on shelves everywhere and in more cheeses, creamers and other dairy substitutes every month it seems.  There has never been a better time to dip your fresh baked vegan cookies in your vegan milk. Let’s celebrate with a vegan coconut cream pie!  By the way, see a RAWsome recipe here.

So why the explosion in this vegan milk selection and sales in the United States?  Is it because of increased lactose intolerance?  No, even though those who can tolerate lactose are in the minority globally.  There are many factors at play ranging from the rising price of dairy milk, blown up scares of contamination in some varieties (just like any other food) that linger in consumer conscience, allergies to nuts, gluten intolerance, and more.  Regardless, the fact is that these vegan milk alternatives are growing in popularity while dairy milk sales are shrinking.  Let’s look at why this is a good thing.

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Environmental Impact

Animals need plants that need sunlight and nutrients to grow.  By cutting the animal out of this farm to glass system, you save tons of energy ecologically speaking.  This can also be expanded to include the fuel savings from transportation and producing often used hormones and antibiotics.  Cows produce a ton of methane as well – a greenhouse has that has more than twenty times the ability to warm our atmosphere.  This energy calculation does not even include the indirect effects of raising more livestock than a grassland can support like the flushing of manure into streams that kills the marine life or the desertification of these grasslands due to over grazing.  Raising millions of animals for your cereal dampener destroys our planet way more than even the most conventionally produced ingredients in vegan milk alternatives – especially when you buy the organically certified varieties of these alternatives.

No Animal Cruelty

What is sane about ripping a baby away from its mother so that we can enjoy her milk instead?  Or what about forcing them to remain in tiny pens their entire lives while we feed them an unnatural diet filled with hormones and antibiotics (because disease is rampant in these concentrated operations and can slow production). Cows and goats are intelligent and capable of experiencing this physical and emotional pain.  There are plenty of milk substitutes like the ones mentioned above that do not hurt animals.

Expanded Options

The sheer amount of varieties available as milk substitutes caters to consumers with different allergies, tastes and sensitivities.  They cater to people who are not getting enough calcium and vitamin D.  They even cater to those who want a quick source of protein as well.  Dairy milk comes in lactose free varieties, sure, but this requires more energy for extraction and does nothing to remediate the negatives above.

Nutrition

This is where things get a little controversial, so let us just stick with the obvious.  Breast milk from humans is perfectly suited for the development of human infants.  Breast milk from cows is perfectly suited for calves.  Drinking dairy milk does not lower our risk for osteoporosis.  In fact, it can increase our risk.  Dairy milk acidifies our body and, without adequate calcium supplementation, can actually pull calcium from bones over time.  Stick to calcium fortified vegan milk alternatives, mushrooms or another source of vitamin D like the sun to help calcium absorption, and dark leafy greens.  You won’t drop your body’s pH to a dangerous point and you will get everything you get from dairy milk — plus more.

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Go do yourself, cows, goats, me, and the planet a favor.  Find a dairy alternative that works great for you, bake some vegan cookies, and dunk away.

Image source: Veganbaking.net/Flickr