By Tina Manahai-Mahai
A Mintel study has found that one in three British people drink plant-based alternative milk, with customers spending over £100 million on dairy alternatives. How has the high street staple of milk moved so far away from its dairy origins?
Together with Tina Manahai-Mahai of Healthy Supplies, an independent online health food retailer, Muscle and Health investigates the reasons behind the dairy-free milk boom and why you might want to consider making the switch.
The dairy industry contributes a lot of waste to the environment when raising cows for their milk. The process releases a combination of methane, nitrous oxide, and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. These greenhouse gases are toxic to the environment and are stripping away the ozone layer.
The amount of land needed for a dairy farm is staggering too. Some farmers suggest that each cow needs at least an acre of land for every 24 hours of grazing and roaming. This means converting even more natural land for production space, which can damage the earth if fertilizer and manure go unchecked.
In 2014, American filmmakers Kip Anderson and Keegan Kuhn released Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret which outlines how the dairy industry impacts climate change. The film also encourages a shift to milk and dairy alternatives, like soy milk and nut butters.
There’s a lot of animal mistreatment kept hidden by the dairy industry, what some cows are subjected to is eye-opening.
Cows, like many mammals, only produce milk when they’re pregnant. This means dairy cows have to be artificially inseminated every two to three months to produce milk to be farmed. These cows are often milked by machines in concrete enclosures and aren’t allowed the freedom to explore and experience farmland like other animals are.
They’re also intelligent creatures that are notably maternal. But once they’ve given birth, their calves are usually taken away from them within 24 to 48 hours. This causes immense mental stress on both mother and offspring, with a study showing that calves respond better to stressful situations when raised with maternal contact.
For animal lovers, this is a huge reason to make the switch to milk alternatives.
Plant-based Health Benefits
Perceived health benefits are another main driver behind the switch to going dairy-free. Mintel found that one in four people viewed plant-based milk as healthier than cow’s milk, as well as better for the environment. Most plant-based milks have fewer calories and less fat content, with higher water levels for hydration. They can also be fortified with the additional minerals and vitamins.
It all comes down to personal preference when trying out milk alternatives. Some taste similar to cow’s milk, and others will have their own unique flavor. By trying a wide variety, you should be able to find one that works for you.
There are plenty of reasons for the boom in British supermarket customers switching from dairy milk to plant-based alternatives. Two major drivers come from a matter of morals – concern for the environment and for animals. There is also a focus on improving health, with people paying more attention to the calorie count of various kinds of milk.
Thinking of going down the plant route? Here are The 5 Biggest Plant-Based Protein Myths Debunked.