Is Non-Dairy Milk Still “Milk”?


– Claire Mackman

The non-dairy milk industry has replaced milk with plant-based substitutes including soy milk, almond milk, rice milk, and coconut milk. This incredible growth has popularized brands looking to take the place of traditional milk. Milk substitutes have been around for a while due to common food allergies, although people have been consuming milk alternatives for other reasons. Plant based alternatives are the solution for consumer’s ethical and moral issues with the dairy industry.. Buyers also often value the sustainability and nutritional value non-dairy alternatives provide. Some people just simply prefer the taste!

The dairy-free industry is one of the fastest growing sectors in the food market with global values rising by 20% just in the past year. This industry accounts for $13.7 billion of the food market and is considered the highest value growth rate across all dairy categories.

But controversy aired when the dairy industry questioned whether these so-called “milk” substitutes can even be considered milk. Dairy farmers are lashing out to limit the use of the word “milk” with the help of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with the DAIRY PRIDE Act. A pre-existing FDA guideline restricts the use of “milk” to products strictly coming from cows. This legislation would cause plant based dairy alternatives to no longer be able to use the word “milk” to describe their products. The DAIRY PRIDE Act’s argument is based off the FDA definition of milk stating, “milk is the lacteal secretion, practically free from colostrum, obtained by the complete milking of one or more healthy cows“. This potential label change is supposed to help differentiate real milk products from their imitators. This includes separating consumer’s sense of milk from its plant-based alternatives.

This food war between the dairy industry and dairy free industry encourages consumers to eat more dairy. The plant based “milk” industry is taking a large share of revenue from dairy farmers and the milk industry is attempting to regain ground from its non-dairy competitor. The legislation is still in the deliberation but would have noticeable effect on this “milk” war.

Rather fight, I say try it for yourself! With all of these “milk” alternatives why not see what your taste buds like. Next time you make a grocery run don’t be afraid to try alternatives like cashew milk, coconut milk or even hemp milk! The choice is yours: milk or “milk”?


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