What Mic.com doesn’t want you to know about almond milk
Every day someone attempts to convince us that the dairy industry is still deserving of our blind support. But whether it’s the FAO’s World School Milk Day campaign to hook children on the white stuff or the Bloomberg report on dairy cooperatives killing cows more quickly to drive up the cost of sales, we are being bombarded with corruption that’s pretty hard to ignore. So it takes a special kind of person to turn around and villainize the non-dairy alternatives on the market as being the real lesser of two evils for people to face. Mic.com did just that, and published an article called “Almond milk isn’t the silver bullet you think it is. Even worse, it’s ravaging the planet.” I have to admit, reading it made me lose my shit. And that’s not even because they already tired this anti-vegan bullshit once before.
Author Melissa Kravitz decides to take up a personal vendetta on almond milk, and uses two arguments to persuade readers to abandon favouring it. First, she calls it “environmentally unfriendly.” Then, she hones back in on the individual with a section called “doesn’t do a body much good.” From top to bottom, Kravitz conveniently excludes the environmental and personal effects of drinking cow’s milk in favour of assuring everyone almond milk is chalky, unpleasant, and mostly water. So also forgets about cows. Let’s debunk this, shall we?
We can breeze past the part where disses hip restaurants and Starbucks (a moot point we can agree on), and we’ll even disregard the part where she asks someone from the National Milk Producers Federation if you can get milk from an almond (hilarious). Her first real argument for skipping out on almond milk is that there’s almond pulp leftover from making the beverage. The “excessive waste” that “no one wants to eat” is first related to sawdust by a popular chef, before later being attributed to wicked body scrubs. So new real argument from team dairy there, since taste is subjective and humans have already ingeniously found a solution for the harmless, edible, and fun-to-rub-on-our-body byproducts.
Next, we get hit with the hard stuff. Kravitz pulls up some stats that say nearly 100% of the almonds we use are produced in California, and that at 1.1 gallons of water to produce per almond, almond milk drinkers are single-handedly sending the city in to drought. The same Mother Jones article they reference to back those stats up lists a larger water footprint for broccoli, walnuts, lettuce, and tomatoes (but those don’t compete with dairy sales, so we can carry on purchasing them). And while we’re referencing the hard hitting facts of Mother Jones, another of their articles shows that if one glass of almond milk takes 23 gallons of water to produce, one glass of traditional dairy takes 30 (a commonly argued stat that sometimes goes as high as 880 gallons of water per 1 gallon of milk). That article goes further to point out that yogurt, ice cream, cheese, and butter will go on to triple those amounts of gallons of water to produce because of their dairy content. Since the California Milk Advisory Board takes credit for 20% of the U.S milks supply as the #1 milk producer, maybe if we care about California and the drought it’s facing, we’ll consider leaving dairy off of our grocery lists instead. Even the Hydrology and Earth System Sciences Water Footprint report on crops says coffee beans are more taxing, but go ahead and dump some cow’s milk in to your morning brew, you’re saving the planet if you skip almond milk? Still no score on the board for ditching almond milk in favour of cow’s.
You know what’s been forgotten here? The footprint of the plants we feed to cows to make milk. Alfalfa, in particular. Not to victimize everyone’s favourite sandwich sprout, but this choice feed, by far, uses the most water for a single agricultural product in the state of California (about 15 percent, or more) according to the Department of Land Air and Water Resources at the University of California, Davis. Another few gallons could be spared if we further veganized our plates, and took animal products out completely. I mean, it might not be as impactful as ditching almond milk, but it’s worth a shot. And if we want to go further, we can look at the land used to raise cows, the waste they produce and the water it contaminates, the greenhouse gas emissions they create, and the rest of the environment the dairy industry at large disrupts. It’s not just water, folks, and each and every aspect points to dairy as the ultimate evil.
Towards the bottom half of this article, Kravitz appeals to people’s waistlines and goes for the argument that 1% milk (one single variety of dairy) has less fat and more protein per serving than almond milk (one single variety of non-dairy milk). No doubt this opens up a debate that I could spend years on. Does the possibility of metabolic crash and sugar cravings really scare you more than increased risk of cancer, weight gain, and antimicrobial resistance? Does the low percentage of almonds and high percentage of water in the beverage gross you out more than the fecal coliforms swimming in your cereal bowl? Sunflower lecithin might be a scary enough word, but a quick google search would teach you that it’s just a fatty substance obtained by dehydrating a sunflower seed and separating it into three parts: the oil, gum, and other solids. I don’t recommend looking up what mastitis adds to milk, though. Again, we can’t give you any points here, as almond milk doesn’t pretend to be a superfood. After all, most people aren’t drinking any kind of milk alone to meet their daily macros. I think the score is two-zero.
I can forgive the environmental ignorance. I can even let go of the health claims. What I cannot ignore is that Melissa Kravitz completely neglects the moral aspect of choosing non-dairy milks over cow’s, and the fact that animals are killed to make one product and not the other. Almond milk doesn’t require the forced insemination of a female, or the forced separation from her resulting baby. Almond milk doesn’t cause the suffering of a living being day in and day out, until her body gives out from exhaustion. And almond milk doesn’t produce a carcass that can be shipped off and sold to the highest bidder for slaughter and the next level of animal-product production that is also contributing to the mess we’re in. Almonds aren’t responsible for this vicious chain of breeding, killing, and breeding again for our own selfish pleasures. Even if cow’s milk promised to save California from drought instead of adding to it, it wouldn’t take in to account all the lives it costs. There is no figure, no percentage, and no value we can truly place on the torture, murder, or use of a living being.
Cow’s milk isn’t the silver bullet you think it is. Even worse, it’s ravaging the planet. And what mic.com and other dairy promoters don’t want you to know is that almond milk is better for cows, the planet, and people. Don’t buy in to the propaganda, go vegan. Always choose products that don’t exploit animals and reap the environmental and personal benefits along the way.