Got milk?

Written by Kajsa IngelssonSeptember 5, 2017

When we are talking about the environmental impact of our food choices, most people understand that meat has a high carbon footprint and is overall resource intensive. But for some odd reason, most people overlook the consequences of the dairy industry.

It’s most likely comes down to all the marketing and propaganda we have been exposed to for decades now, making dairy up to be something that’s not only healthy to us, but something that the cows want us to have!

The reality is far from the green fields and happy cows we see plastered all over billboards and on your TV.

Let’s have a quick look at some facts:

  • 80% of the human population lacks the enzymes being required to digest the milk sugars in cow’s milk.
  • The dairy industry makes up for 25% of the global greenhouse gases being caused by our food system.
  • Average water use per day and cow: 150 gallons (567 L).
  • The pollution of dairy farms have been linked to ocean dead zones.
  • To give milk, a cow must first be pregnant. Artificially inseminated on what dairy farmers call “the rape rack”, dairy cows carry their babies for the same 9 months we humans do.
  • Mother and calf are usually separated within hours of birth, instead of walking together for the normal 1+ year to a lifetime.
  • Calf are usually chained up in a crate, being fed milk substitute. The males are later to be sent of to slaughter and the females to be dairy cows.
  • When a dairy cow becomes worn out by constant pregnancies and milking, she is slaughtered to enter the human and pet food supply.

OK, that’s wrong in so many ways. You know it and I know it. By now you better believe that your cheese is no better than that steak. The animals of the dairy industry are no better off than the animals that are being factory farmed for meat. This is just a different kind of factory farming.

Let’s focus on the good!! Plant based milks allow us to still enjoy milk, while not participating or funding the mistreatment of cows and other animals.

Let me spare you the investigation and rank the most common plant based milks with a little explanation on why they deserve their place at the list:

  1. Hemp – One glass of homemade hemp milk provides 10g of protein (almost as much as 2 eggs). Another benefit to hemp milk is the essential omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (LNA) content. Lastly, and maybe most importantly, hemp seeds are sustainable. They need little water in comparison to other crops and can grow more or less everywhere.
  2. Ripple Milk. Ripple has 8x the protein of almond milk and half the sugar of dairy milk. It’s high in bioavailable calcium (50% more than milk), potassium and provides a good source of omega-3s. It’s based of peas, and growing peas uses 100x less water than growing almonds. All their bottles are also recyclable!
  3. Coconut – High in nutrients, it contains lauric and capric acids, both of which have antimicrobial, antibacterial, anti-fungal, and antiviral properties, coconut milk is made from the flesh of the coconut. However it is high in saturated fat, so don’t go to loco on the coco. Coconuts are grown in subtropical/tropical areas in over 80 countries globally. Coconut farming also requires less water and land compared to soy, rice and almond milks. It has less than 1g of protein in one glass.
  4. Oats – Oats are valuable in environmentally sustainable crop rotation systems, helping to ensure sound cropping and soil conservation practices. Just a cup of oat milk contains 36 percent of the recommended daily allowance, or RDA, of calcium. Oat milk also contains 10 percent of the RDA for vitamin A, which is twice as much as cow’s milk. If you suffer from anemia and are looking for vegan options for iron intake, one serving of oat milk contains 10 percent of the RDA and it has 4 g of protein.
  5. Soy – They are a great source of protein (6g per glass), calcium and other nutrients. Look out for GMO’s since it’s one of the most common GMO crops. It takes 9500 litres to produce a tonne of soybeans and from these beans it takes 297 litres of water to produce 1 litre of soy milk.
  6. Cashew – They’re light on the land, providing wildlife habitat and preventing erosion, but the processing stage is much more intensive. Cashews grow primarily in Vietnam, India, and northern Africa. Some serious human rights abuses have been reported from cashew processors in Vietnam and India, according to Human Rights Watch. Fortunately, there are some Fair Trade cashews to be had, and I’d go for them whenever possible. They have more or less the same protein and nutritional value as almonds.
  7. Flax – Vegans already know flax as being a great source of omega-3s and ground flax as a perfect egg replacement. It’s also a great milk alternative since it contains 5 grams of protein per serving.
  8. Almond – These guys have excellent nutritional properties (you get your daily recommended intake of vitamins A, D, E, and B12!) and it’s very easy to make your own almond milk at home. However, 82% of the world’s almonds are grown in drought stricken California, and almonds need to be watered all year around! It takes approximately 3,7 liter (1 gallon) of water to produce a single almond, with 3.8 million litres used per acre of almond trees. One glass has only 1g of protein.
  9. Rice – This is one of the most thirsty and concentrated crops farmed on the planet. It constantly needs water to grow. 1kg of rice requires approximately 3000 litres of water. Then more water again during the milk production process so rice milk has a large water footprint compared to other non dairy alternatives. Same as almond milk, one glass  = 1g protein.

Next week we’ll dive into the world of vegan cheeses, so stay tuned!