By Rachel Moss
Almond, cashew, coconut, oat, soy, and even
Has Big Business Hijacked Veganism – And Sold It Back To Us?
Pea Milk Is Apparently The Next Big Food Trend, But Should It Be?
Would You Drink Cockroach Milk – And Should You?
Is Ditching Cow’s Milk Best For The Environment?
Dr Phillips and Dr Wedgeworth agree you shouldn’t cut out cow’s milk for health reasons – unless specifically advised to by a medical professional – but for green-minded consumers, the answer is less clear cut.
“I started by switching to almond milk in tea to reduce dairy for the environment, but two years ago I realised I was doing it wrong – almond milk seems to be less eco-friendly than we thought,” one person told me on Twitter.
Clare Oxborrow, a food and farming expert at Friends of the Earth, says there are pros and cons to both cow’s milk and plant-based alternatives. “Dairy production has a big environmental footprint in terms of land use, water resources and methane emissions,” she says. “Cutting down on milk and cheese will reduce our impact on the planet, but there’s no simple switch that ticks all the environmental and social boxes.”
Where possible, Oxborrow says to go for options that can be grown closer to home, like oat milk – but many come packaged in Tetrapak cartons, which are tricky to recycle. If you’re sticking with cow’s milk, Oxborrow recommends choosing locally-produced products. “This will reduce some of the environmental impacts while also supporting local farmers and supporting good animal welfare,” she says.
“Whatever your choice of milk, you can look into local milk delivery options which may use and reuse glass bottles rather single-use cartons.”
Will We See A Future Without Cow’s Milk?
Despite the fact statistics indicate millennials are consuming less milk than older generations, Stannard isn’t convinced this will lead to reduced milk consumption in the future. “If you look back in history, younger consumers have always had less milk than older consumers and that’s probably a factor of life stage,” she says.
“Younger people tend to have fewer hot drinks, they’re drinking fewer cups of tea, they’re in their house less than older people, so they’re just consuming less overall. But what we do tend to see is people change their behaviour.”
As the current millennial generation get older and have children, Stannard predicts they’ll revert to the behaviour of their parents and their household consumption of milk will increase. She also doesn’t think the rise of veganism will slow down cow’s milk sales significantly, as data suggests only 0.5% of the population are following a complete plant-based diet.
And – an important final note – although millennials eat less dairy than most consumers, they eat 4% more cheese than everyone else. We may care about animals and the planet, but our love of mozzarella knows no bounds.