Spilling the beans: Why Big Dairy fears vegan milks

We are nearing the final weekend before the United States FDA closes its public comment period on the labeling of plant based, non-dairy alternatives. If you care about “accuracy and honesty,” as the US dairy industry calls for, please share your thoughts in a public comment by 11:59 PM EST January 28, 2019.

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plant milk collage
The dairy industry would like plant based product labels to be “accurate and honest.” We would like dairy industry product labels to be accurate and honest, too.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb’s sage offering, “an almond doesn’t lactate,” has a certain ring to it, doesn’t it? As if it were age-old wisdom passed down by hoary elders, we dare not utter it aloud, but instead hold it close to our hearts in times of trouble.

It appears those times of trouble have arrived for the dairy industry, which is now going after the vocabulary used to describe plant based milk and non-dairy alternatives.

With backing from the Depression-era Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938, the dairy lobby claims words such as milk, cheese, butter, and yogurt are meant to describe only products containing the lacteal secretions of mammals. (Don’t even ask about peanut butter, OK?)

The dairy industry’s appeal to legalese has everything to do with the skyrocketing sales of plant based alternatives such as Miyoko’s Kitchen, Follow Your Heart, Daiya, Silk, Kite Hill, and Treeline.

In a recent nod in favor of plant based milk producers, a judge dismissed a lawsuit from a consumer who claimed to be confused by Almond Breeze‘s marketing. California District Judge Stephen Wilson declared, “[…] even the least sophisticated consumer would know instantly the type of product they were purchasing” when confronted with current almond milk packaging.

These non-dairy alternatives increasingly occupy more real estate in most major super markets—and the dairy industry is not happy about it.

Responding to the crescendo of objections emanating from the riled dairy industry, the US government asked consumers to share their perspectives on the labeling of plant based alternatives during a public comment period scheduled to close in late November.

That period has now been extended to January 28, 2019, after dairy lobby group National Milk Producers’ Federation argued they needed additional time to “fully explain why consumers deserve accurate and honest information about their food options.”

In a statement made by Gottlieb, he implies people are buying plant based non-dairy alternatives in heaping quantities because they might be confused, perhaps even purchasing it thinking it’s nutritionally equivalent to milk—but made with almonds or soy beans instead of whatever comes out of the mammary glands of ungulate animals. (Soybeans, hemp seeds, and oats also don’t lactate, as it turns out.)

Gottlieb says, “[…] [W]e must also ensure that the labeling of such [plant based] products does not mislead consumers, especially if this could compromise their health and well-being.”

So, I decided to leave a comment. (It was easy to do and you should leave one, too.)

I explained how I happen to agree with the National Milk Producers’ Federation: American consumers “deserve accurate and honest information about their food options.”

Gottlieb’s profundity about the lacking physiology of nuts belies an assumption that consumers actually do understand what goes into making “real” dairy products. If transparency in nutrition and ingredients labels is paramount to dairy producers, perhaps they would like to provide additional clarity to their consumers about how cow’s milk is stolen, packaged, and sold.

It would be helpful for each dairy product, whether milk, cheese, butter or yogurt, to cite how many individual cows were milked to produce it, which factories (or occasionally farms) they came from, and how old they were when they were forcibly impregnated with the aid of what dairy farmers call “rape racks.”

Maybe they could show pictures of that process on the milk cartons for people to ponder as they enjoyed their morning cereal or yogurt.

A graph comparing the natural life cycle of a cow (~20 years) versus one condemned to the brutality of the dairy industry (~5 years) might be an enlightening proposition, too.

Even on so-called “humane” or “family” farms the inherent violence of dairy creeps, so they could share mugshots of the baby cows taken from their mothers, too.

It would be more honest, accurate and transparent if we could see the exact babies associated with each product so that we can know for sure whether they were sent back into the production line (if female), or sent to the veal crates to be slaughtered as babies (if male).

Or maybe the dairy industry would rather share how casein, a protein found in cow’s milk, is linked to the promotion of cancer in men and women? Let’s slap a big red sticker on every bottle of milk, package of cheese, tub of yogurt: “This product contains naturally occurring proteins and hormones known to promote cancer growth in humans.”

This all feels much more accurate and honest.

However, when I go to the grocery store I can’t seem to locate any of the above information on any animal products.

Inevitably, consumers brave enough to seek the truth will see dairy is a monstrous industry historically green- and white-washed with misleading language meant to encourage consumers to purchase products fundamentally non-essential to their survival and steeped in horrific cruelty and environmental degradation.

As these horrors become increasingly self-evident, the words the FDA decides are legally permitted to describe plant based alternatives will not deter conscientious consumers from finding the products that will help usher in a more just and compassionate world.

Not too long after consumers realize delicious, healthful, and plant based alternatives exist, the barbaric, “real” dairy industry will be rendered obsolete—as it rightly should be.

 

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