Should non-milk be labeled ‘milk’?

In a world with ever-increasing food choices for consumers, the names of those food items are starting to become a real issue.  An example being milk and it’s non-dairy milk varieties.

We can talk about the differences between dairy and non-dairy milk in a future article.  For now, let’s debate whether or not milk not from cows should be labeled as ‘milk’.

Milk is defined as an opaque white fluid rich in fat and protein, created by female mammals for the nourishment of their young.  Now obviously, almonds, rice, soy, coconut, and the like aren’t from mammals.  But they can be made into (or like coconuts contain) a fat and protein-rich white liquid.  Dairy milk is about 87% water, 5% lactose, 3% fat, 3% protein, and about 1% vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, B1, C, D.  Of course, this varies on the species of cow (or goat, or camel, etc), and the type of milk (whole, 2%, skim, etc).

Almond milk, we will use Silk Almond as an example, is “ALMONDMILK (FILTERED WATER, ALMONDS), CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF VITAMIN & MINERAL BLEND (CALCIUM CARBONATE, VITAMIN E ACETATE, VITAMIN A PALMITATE, VITAMIN D2), SEA SALT, NATURAL FLAVOR, LOCUST BEAN GUM, GELLAN GUM, ASCORBIC ACID (TO PROTECT FRESHNESS)” (1).  But it is hard to come across any information as to the exact percentages of those ingredients.  Addintally, some lawsuits involving other almond milk companies, Blue Diamond, in particular, say that the almond milk only contains less 2% of actual almond milk.  This milk and other forms of alternative milk are great for people who have lactose allergies (like yours truly), vegan consumers, etc.  While the taste and digestion factors are the key reasons behind consumer choice, some supporters claim non-dairy milk as better for the environment.

Supporters of alternative forms of milk claim that dairy milk has a harmful effect on the environment while almond milk and the like use significantly fewer resources.  A 2016 study found some evidence that might

“Based on our research, cow milk generates nearly 10 times more greenhouse gases per liter than almond milk does. However, almond milk production uses approximately 17 times more water than cow milk production does per liter. When comparing by daily nutritional values, almond milk still uses more water than does cow’s milk, and cow’s milk emits more greenhouse gases than almond milk, so it is difficult to make a clear­cut decision as to which is more sustainable to consume. (2)”

So both have their fair share of impact on the environment, which almost any crop can have.  Animal welfare is also a key component of dairy milk.  I can assure you, dairy farmers care for their cows.  Dairy farming is not a get-rich-quick industry, many dairy operations have been closing over the past few years due to extremely low profits.  Dairy farmers know that any cow that isn’t cared for will not produce quality milk.  They care for those animals deeply and ensure they are producing the freshest, highest quality milk.

In the future, we will cover milk production as well as animal welfare issues, but for now, let’s put our thinking cap on milk vs. non-dairy milk.

All that being said, food labels matter.  Should only dairy milk be labeled milk?  Or can non-dairy milk share that title?  Let us know your thoughts and we will keep this discussion going.


Thanks for stopping by


1 –

2 – Jacqueline Ho, Ingrid Maradiaga, Jamika Martin, Huyen Nguyen, Linh Trinh (2016). Almond Milk vs. Cow Milk – Life Cycle Assessment.





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