Alternative plant-based milk has gained popularity over the classic cow's milk. A popular favorite among environmentalists, vegans, those who are lactose intolerant and even the average milk consumer, alternative plant-based milks need to become widely accepted to allow society to deviate from the harmful effects that accompany dairy milk. Dairy milk is largely derived from cows, with goat milk being used occasionally. For generations, milk has been a staple in most U.S. refrigerators. However, there has been a decrease in dairy milk for a variety of reasons.
Oatly, a Swedish-born oat milk company, said, “The trend is clear. More and more people (especially young people) are actively choosing to eat and drink plant-based products —for the sake of both their health and the planet.” However, even Oatly has been accused of contributing to deforestation.
The rise in alternative milk popularity is impressive and the scientific research behind plant-based milk furthers society's acceptance of them. Most of the plant-based milks available provide more calcium and Vitamin D than dairy milk, debunking the myth that alternative milks have fewer nutrients, according to the Department of Nutrition Science at Purdue University.
Alternative plant-based milk is only going to increase in popularity from here, in my opinion. Dairy alternative products saw a 61% surge in purchases during 2018 and that number continues to rise, according to analysis by Plant-based Milk Market.
Overall, oat milk is the reigning champion of alternative milk. With a low environmental impact and high nutritional value, oat milk is being implemented as a common addition to the American diet. At the beginning of August, Dunkin’ Donuts followed many other commercial brands and introduced oat milk to their menu.
Widely known for its usage in hot beverages and cereal, oat milk is easy to make at home and requires only oats and water.
Oatly is a great example of a worldwide company whose Earth-conscious decisions are doing them favors in terms of consumer appeal.
“Our ice cream is now available in a lovely paper cup instead of being packaged in fossil-based plastic. This has cut the weight of the packaging in half and reduced its climate footprint by a full 80%,” their 2019 Sustainability Report announced.
When compared to dairy, rice and almond milk, soy ranks above them all. The low land and water usage is good for the environment when producing soy milk. The nutritional value of soy milk is one of the highest studied so far, as newer alternatives like pea protein have not been studied extensively.
Based on a BBC study, the difference in land and water usage between five different types of milk is surprising and adds to the attractiveness of soy. Soy milk has one of the highest protein values for alternative plant-based milks with 6.34 grams per cup.
Certain brands of soy milk have been known to use soy providers who cut down rainforests to harvest their product, but a simple online search can determine if your milk is organically grown in the United States or Canada to avoid this issue.
Almond milk contains fewer carbohydrates than cow milk, which led to its original popularity but its environmental impact and association with nuts have allowed other alternatives to take its spot among the favorites.
The largest issue with almond milk is bees. Every year, bees across the nation are sent to California to pollinate the almond groves covering a gigantic portion of the state. Recently, a record number of bees have been dying and solely within the 2018-19 season, more than one-third of commercial bees died, as reported by The Guardian. There are many speculated reasons why this occurs, including pesticides and lack of biodiversity, but any amount of bees dying becomes a serious environmental issue.
Silk, an alternative milk brand, stated, “making a half gallon of Silk takes 80% less water than a half gallon of dairy milk.”
However, almond milk still requires about 74 liters of water to produce a single glass. Water usage is a major issue alternative plant-based milk aims to avoid. Even though almond milk is significantly better than dairy milk, try to avoid consuming it in large quantities.
It is commonly known that cows are no friend to the environment. Cows produce large amounts of methane and create 20%of the methane released into the atmosphere annually. By switching to alternative plant-based milk, our dependence on dairy would lessen, effectively doing the same to methane production.
Cows also pose the issue of land and water usage. A BBC study said, “producing a glass of dairy milk every day for a year requires 650 sq m (7,000 sq ft) of land.”
Another study by World Wildlife Magazine that focused specifically on the U.S.determined that 144 gallons of water are used to produce one gallon of milk.
These statistics clearly show the damage that dairy milk does to the world. These effects are not worth it, especially when other options produce a similar result and are much less harmful.
Remember no matter what plant-based milk you decide on using, you will be doing yourself, future generations and the environment a huge courtesy.