First came the soymilk trend, then almond milk became popular, and now oat milk is all the roar. Rice and soy milk have also gained increased popularity amongst the plant-based milks. The steady trajectory is consistent in one thing – all of these “milks” are dairy-free.
In today’s cancel culture it seems that one thing might be permanently canceled and that is dairy milk. Plant-based milks have become increasingly popular due to nutrition value, climate change awareness, and the concerns surrounding the treatment of cows in the dairy industry.
The 1980s was when soymilk began to gain its popularity. Almond milk began looking to rule the industry in the early 2000s but became increasingly popular in 2011. Although oat milk is seeing a surge, almond milk continues to be America’s go-to for non-dairy drinking options. In 2018, almond milk was bringing in $1 billion a year, per Nielson data.
As veganism and vegetarianism have gained popularity in the U.S. more people are turning to nuts, oats, and even rice for their milk substitutes. As the dairy industry has become increasingly exposed to the way they treat cows this has led people to question if their glass of 2% is all the essential. Especially when non-dairy milks offer just as much if not more calcium than a standard glass of dairy milk.
Since I was in grade school I could not stand the smell of dairy milk much less keep it down. My father, a boomer, always told us how his parents told him he needed to drink milk to grow strong bones. However, now studies show that regular milk might not be as essential as previous generations may have believed.
In a one-cup serving (8 oz/240mL) of Organic Valley 2% Reduced Fat Milk there is 335mg of calcium, 25% of the daily value. In one cup of Simple Truth unsweetened AlmondMilk there is 390mg of calcium, 30% of the daily value. Oat milk is not as high in calcium. In one cup of Califia Farms oat milk, there is 245mg of calcium, at 20% of the daily value.
Almond milk has the highest amount of calcium of these three milks. So if growing strong bones is of concern, it’s clear why many are swapping their traditional glass of 2% for the plant-based alternative.
Millennials’ main concern may not be the nutritional value in their glass as we tend to be more concerned with climate change and the unfair treatment of animals. As the dairy industry has been exposed in more recent years for how they treat their cows, younger generations now choose to have vegan or vegetarian diets.
Unlike boomers, millennials tend to also be more concerned with climate change and their carbon footprint. Drinking dairy milk is not popular amongst this generation. In a study amongst my own Instagram followers, 68 participants voted, and 72% of them do not drink dairy milk while 28% do.
The environmental impact of milk is something people may not have been concerned about back in the baby boomer days. However, now with climate change being a global concern the dairy industry’s impact on the environment has now impacted shoppers choices. Even almond milk is not better in this case.
As traditional milk produces greenhouse gasses into the environment, almond milk farms use a substantial amount of water to grow the almonds . It seems like consumers are left to choose with the lesser of two evils with these options. However, oat milk uses one eighth the amount of water almond milk uses and produces fewer greenhouse gasses than both. Out of the three milks, oat milk is superior when it comes to impacting the environment less.
The dairy industry is in decline and as they struggle to compete with plant-based milks, the dairy industry seems to be canceled.
As almost all the people I know drink plant-based milks and the only person I know who continues to buy 2% reduced-fat milk is my boomer 64-year-old father. As baby boomers become older and millennials begin to populate more of the country and the planet, it appears that the dairy industry is reaching its expiration date.
In light of the coronavirus pandemic and shoppers bulk buying the dairy industry has faced another challenge – they are dumping their surplus of milk. There is not a milk shortage in the industry, however, due to quantity limits in grocery stores and the increase of cow’s milk during the spring season processors are asking farmers to dump their milk.
In an article posted by farmanddairy.com Rachel Wagoner writes that as schools and restaurants closed, many dairy processors have lost revenue due to the crisis.
“While milk can be diverted over to be put in half gallons and gallons — which seem to be in demand with lots of families stuck at home — making that switch takes time. Some processors can’t take on anymore, so they’re asking farmers to dump some of their milk,” Wagoner wrote.
In the article, Wagoner also notes that as milk is highly a perishable product it is not feasible for the milk and other dairy items to sit on the shelves in the stores until the markets reopen.
Although the dairy industry may be in decline, it is clear that the production of milk has not slowed as these farmers are asked to dump their surplus supply. Even with the quantity limits at the store, it is still possible that the milk would still be getting dumped during this surplus season as dairy milk is not the preferred option for the largest generation.
When looking at well-known milk brands like Horizon Organic, Organic Valley, and Clover Organic one will not find a plant-based drinking milk option in their line of milks. These milks offer 2% milk, vitamin D, 1% milk, and fat-free options but no plant-based substitutes.
My friends and I do not drink dairy milk. Some for diet reasons, some of us think about the effects on the environment, and for others the treatment of the animals. Some like myself prefer the taste of plant-based milk over traditional dairy milk. I drink almond milk and oat milk, oat milk being my favorite. The subtle taste of oats and the hint of sweetness to the milk is what makes my tastebuds crave more. The almond milk is also light and more water based, it doesn’t have a thick texture like most dairy milks have. Plant-based milks are smooth and flavorful. Dairy milk tastes rotten to me and the smell is something I cannot stand. Plant-based milks also smell sweet, like a candle you would want to light. The reason for each individual may be different, but most of us have canceled dairy.
Boomers should think about pouring their final glass of 2% and make the switch to the more environmentally conscious, more humane and healthier options that are available in plant-based milks.